I love quiet. My life is full and there are times, literally, when I can’t hear myself think. I’ve learned that it is imperative for me to find places I can go to be still, to be quiet, to reflect and to listen to my inner voice.
When my husband and I were married, I quickly learned that quiet is not his forte! He likes the radio, TV, and cds on, in my opinion, at a decibel close to 10 (okay, maybe 8). Of course I knew this about him when we dated, just hadn’t realized how frequently he enjoyed noise.
In the honeymoon phase of our relationship, we were polite about asking each other for what we needed and were pretty good about sharing space in our home for quiet or noise. As our relationship seasoned, I must admit there were times we became a little testy with each other regarding space and whose turn it was for what. Through many discussions, some quiet, some not so quiet, we learned more about each other and developed compromises. He blasts sound devices when I’m not home (he works from home so has lots of time for this) and turns it down or off when I am home.
One final aha occurred for me one night as we were drifting to sleep. He had his headphones on listening to who knows what and I realized I was feeling left out and well, if I’m honest, a little pouty. My self-talk was something like this: I hate when he listens to the radio when we’re in bed. I feel like he’s paying attention to someone else when I’d like to fall asleep with him, etc. I was working myself into a good snit when it occurred to me to ask him how long he’d been listening to the radio at night. His story made such an impact on me, I have not begrudged him his radio a single day since.
My husband grew up in a chaotic, alcoholic home. He’s the oldest of 7 and was contributing to the family income by the time he was 14. He shared a room with a few of his brothers. He learned at an early age to escape some of the chaos at night by listening to sports games or to radio stations from across the country. He was fascinated by just how far away he could receive a signal and would fall asleep dreaming of these places.
His story endeared him to me even more. His childhood creativity in finding a solution to relieve some of the stress, at least at night, of living in this environment warmed me. To this day, I marvel at how a few minutes of listening changed me when initially I was pretty sure he was the one who needed to change.
Perhaps if each of us would turn to our partner a little more often and really listen to their story behind a behavior, we’d be less inclined to try to change them and a little more inclined to love.
About The Author
Patti Bitter, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker, and owner of Tapestry Counseling, LLC, in St. Louis, MO. Ms. Bitter provides individual and couples and marriage counseling in the St. Louis area. To learn more about her practice, visit her website at www.tapestrycounseling.com.