DEAR KRISTIN: I love the woman I live with. I really do. But I have a problem: She talks all the time. All. The. Time. She talks in the movies. She talks in church. She talks while we’re watching TV. She talks while we’re hiking (“to keep the bears away,” she always says.) She even talks in her sleep. I’m just about tapped out and I’m DEFINITELY talked out. You always write about the power of quietude and silence. I’m asking you now to take me by the hand and lead us to that place. Please!
DEAR TAPPED OUT: I feel your frustration, Beloved. And my guess is that probably just about everybody who’s reading my column right now has felt this frustration at some point in their lives. The thing about “quietude” (the word you used, which I absolutely love), is that it must be intentionally created.
To quiet yourself and those around you, you must create an environment that invites and encourages such stillness of the mind. You can’t “hope” silence into being. You’ve got to get yourself there with a sense of purpose and intentionality. This kind of purposeful intention will also (if you’re lucky) send the signal to those around you that you take your silence seriously, which might help your friend modify her behavior.
Talk to her about how important it is to you to have moments of contemplation and reflection. Communicate your needs; don’t just stew over the fact that your needs are not being met. She cannot read your mind. Put simply: Talk about the important of not talking all the time.
Help her understand that silence itself is far more than the absence of noise. It is the presence of peace and growth, and our brains need this empty space as much as our bodies need food and water. On your next hike, for instance, consider suggesting that the two of you listen to the sounds of nature as you walk, rather than the sounds of your own voices.
Consistency is also important: Maybe set aside a certain time each day that’s free of sound. Don’t make it last too long, though -- at least not initially. Perhaps 10 or 20 minutes each day (or every other day). Don’t set yourself up for failure straight out of the gate; build up your silence reservoir gradually.
And if she doesn’t want to take this silence journey with you, then you must take the journey on your own. Where’s it written that couples must practice precisely the same patterns? The key is to establish your own pattern, then stick to it. If she wants to come along, fine. If not, seek your silence without her. Whatever you do, don’t give up on your quest for quietude.
Here’s a more direct way to reach her with your “please be quiet” message”: Consider printing this article out and maybe leaving it on her nightstand. Or if you’re feeling a bit bolder, tape it to the refrigerator. She’ll get the point.
You should also pat yourself on the back for recognizing the problem while you can still do something about it! I know plenty of folks who simply tune out the voices of their partners and ignore them completely -- which is the saddest sound of all.
Whatever you, do it soon. Do it before anger and impatience take over. Do it from a place of love.
Just do it.