Taking reconciliation seriously…


I’ve been in the communications business for 48 years and I’m now having to learn how to communicate.

With my wife.

It’s essential to reconciliation; that is, if you want your conversations to be more meaningful than “pass the salt”.

The problem is that we both thought we did. Communicate. Indeed, there’s no doubt that we communicated, but on the level of: “You swine! It’s all your fault.”

And the problem, so the counsellor says, is that we’ve established our communication style across 31 years of marriage (30 years, if you count the year we’ve been married, but living apart), and that style won’t sustain us for another round (when I talked to the counsellor about “another round” she said I wasn’t taking the reconciliation process seriously).

But how do you change the way you talk to each other after 30 years? And it’s not just the talking. How do you change the puffing and the studied sighing; how do you turn the eye-roll of exasperation into one of passion. How do you make “yes, dear” sound like an invitation to hot sex instead of the abdication of the crushed and defeated?

I said I thought it couldn’t be done, except by lobotomy, where they remove the bit of the brain that’s controlling communications.

My wife said they’d have to find it first. The brain, that is. I think she meant mine.

I’m at a loss.

We even wrote down some simple questions and answers. Like, do we like each other? (Yes. Well… mostly). Do we want to live together? (Yes. Well… mostly). Do we want to live together without worrying about what’s in the soup, or what the hole in the backyard is for? (Definitely).

My point is: we have many things in common: children, email account, debts, inability to communicate except from behind a rampart…

How does it happen? Is there some kind of predetermined signal in a relationship that triggers couples to stop being on the same side and instead to become protagonists in a war of attrition? Does one partner start it, or do they enter this new state together?

It’s not as if we’re bad communicators with the rest of the world. I think it’s fair to say we are good company around a dinner table. Of course, in later years the dinner tables have had to be at least three blocks apart, but the point is: we are warm and loving with everyone else.

Did you know there are lessons for people like us? You can actually take classes in being closer. They involve stroking each others hands. Slowly. And kissing (each other). With your eyes open. Not, I should stress, because you’re nervous about where the knife is.

It was so easy when we met. We declared our undying love for one another, we fell into bed, we had children and we raised them. It all felt like teamwork.

Communication was easy then. It worked by osmosis. Nappies needed changing, fuses needed fixing, bills needed paying. We just got on with it. We worked hard and we (occasionally) fought, and we were united and in love.

Now life is much more under control and our relationship is out of control. We have time to relax and to think – and maybe that’s the problem. But we’re working on it.

Watch this space.