I have been in a committed relationship to a Christian man for over a year. For the most part, I am very confident in our match since we had been friends for many years, and I have always considered him a very suitable partner for marriage (and still think of him this way).
We have discussed marriage and want to marry each other.
In the first months of our relationship we talked — a lot! He was always sharing stories and speaking his mind, and though it was usually I who asked the questions and started the conversation, he was very responsive.
In spite of this, I have always known he is not a talker. He'd rather watch a movie than sit down and talk. Even though he doesn't shy away from discussing relationship issues, I wish he talked more.
My love language is conversation, yet I have sat through dinners in near-silence as I am tired of asking questions, and he can't think of any new conversation topics. His love language is physical touch, so he is happy with us just being together. At the end of the night I feel very alone and emotionally disconnected whereas he’ll feel he has spent quality time with me.
We see each other around twice a week and talk on the phone. He knows how frustrated silence makes me but instead of trying to bring up any new topics, he simply suggests we spend less time on the phone.
I read The Sacred Search in which Gary Thomas mentions that men speak significantly less after marriage. I also heard the episode of The Boundless Show titled "Clams and Crowbars." I know men have a general tendency to not talk, but I am afraid of marrying him and feeling alone and emotionally isolated.
If all men are like this, can this even be a deal breaker? Or should I just get used to it?
You ended your question where I’d like to begin my answer; simply put, you asked two questions built on an assumption that “all men are like this” — this being non-communicative and prone to silence. My dear, it is simply not true! Although most men generally talk less than most women, there is a range of talkativeness for both men and women. All men are not clams! Nor are all women Chatty Cathys. God has created vast variety in human beings, and men are as different from each other as are women. Surely you would agree that while women can tend to be more verbal than men, it would be an oversimplification to say “all women talk too much.”
What Gary Thomas and The Boundless Show and other Christian marriage experts are trying to get at when they speak and write about the male/female divide in communication is that there are differences between men and women that it’s helpful to understand in order to better communicate with each other. The point in all their insights is not to excuse unsocial behavior, but to encourage godly relating.
In addition to general differences in the way men and women communicate are a host of factors that contribute to someone’s comfort level with conversation: personality types, background and upbringing, birth order, where they’re from in the country (or the world), and even spiritual maturity. There simply is no reason to believe all men are the strong, silent type happy to just sit beside you and stare at the television. Is your boyfriend like this with everyone? Does he perk up when he’s with his family or friends?
It may be that you’re placing too much stock in “love languages” and not enough stock in the one-another verses (http://www.challies.com/articles/one-another-the-bible-community) we are commanded to obey as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
At a minimum, if you are both believers, you should be encouraging one another to grow in spiritual maturity. This takes words!
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16)
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 10:25)
Therefore encourage each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
His love language may be physical touch, but this doesn’t mean he’s off the hook in expressing love in other ways, just like you must express love in non-conversational ways to others whose love language may be acts of service, quality time or something else. Moreover, there are limited ways to express physical touch in a relationship outside of marriage. You must take your cues from Scripture on this. Any sexual expression before marriage is sin.
Conversation, also historically called intercourse, is a central part of a healthy marriage. It takes two, a husband and a wife, equally interested in the interior life of the other, selflessly considering the other, and asking questions, listening, and responding. It is an art. But it can be learned.
It is good that you have told him that conversation is important to you because it is objectively necessary for a fruitful relationship. Certainly there are fruitful marriages among believers where one is a strong, silent type. But you must decide if you will be happy married to a man who is.
I was reading this morning about the Puritans’ view of marriage and came across this passage:
Therefore, said the Puritans, in choosing a spouse one should look, not necessarily for one whom one does love, here and now … but for one whom one can love with steady affection on a permanent basis. (J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, p. 264).
I do believe that if he persists in looking for ways to talk less, if he is unwilling to work at engaging you in meaningful conversation (even if it is less than you would want), that may be a deal breaker.
It is always good to consider the wisdom of continuing in a relationship when something significant is causing stress, concern, and even emotional pain while dating. From what you’ve said, it sounds like this is at a minimum an issue worth talking about together with an older, mature Christian couple that you trust.
Have you talked with your pastor and his wife about this impasse in your relationship? I urge you to do it! You need the help of a wise, godly couple to see if this is a reason to hit pause on your plans to get married.
I will pray to God, the One who created everything with a word, to give you wisdom.
Copyright 2015 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.