Akif Abdulamir When my wife said she had decided to talk only when was spoken to, I wondered silently how long that would last. She kept her promise for the half an hour drive that afternoon by responding only to my questions. When the silent treatment continued for the rest of the evening, I wondered if there was something new I was learning about our marriage. It was and perhaps it has been something that I was taking for granted for many years. For a long while, before that 'eye opening afternoon, she has been 'reporting to me everything she saw, felt or did. I must admit now, I did not pay attention to everything she said. My mind would sometimes drift to more 'important things that I thought should take the priority of my thoughts. I responded passively with grunts such as yes, no or really? and only took active part in subjects I felt strongly about and often when I thought I had to defend myself. When she fell silent that evening, I suddenly found the emptiness that was used to be filled by her daily 'reports unbearable. The thoughts that I usually give top priority suddenly were not that important. I looked at her, trying to detect anything that would tell me that she was teasing me, but her face was a complete blank. There was a hint of disappointment and even bewilderment that I found strangely disturbing. Okay, I got the message, I wanted to say, but perhaps lack of courage stopped me. Perhaps, I thought the admission would have made me take the blame of the circumstance that I had forced upon her. To fill the silence, I put four or five sentences together but soon it became obvious that I was struggling with the words that would keep the conversation flowing like a well-oiled machine. It was then I realised, if the words between us meant anything in our marriage, then she was the one who should take the credit for it. If that machine was left to me to look after then it would have been squeaky, rusty and would have ground to a halt a long time ago. To my great relief, it was different the second day and she was back to her old self. She never explained the silence and I never asked. We both knew what it was because words are pointless, when lessons have been learned. I now make a point to listen by halting all trains of thoughts in my mind, especially the express ones. I dont do the grunts anymore, but allow myself to sail with the wave of her words in whatever tide it may take me. I also realise that it is the boat that we are in, which is important, and not the water we are sailing on. There are rough days when the sea gets choppy as well as smooth sailing days and I must accept both with equal grace. I am sure, to try to justify myself, I am not the only one who got caught in the deep trap of the silence of the words. If you think you know everything about each other, just because you have lived together for a number of years, then think again. Togetherness means a lot more than being together. I am afraid men are more ignorant in that department, thinking that their physical presence in the house is enough. You may be driving the car with your wife sitting next to you, but it does not mean that you are really there for her. Wake up and get it right. Thoughts must be shared no matter how unpleasant they are and that means opening your mouth as well as your ears. Khaleej Times