Last week I went on a quick three-day-vacation (although you cannot really call it a vacation) to a beautiful place called Saarschleifenlodge. This lodge is located right next to the famous curve of the river Saar and they feature cool housing-types, like tree-houses, cabins or apartments with big windows facing the river. I went there with my son, a friend and this friend’s daugther. Needless to say that I wasn’t able to enjoy the location or the scenery at all because it was my job to run after my two-year-old toddler all day preventing him from messing around too much or getting himself killed. But still I was able to perceive some things happening around me and one of the things that struck me most was: couples on vacation that don’t talk to each other.
We have all seen it on vacation or while strolling through the city centers of our home towns: couples sitting at a table in a café or restaurant not talking to each other or – even worse – both looking at their smartphones. I know that there might be plenty of reasons why two people do not want to talk to each other at a specific moment: they both are enjoying some minutes of silence after a busy day, they have something really urgent to do on their smartphones (like paying an overdue bill) or they have had an intense fight just before arriving at the restaurant and are not in the mood to address each other. But since I have observed the situation of couples-not-talking-to-each-other during last week’s vacation a lot and also multiple times for the same couple I doubt that the reasons I provided are valid. There rather must be a general reason or problem why two people in a relationship simply cannot come up with anything to say to each other anymore.
As most of you know I love listening to a very insightful podcast called “Die Sache mit der Liebe“. In this podcast I have learnt that the three most important features of a relationship are (1) respect, (2) appreciation and (3) interest in the life of the other person. Unfortunately, during the course of long relationships, these qualities sometimes tend to be disregarded. Most people loose interest in the other person or they adjust their level of interest in the other person to a minimum: a very general “How was your day?” instead of “I know you had this important sales meeting today, how did it go?” or “Take care” instead of “I hope your doctor’s appointment goes well, please let me know about the results right away”. This is, in my eyes, the first step of loosing connection with each other. The next step that increases disconnection is when a couple doesn’t even listen to each other any more. So, when your partner asks “How was your day?” and you respond truthfully with a story about something that happened today and mattered to you, then there should be an elaborate response from your partner that encourages further conversation. But in most longterm relationships, partners are not listening properly anymore and prevent a real conversation from happening by responding superficially in such a situation or not responding at all. Some people are not even looking at their partner when he or she is talking. So if this has happened a lot, I guess the third and last step of loosing connection with each other is exactely what I have obeserved during my vacation: people simply stop talking to each other at all, because they don’t see the point anymore.
I think this is really the death of any relationship: if there is nothing more to talk about, then you can call it quits. In my eyes, the very core of a relationship is constant communication. And I don’t mean that we need to blabber all the time – I am talking about a regular exchange regarding feelings, hopes, fears, wishes, things are keeping you preoccupied. And communication doesn’t always have to be verbal, it can be physical as well. So, if I see two people sitting at a table in a café, not talking to each other, but they are holding each other’s hands, then this paints a totally different picture for me.
Myself, I have learnt to appreciate good conversations even more after my son has been born. Right now there is very little time to properly talk to someone because whenever my son is around, I need to focus my attention on him (he is the kind of child who won’t sit still for even three seconds and gets crazy ideas of what he could try out all the time). So whenever I have the pleasure of being alone with another grow-up person I am really enjoying not being distracted and disturbed and I literally “jump” on the possibility of talking about something meaningful. For me it is hard to understand how two people that supposedly like or even love each other (why would they be on vacation together if they don’t?) keep silent for a whole evening. When I am with people that I care about, there is always something to talk about. A simple “How are you?” always works, because if you are somebody who listens properly and shows interest in other people, your counterpart will open up. And then the rest will come naturally by itself.