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Silent Married Couple
Mom with a View

Silent Married Couple

Why the couple in the restaurant aren't talking to each other.


It's an old cliche that you can identify the married couple at a restaurant because they're the ones not talking to each other. They have long ago run out of things of say.

I have decided that the married couple is a much maligned species. The other night my husband and I went out for dinner as a belated anniversary celebration. The setting was elegant, the food delicious and the conversation...well, a little stilted, a little stop and start.

Oh no, I thought. We've reached that point. It must be that 24 years is the maximum amount of conversation allowed a couple and we have fulfilled our quota. All that's left are the details -- complaining about bills, jobs and children.

Yet when we left the restaurant, after the obligatory moaning about having overeaten, conversation burst forth -- spontaneous, animated, intimate and unending.

Which is when I decided to defend the married couple. It's not that we frequently don't speak in restaurants because we have run out of things to say, but rather because when you know someone deeply, when you have shared life's most profound moments, you can't revert to social chit chat. And the kind of real conversations that married couples have don't belong in a public forum.

They're too private, too intimate, too sacred. Who can I talk to, if not my husband, about whether I am fulfilling my life's goals, whether I have any regrets, how I see the future. But it's not a conversation I want interrupted by, "How is your steak?"

If my husband wants to discuss new ideas and challenges, thoughts about what it means to be a husband and father, accepting the inevitable aging process gracefully, "Would you like pepper with that?" is a grating note.

For busy couples, a night out is an important break. It's good to try not to talk about the children. But I sometimes find that once we "break free" from the house, the dialogues we have about our children (not always easy to practice what you preach) or ourselves can be so impactful or serious that tears may result. Which makes it harder to face that smiling waitress with the dessert tray.

So I think that perhaps it's safer to keep the conversation superficial, to just enjoy the break and the relaxed moments, and know that the real issues that unite us can be discussed in the car on the way home, in privacy where they belong.

Maybe married couples have a greater sense of separation from others and want to preserve this intimacy by not making their private lives public fodder. (Of course the person one table over is eavesdropping!) I have stopped condemning or scorning these silent couples and begun to applaud.

July 7, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) sjheopner, July 11, 2007 1:07 AM

Silence is golden.

Sometimersm a restaraunt date is a well deserved break from meal prep. serving and dishes,,, not to mention family tensions and issues... work commitments...blah blah..just relax, smile and need for blah blah...

(8) Tammy Ashley, July 10, 2007 7:15 PM

Silent Married Couple

My husband and I have been married for nearly 22 years. I have found that conversation is not a necessity all the time. I have found that there is such a deep knowing of each other that you don't have to be in conversation, just being with that person is enough. We enjoy each others company so much. We like mostly the same things. We finish each others sentences often and know what the other is thinking. This just comes over time. Sometimes silence and just basking in each others company is enough.

(7) esther, July 10, 2007 2:44 PM

So True!

Dinner is for small talk and relaxation--a small get away and not for deep heart to heart that can end in "tears" and high emotions. your take is very true and positive.

(6) Anonymous, July 10, 2007 12:19 PM

Silent Married Couple. Thanks for this article.

I often worry that my husband and I have run out of conversation or that all we talk about at dinner in restaurants is discussions about our business or our children and grandchildren. We have been married 43 years. Now I feel better. The article about conversations between married couples makes a lot of sense as long as there is closeness and intimacies during private times together.

(5) Yaacov, July 10, 2007 11:22 AM

When it continues in private...

This was a brilliant idea. I agree with it to a point. As a recently divorced ex-husband, I can see it from a slightly different point of view. When the silence, other than the usual complaints about daily life, continues in the private realm... this is a very bad sign.

I believe that couples who find themselves being "silent" need to explore with each other the "WHY" for the silence. Who starts up the conversation is not important... what IS important is that ONE of the two does.

The reason could be simple, or it could be very complex. It could be sweet or it could be hurtful. But if it isn't explored and discussed... based on my experiences with other divorced women... it will almost invariably lead to divorce.

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