I never really thought about “conversational intimacy” and the role it plays in a relationship. It is much harder than people think and sad to think I lost my marriage because of it. I wanted to make others aware of the knowledge I gained and to encourage you to do it before it is too late.
My name is Jim and I was married for 16 years. My wife and I both worked full time and we were raising two children. We were busy like all married couples with children’s activities and managing a home.
My wife would occasionally tell me that we needed “to talk” and I would get very busy hoping she would forget. She didn’t. These “talks” always made me anxious. She wanted to discuss a problem or issue related to our marriage or “my behavior.” I would attempt to talk, she would get frustrated and I would completely forget the English language. She could “out talk” me.
We went to counseling and my wife would vent her frustrations to the counselor, often crying saying how alone she felt. I would sit there and pat her on the back, which interesting enough made her dislike me even more. That’s when I learned about “conversational intimacy.” (which I was lacking).
The counselor had us sit facing each other and make eye contact. (Also hard to do). It was really grueling and strangely informative. I realized that my wife and I had no trouble with physical intimacy (that is until she began to really dislike me) but I’m not sure we ever really had conversational intimacy to begin with. Of course we “talked” during dating and engagement and I’m sure after we married but intimate conversations were rare.
We practiced in the counselor’s office but at home we struggled. My wife had developed some resentments towards me for my lack of concern for her desire to talk, apparently building for several years. I learned that resentments can’t easily be discarded.
She was upset that it took so long for me to “get it.” When she told me that she wanted a divorce I was devastated. I had no idea I had caused so much damage by not making myself available, listening, validating her feelings and trying to find solutions. Having physical intimacy was way more enjoyable and didn’t really require much talking. I made myself very available.
As I sit here in my apartment, alone, after taking my children back to my ex-wife’s house (previously my house too), I have become wiser. I learned how important it is to occasionally have deep conversations, to really get to know the person that I have grown to love.
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
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