What Silence Says
I sometimes have imaginary relationships with real people. It might be a side effect of being a writer. In fiction, I have to make up conversations all the time. I have to put myself inside every single character and imagine how they think, feel, act. I might carry that over into real life sometimes, for better or worse.
One example is my ex-husband. We’ve been divorced for thirty some years, but we have kids and grandkids, so we still see each other on occasion. When we first got divorced, I had this idea of how our relationship would be going forward. It would be friendly. We’d get along really well and have lots of laughs.
That didn’t happen.
It’s not that we’re enemies. We just don’t see each other much and when we do we hardly speak. At first, I tried to dive into my personal scenario, behaving all friendly and so on, but he just glanced at me and looked away. So gradually I backed off the overly-friendly chat and followed his lead into silence. But for me, for a long time, it was a very loud silence.
I had thoughts about his silence, like that by not engaging in the friendly plot I’d outlined in my head, he was in some way dismissing me. Insulting me. But there was nothing in his demeanor to suggest those things. He didn’t scowl or distance himself physically. He didn’t turn and walk away. So why then did his silence hurt me? Why did I feel embarrassed? Angry? Chagrined? Annoyed? Exasperated?
That’s the funny part, really, because all of the negative self-talk was internally devised. I have no way of actually knowing his motives or intentions or if indeed he has any at all. After all these years I am starting to come around to the idea that he doesn’t really think of me at all. Once we divorced, that was it for him. And that’s okay. That’s even healthy.
But for me it’s different. He gave me two brilliant children, the only children I’ll ever have. That’s the biggest gift anyone can ever give and it’s not something that I’ll ever forget or take lightly. Not saying he’s forgotten or taken anything lightly. Because I have no way of knowing how he feels. And that’s fine, because, really, it’s none of my business.