The other day, Bub And Pie had a great post about the currencies of marriage titled "If Conversation be the Food of Love, Talk On."
And recently, a friend recommended "The Five Love Languages"
by Gary Chapman. It got me to thinking about my own experience with conversation and how it led to my marriage. I haven't yet read the book, but I can already tell you that he left one out. Conversation. Like Bub and Pie, conversation is definitely love currency for me.
1992 was one hell of a year. I had ended a 6 year relationship after finding out that my fiancee was sleeping with my best friend, the wife of his best friend. Yes, it was all very dramatic, and I'll write about it another time. For a while I pushed the heartache away by engaging in a series of superficial and short-lived relationships. But it wasn't what I really wanted. What I really wanted was a husband. A life partner. A best friend.
I began seeing a guy that I thought might fit that bill. He was tall and handsome and he was a decent fella. He treated me like a princess. He had a good job, and was smart with his money. He was ten years older than me, and I thought his maturity would make him more likely to commit to a serious and possibly life-long relationship. I was right, as it turns out, and he was ready to marry me after a very short courtship.
For a while, it was good. The mating dance was fresh and exciting. We went to clubs and parties, we went to the movies, we went to sporting events and concerts. But what we didn't do was talk. As we began to settle into the less frenetic lifestyle of a steady relationship, the lack of substance in our relationship became painfully clear.
To me, that is.
We would eat an entire meal without exchanging more than two or three words. He would rise from the table, kiss me, thank me for a great meal, help me clean up, and then retire to the couch where we would sit side by side in front of the television unspeaking for several hours until one of us had to go home. I would be seething with resentment at having been ignored all evening while he was happy and content, satisfied with no longer having to make idle conversation to win me over. He considered good conversation a tool for wooing, not a necessary component of a healthy and satisfying relationship. He was glad to set it aside in exchange for what he thought of as companionable silence.
Oh, I tried. Time and time again. But after a hard and stressful day at work, the last thing he wanted to do was debate politics, or discuss world events, or even opine on literature, music or film. Fair enough. But he anaesthetized himself with televised sports, while I sat beside him in resentful silence and it just wasn't enough anymore.
Things came to a head when we took a weekend trip to the beach. On the 7 hour drive home, we spoke only to express the need to stop for food, drink or restrooms. He had no idea that I was deeply troubled by it. I broke up with him two days after we returned. He was taken completely by surprise because he thought everything was fine, better than fine. He thought things were just great. Even after I explained it to him, he just didn't get it. His inability to understand my need to connect to him through conversation led him to believe that there was another reason for the break-up. Eventually he convinced himself that I wanted to go back to my fiancee, and sadly, we parted on acrimonious terms. It wasn't how I wanted things to end, and I regret that I wasn't more outspoken about my needs. I doubt it would have changed things, but perhaps it wouldn't have been such a shock to him when I broke things off.
I realized that I had not really given myself enough time after ending my engagement, and resolved to enjoy my freedom and autonomy for a while. And, since I was still harboring a lot of lingering distrust of men in general, that wasn't a difficult resolution to stick to.
Until the night I met Husband.
I was at a country western dance club (I live in the South, gimme a break) with some girlfriends, trying not to look available. I could usually dissuade any prospective suiters with a glower, but occasionally some cocksure cowboy would swagger up anyway, and ask me to dance. Husband was one such brave soul. He was undaunted by my inhospitable body language and sat himself down next to me one night to shout an invitation to dance in my ear.
I refused him, politely. I gave my standard response about having just gotten out of a relationship that had ended badly. He gave a me a funny half smile...a sardonic little smirk that I now see often on the face of my youngest child. He told me he understood because his fiancee had recently died. There was no drama or self-pity in his statement. It was straightforward and matter of fact, and I was completely taken aback. I wondered if he was bullshitting me. But I've met a lot of sleazy guys in joints like that, and he just didn't strike me as a liar. He had an honest face. Unsure how to respond, I mumbled something suitably polite about being sorry for his loss. He took advantage of my discomfiture to coax my phone number out of me. It was the one and only time I ever gave my phone number to a guy in a bar.
The following day, the cold I had been nursing took a turn for the worse and I became seriously ill. I ended up confined to bed for over a week. He called me on Monday night to ask me to dinner. I explained that I was sick, glad to have a valid reason to decline. I sounded as bad as I felt, so he accepted my explanation.
Then we began to talk. And talk. And talk. Before I realized it, two hours had passed. I began to lose my voice and he apologized for keeping me on the phone for so long. He asked if he could call again tomorrow night. I told him I would like that, and to my surprise, I meant it.
He called me every night that week and every night we talked just as long as we had that first night. He asked me if I had medicine, soup, kleenex...he offered to bring me anything I needed or drive me to the doctor. Aside from my roommate, who was wrapped up in her own life, I had nobody. I was 900 miles from my home and family, which he knew from our first conversation. I declined, not wanting him to see me looking like such a piteous wretch. Now that he's seen me give birth that seems kind of silly, but we were all young and single once, so I suspect you can relate.
At the end of that week, I realized I was in love with a guy I had only met once. We had never even gone on a date. I was in love with a guy who could talk. He had thoughts, opinions, ideas... and he could express them intelligently, even if he did inject a little redneck speak now and then.
He was sensitive, and not afraid to let it show. He told me about his fiancee and he cried while he described his shock and grief. I cried with him. They were engaged to be married and had just purchased a home together. Three weeks before Christmas, she died suddenly at work when an aneurysm in her heart burst. She was 20 years old. I was terribly sad for him, and sad that someone so young had lost her life. But despite the undeniably tragic nature of her death, I couldn't be sad about where it had led him. To me.
When I was better, he invited me over to dinner. He made lasagne and salad and garlic bread and bought expensive wine. We didn't do much talking that night.
Two weeks later, I moved in. Six months later he gave me a ring. A year later we were married. 14 years later, we have two children and a really satisfying life together. And we still talk. When I wonder why we have made it when so many of our friends have already divorced, some of them multiple times...I always come back to the same answer...because we talk.
We've had our ups and downs of course. Our marriage isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He isn't perfect, as some women assert. I am not perfect either. But we have the same currency and we use it to deal with all the complications, big and small, that arise when two strong minded people join together in wedded bliss and then procreate.
There's a song by Garth Brooks that to this day brings tears to my eyes. It's called Unanswered Prayers
Once, I would have done anything...anything
to have my fiancee and his loyalty back. I prayed, I schemed, I even planned in detail, the murder of my former friend. At one point, I was probably crazy enough to carry out that plan. I was literally, out of my mind with heartbreak. But some vestige of sanity remained and I walked away with my prayers unanswered, my life as I knew it in pieces, but holding my head high.
Thank God for unanswered prayers. Thank God for that Cocksure Cowboy. And thank God for a currency in which we can count ourselves ridiculously wealthy.