*edited May 2020*
Pretty early in my previous relationship, I realized that my then boyfriend and I could not communicate. We were both poets and too deep for our own good. I laid my words out- calculated like a math problem often saying things too harshly and matter-of-factly. He preferred to paint his statements using colorful language and flowery metaphors that often resulted in me needing to be a mind reader. So we’d argue. Then apologize and repeat trying to get the other one to understand what we were saying.
Me: Can you bring me an orange juice or apple juice?
Him: Only a 16 oz.
(He calls and tells me they only have Arizona brand)
Him: I found it 3.99.
Me: Arizona is fine.
Him: So big is 3.99, half gallon or small.
Him: They don’t have Arizona.
He comes back with an Arizona green tea.
When I realized it was over for us (not based off of the orange juice alone), I avoided the conversation for weeks. Mentally, I was tormented by the decisions that needed to be made and how to have the conversation without it becoming an argument. Also, we lived together and I needed to maintain peace until we could move out.
Then I had an idea. Silence. The idea actually came from a Facebook post my friend shared about some Monks who were in town. I’ve always admired the stoic and wise nature of monks. So I did my research and figured I’d give it a try.
A vow of silence sounds like exactly what it is (pun intended). It’s a promise to yourself to be quiet and not outwardly communicate. Some people carry around a sign to let people know about the vow. Other’s communicate in other ways like pen and pad or gesturing. Either way, the vower choices a period of time not to speak and they don’t The goal is to connect inwardly.
After my research was complete, I was ready. That night, when he got home, I pulled out my note pad and wrote “I’m taking a Vow of Silence.” No lie! It was actually pretty cool and funny. We laughed all night as I tried to script out responses to the ridiculous questions he asked. We sat in silence simply enjoying the air between us. It was so fun, I actually second guessed ending our relationship. I stayed true to the vow thru the night and into work the next day. It got difficult but my boss respected it.
In that time, I discovered something. I missed what it felt like to not be responsible to anybody’s emotional well-being. In my silence, I was able to meditate, think clearer and louder, trust myself deeper, and ultimately connect. My decision became clear. When I saw him the next evening, I scribbled “We need to talk.”
Instead of paper and pen, I used the laptop. It was awkward of course. He would forget he could talk and start to type his responses back to me. I’d get frustrated and have to bold or underline a word so he didn’t misintepret my thoughts. We eventually got the hang of it and surprisingly enough, our communication was almost flawless. There was no “That’s not what I said,” or “What I meant was?” We simply said what needed to be said without tones or over talking and ended our relationship respectfully. (It all went to poop a few weeks later but that’s a conversation for another day.)
Our situation was unconventional but it worked. I’ve always been an advocate for doing what works for you. Some people communicate best face to face where they can judge the person’s body language while others do better with well thought out prose and need to put their words in a letter. Either way, successful communication is key to any relationship and that includes knowing what type of communication works for you. Even if you’ve previously communicated just fine, you may have to learn something new. That doesn’t mean one way is better than the other but be willing to discover what work for you. It’ll take some wise— and possible silent—people to figure that out.