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Is Silence Golden in the Golden Years?

My husband and I have been happily married for 47 years. We know each other so well, we often read each other’s thoughts. But lately, I wish we had more to talk about when we’re eating meals together.

I remember when we were young parents and went on a date, we consciously tried not to talk about our children. Now, when we’re out on a date, if we don’t talk about our children or grandchildren, we run out of things to talk about! Recently, my husband and I were dining at a restaurant. I was envying the other diners who all seemed engrossed in lively conversation with their table mates.

My husband’s always been the quiet type, while I enjoy “processing” thoughts and impressions with him. If I don’t initiate the conversation, we could just sit in silence. Although I’m comfortable in the silence, I fear we’ll become one of those old couples who just sit and stare at each other across the table.

I remember my mom once confessed that when she and my dad went to a restaurant, they sometimes recited the alphabet to each other so they didn’t appear to be bored.

I took comfort in a British study of 500 couples that showed those who’ve reached their golden wedding anniversary will sit together in silence for up to 57 minutes. Many utter less than 150 words during that time.

Having young children appears to make the problem worse. Couples with youngsters speak for an average of ten minutes to each other and 35 minutes to their offspring during an hour’s meal.

Just before Valentine’s Day, I received a newsletter from author and happiness expert Dr. Christine Carter on ways to foster love. She suggests that by showing our vulnerability to someone we love, we allow trust and intimacy to develop and deepen, creating strong feelings of connection and love.

I like her idea because I’m always looking for new ways to connect with my husband and find out things we don’t already know about each other. Research has shown that we like people more when we engage in escalating, gradual back-and-forth “personal self-disclosure.”

Her newsletter included a link to 36 thought-provoking questions to explore on a date. Here are some of the  questions I’m going to ponder when conversation between my husband and me comes to a standstill. Who knows, I may learn something I never knew about him.

  • Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  • Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  • If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
  • Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  • What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  • What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  • What do you value most in a friendship?
  • Tell your partner what you like about them.
  • What is your most treasured memory?
  • What is your most terrible memory?
  • Share an embarrassing moment in your life.
  • Name three things you and your partner have in common.
  • If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  • For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
  • If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  • If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
  • Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

How do you keep the conversation alive with your significant other?

1 thought on “Is Silence Golden in the Golden Years?”

  1. I’m always amazed when I find out something about my husband that I didn’t know – after 50 years! Good list of subjects to talk about that you posted.

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