Trouble In Paradise

Have you ever been out in public and noticed a silent, emotionally distant couple?

  • Their eyes focused on any and everything but each other
  • They have no ongoing discussion
  • They have dead-looking eyes
  • There is obviously little if any “life” in their relationship

Watching them makes you wonder:

  • Do they act like this in the car?
    • In their living room??
    • In their bedroom??????
  • Have they really run out of things to say to each other?
  • How do people become SO disinterested in each other?
  • Are they inwardly angry?
  • Does their silence imply something too dangerous to say out loud?

Being such a silent, disconnected couple doesn’t always mean that a divorce is soon to follow. Many couples mindlessly glide through life, living together but not really BEING together, if you know what I mean.

They “do” lots of things together while, at the same time, having very little to do with each other.

  • They go to movies
  • They go to parties
  • They travel together
  • They may even sleep together in the same bed

Sometimes emotionally distant couples may even feel that they have good reasons for being this kind of couple.

  • It’s a “holding pattern” for this point in their life
  • It’s a safe place to hide
  • It’s a way to avoid repeating past mistakes
  • It avoids breaking someone’s heart somehow
  • It insures that your heart won’t be broken again
  • Maybe they think they are just biding their time until their true “soul-mate” magically appears.

Do silent, emotionally distant couples remind you of your OWN marriage?

  • Are eyes that once met adoringly now afraid to meet?
  • Does the silence that separates you enfold you in sadness?
  • Do resentments reign?
  • Is your mind filled with things you’d like to say to the unresponsive person sitting across from you?
  • What stops you from talking?
  • What creates this strange paralysis that allows you to lift a fork to your mouth yet leaves you speechless?

Does the thought of being the silent, emotionally distant couple frighten you to your core?

If so, there is still hope for both you and your relationship!


Back in April of 2015, Richard Gatley wrote an article titled, “When You’re the Couple at the Restaurant Not Talking.”   [ ]

In it, he gave a list of ways you can shift the silence to discussion once again.

Here are some of his suggestions:

Begin a conversation with your partner.

“You don’t have to get to the heart of the matter in your very first sentence. You don’t even have to make sense. What you do need to do is begin a dialogue.”

Break the ice.

“Initiating a conversation in the restaurant may be possible if you choose a topic that isn’t contentious, one in which you share common ground.”

Acknowledge the hardships.

“When you have more privacy, move carefully into what may be bothering you, areas that may have become blockages to further discussion.”

What are the sources of silence?

“Differences in child rearing practices are a common cause, while disparities in sexual interests and practices create a whole lot of silence between couples. Wherever there is a lack of common ground there is room for resentment.

“Anger and fear make intimate conversation something to be avoided. And yet, ultimately, we need to air these grievances so they can be sorted out and mended.”

Remember The Golden Rule of Relationships.

“As usual, “I” statements work better than “you” statements. “I miss us.” Or, “I hate the way we are, saying nothing to each other.” “I” statements allow your partner to respond without becoming defensive, so you can get on with discovering what is actually going on with each other. Problem-solving to see how you can mend this tear in the fabric of your intimacy then becomes possible.”

At times like this, distance doesn’t make the heart grow fonder.

“Remember, this isolation separates both of you. It may be tempting to blame your partner, but the truth is you don’t really know what’s going on, even though you may have a favorite theory about it.”


Gatley goes on to talk about how that sometimes the silent, emotionally distant couple is simply a victim of what he calls “preoccupied disappearing acts,” that is, things that capture our attention for long periods of time take us away from those we love. We may not even be at odds with one another and yet find ourselves isolated.

  • Personal health concerns
  • Job worries
  • Problems with children
  • Sports
  • Hobbies
  • Shopping

It CAN be harder to deal with “disappearing acts” than with disagreements.

  • The one who “disappeared” often has little awareness of the impact of their absence.
  • The “abandoned” one has to bring this “vanishing act” to their partner’s attention.
  • Some people end their isolation by joining their partner in what they are doing.

Sometimes, it gets worse before it gets better, but hope begins when you start talking.

  • It may not go very well at first. It may, in fact, go rather badly.
  • You may become painfully aware how difficult it is for the two of you to talk.
  • After all, you haven’t had much practice.
  • That’s when the idea of getting help should occur to you.

Leave room for discovery, because that is what is likely to happen if you begin to talk to one another.

  • Be kind, loving, and honest.
  • Abandon games you may have played in your relationship.
  • It is your authentic self you want to bring to this conversation, your partner’s authentic self you want to talk to.
  • Have courage and leave some room for hope.


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“When You’re the Couple at the Restaurant Not Talking” by Richard Gatley

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