Last weekend, my husband and I celebrated Valentine's Day by not talking to eachother.
See, there’s this outdoor spa about a two-hour drive from us, set up in the mountains. It’s got this wood-burning sauna, steaming soaking pools and a eucalyptus steam room. There’s also icy plunge pools and toasty fire pit. The idea is that you warm up your body, then cool it down and relax—all while remaining totally silent.
So that’s what we did. We got the kids sorted off-site (yay ski lessons!), locked our phones in the change rooms, and grabbed a week’s worth of newspapers (him) and a new novel (me). Our first stop was the steam room, where we held hands as we settled in. After that, we sat side-by-side in thick terry cloth bathrobes on Adirondack recliners in the sun where he read and I snoozed. Every once in a while, we smiled at each other. It was all very unhurried and doting in a pre-kids kind of way.
It’s not that my husband and I don’t have anything to talk about. In fact, we’re actually doing fantastically on that front for a couple that’s been together for fifteen years and has two kids. He shares often about the podcasts he listens to while commuting, cooking and gardening, which means I pick up lots of current economical and political news without even trying. And I—being a social media devotee—constantly update him on the goings on of our friends, family, Beyoncé and the Kardashians. (Ha! Only kidding. I’m actually more into keeping up on celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his fabulous wife Jools).
But like most other couples, our conversations get bogged down in the details of family life. We stay up way too late discussing amusing tidbits the kids shared from their days, worrying about any challenges they’re facing with friends and schoolwork and planning everything. Then there are the days when we talk at each other (Okay, okay. We mostly text.) about who’s taking which kid to which sports practice and who’s picking up what for dinner. And too often the tone and the pitch of our talking reflects the vibe of our lives: harried and demanding. Plus in trying to be efficient, I fear I sometimes maybe (just maybe) come off as curt. So while we’re in constant communication, we don’t always connect. “The pace of parenting today can make interaction between spouses feel more like a business meeting focused on locking down details than an actual shared experience,” says Margery Healy, a Vancouver, BC-based certified parent coach. As a result, Healy explains, parents forget each other. We lose sight of what brought us together; we can’t remember how cool we once thought our spouses were. And though we enjoy some great date nights from time to time either with just each other or with friends, the conversations often circle around the same subject: kids. Who doesn’t need a break from all that chatter and information? From the pressure to listen attentively to and react appropriately to your partner all the time? To always be your best self for the people you love and who depend on you?
So for one day last weekend, my husband and I stopped talking. We didn't catch each other up on anything or run down our ‘to do’ lists—though more than once I bolted up right from my lounge chair as essential details I needed to share about the kids’ upcoming doctor appointments and homework assignments crossed my mind. Instead, we just sat silently together, recharging both individually and as a couple, giving each other a break from being talked to and relied on. “Sometimes connecting can just mean being comfortable and peaceful in each other’s presence when none of the other distractions of people or technology is present,” says Healy. “It’s a chance to check-in and figure out where you are once it’s all stripped away.”
Turns out without all the craziness of every day life, we’re still at googly-eyed and devoted.