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The Dead Zone
Mom with a View

The Dead Zone

Is your spouse too tired to talk?


The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on the latest in a long line of problems plaguing today's marriages: "Dealing with the Dead Zone: Spouses Too Tired to Talk." If we're too tired to talk to our spouses, it's certainly difficult to maintain a marriage. (Sometimes the obvious just needs to be stated).

And although some couples compensate by touching base throughout the day, it's just not enough. Usually when we talk about communications issues in marriages we assume there is at least some communication to start with!

It doesn't matter what the economic necessities are. It doesn't matter what your intellectual needs are, or even your limitations. You may be too tired to talk to your spouse, but one message is getting through loud and clear: He or she is not your priority.

The excuses are irrelevant...your partner only experiences the silence.

Every choice we make involves a trade-off. At some point in our cost-benefit analysis, we need to decide that the price is too high. Or our marriages will not survive.

Marriages need quality time and quantity time in order to survive and flourish.

I don't want to suggest that there are no compromises possible. Certainly you can negotiate a few minutes to unwind, as long as you recoup that time later. As long as they aren't subsumed in a long evening of cooking, cleaning, laundry, bills and homework. You are not business partners.

Marriages need time in order to survive, in order to do more than survive and actually flourish. They need quality time and quantity time.

Some couples surveyed in the article carved out the time after dinner. It is certainly true that the moment you walk in the door may not be the best time. But the after-dinner experience should be an established ritual -- a short walk, a civilized tea (or wine) and cookies -- something that's a break from the frenetic pace of work and family.

Work can be absorbing. It can be demanding and distracting. It takes real effort to adjust our focus.

"He's an adult," we tell ourselves. "He can cope without attention."

Yes he can cope, but is coping the goal?

"She needs to grow up," he complains. "I'm too tired and busy earning a living." Even grown-ups need expressions of love and caring. If they don't get it from their spouses, the potential consequences are too unbearable to name.

Perhaps it sounds like I'm overreacting. However, if we can't spare this most basic and essential form of communication for our spouses, then our priorities seem skewed. It's becoming a pervasive problems and I'd like to avoid more victims.

So drink more coffee, take a little nap (they say it's better for your heart also), do whatever it takes to decompress and make yourself available to your spouse. You may find that the very thing you are too tired to do is the one that you'll find the most energizing.

March 17, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Chana, March 19, 2007 9:26 PM

Form of abuse

A few years ago there were posters in NYC subways that said : Negligence is a form of abuse. When I mentioned those ads to a friend of mine, she said, "Of course. When someone is being abused in any other way, at least the abuser acknowledges their existence, that the abused somehow makes a difference in the abuser's life." I do realize that being too tired to talk might not be intentional and don't want to minimize seriousness of the actual abuses; however, one shouldn't underestimate what being ignored and emotionally neglected could do to one's spouse (or any other family member).

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