The Power of Unspoken Things
As a registered ICU nurse, I like to ask my elderly patients all sorts of important life questions. I ask them things like what was the best decade of your life? If you could do one thing differently, what would it be? and the one I find the most interesting: what is the key to staying married for a thousand years?
Without a doubt, I always get great answers. Whether they are funny or insightful, they’re always worth something. The value that I find from these answers, however, has kind of ended up being the backbone for the decisions I make going forward.
When I think about the last question I ask, I find myself going back to a few answers. One gentleman said, “Just listen. Just shut up for once and listen. She’s your goddamned teammate!” This fella didn’t know me from Adam, but he knew himself enough to give me that advice, and he couldn’t have been more spot on.
I have a crazy tendency to try to win in my marriage. I want to be the one who’s right. But when this man told me this, I stopped breathing for what seemed like a full century. What is there to win? Any time I manage to pull off a W in my marriage, that means there inevitably has to be a loser…and that would be my wife. When I thought about it like that, I got sick to my stomach. I spend so much time and energy trying to show this woman that she is the sun and moon to me, only throw myself one rung higher on the imaginary pedestal in my mind. She’s your goddamned teammate, he said. I’ll never forget it. Bronwen is not just my wife, she’s my best friend, and I try to remind my self a million times a day that nothing can ever come between that. Nothing.
The other point I remember the most is when an older lady told me, “Never underestimate the power of unspoken things”. I didn’t know what she meant, so I asked her to clarify. She said this:
Do you ever walk into a room and see your wife and think, ‘wow, she looks really nice today…‘ Or do you ever notice her out a window playing with your children and say to yourself, ‘My God, that is what a mother looks like‘? You need to tell her. Every time. When you’re at work and you think of that funny thing she did at dinner that one time, tell her. When you’re driving home and you miss the warmth of her body, tell her. When you hear that song that reminds you of that one time in the woods, tell her. She will never know how important she is to you if you don’t tell her. When she sees how much you actually think of her, and what you actually think of her, she will have no choice but to love you for at least a thousand years.
This bit advance, pure gold, has never ventured more than a few inches from the front of my mind. I have tried so hard, and often failed, to keep this bit of wisdom in practice.
When Bronwen and I first started dating, she told me she hated flowers, didn’t like cards, and hated all that “girly bullshit” like holding doors and all that. I still bought her flowers, and wrote her cards and held doors for her…I’m not sure why, but I think it was because she deserved it. She deserved to be made to feel loved and appreciated, and I didn’t really know how else to do it.
One time I overheard her talking to a friend from back home and she said, “…I know
I’m not normally like that, but he keeps trying to make me feel really special…and I think I’m starting to believe him.”
It was complete magic to my ears.
Now here we are. People are posting #RelationshipGoals on our Instagram posts and we hear nonstop about how we inspire couples. But it’s way more simple than you could ever imagine. Tell her. Tell him. Every time. Be annoying with it. You can’t fake sincerity forever, they will start to believe you sooner or later.