Run Silent; Run Deep; plus, “But I Did It Out of Love!”
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner and I have been together for 28 years and we are very comfortable in one another’s company. When we are on a driving trip or just at home, we sometimes go for hours without speaking. Just being together is enough. We mentioned this to a few friends and they can’t understand how we can do that. Now we’ve begun to notice that some of our friends chatter aimlessly just for the sake of chattering. We’re perfectly fine without all that noise. Why do some people never seem to have an unexpressed thought?
Dr. Hurd replies,
The world is full of couples who don’t speak except when they have to. I recently got around to watching the acclaimed Meryl Streep movie, Hope Springs, about a long-time married couple who barely speak (or do much of anything else) together. As in the film, spouses sometimes grow apart. It’s sad to watch and even sadder for at least one of the partners to endure. Of course, there’s a lot of dysfunction in Hope Springs, but sometimes silence is nothing more than a sign of the comfort and serenity two people feel when they are together. There is no dysfunction in true serenity.
It reminds me of living at the beach. People sometimes ask, “Do you go see the ocean every day?” As a matter of fact, I try to do that, or to at least enjoy the glorious view from the Indian River Inlet Bridge when driving to and from work. I never take it for granted, and there’s comfort in knowing it’s always there and always nearby. Perhaps the security of knowing that there’s always someone nearby whom you love (and who loves you back) is enough. Inane chatter not only cheapens that feeling, but mindless filibustering might be indicative of a need to fill the air with sound in order to drown out unhappy thoughts.
A relationship is only for the two people involved. It’s easy for an outsider to pass judgment on the way that you two choose to satisfy yourselves and one another. Such judgments simply don’t matter. You’re happy and he’s happy. Period. In fact, if the friends who pass judgment are truly friends, then their only choice is to share in that happiness, not question it.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner and I opened a small business together. She handled the details, including the money. She recently admitted to me that she was closing the business because “we” were losing money and were completely out of working capital. This is the first I’ve heard of it! Up to this point, she was telling me that things were OK. I mortgaged my house to help her out, and now we are over $100,000 in debt.
She claims that she was “protecting” me from the bad news as she tried desperately to make things work. And she did work very hard. I love her dearly, but I can’t get past the anger and what feels like betrayal from her lying and misrepresentation as the money—my money—slowly drained away.
Dr. Hurd replies,
Perhaps the most important component of any relationship, from marriage to a business partnership, is good will. What fosters good will? Honesty and integrity. What undercuts it? Sneakiness and deception.
Your partner said that she deceived you to “protect” you. It wasn’t true, and in fact it’s never true. Her real motivation was, “I don’t want to face your reaction. So I chose not to tell you.” If someone said this to me, I’d be upset, but I’d be a lot more upset if he went on to claim, “But it was all for your sake.” How disingenuous! When you conceal something this big from a spouse, it’s like knowingly driving down a dead end street, getting to the end and saying, “Uh-oh, but I didn’t want to disappoint you that we weren’t going anywhere.” Really?
Interestingly, this was the theme of a recent episode of Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible, where celebrity chef Robert Irvine was attempting to rescue a family-owned restaurant from bankruptcy. In the initial interview (and in fact the first time the owners and Irvine meet) the husband/owner revealed to his wife/co-owner—on camera—that he had taken a $100,000 loan from a loan shark without her knowledge. It was a heady moment. Irvine may have saved the restaurant, but I suspect that the cost to the marriage in good will and trust can never truly be recovered.
The erosion of trust in a relationship is like withdrawals from an emotional bank account. As with real money, it’s impossible to define with absolute certainty the very moment of bankruptcy. If the emotional account is nearly overdrawn because of lying and betrayal, hopefully there’s enough left to keep the account (and the marriage) afloat.
In your case, I suspect that from now on you will engage in a lot of “trust, but verify” regarding other matters. It’s up to your partner to win back your trust. If, with her actions (not her words) she can, then your relationship might end up stronger than ever. Here’s hoping.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email your questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.