My song today is “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”. This song was written by Danny Whitten. It was first recorded by Crazy Horse and issued as the final track on side one of their 1971 eponymous album. It was Whitten's signature tune, but gained more fame via its numerous cover versions, especially that by Rod Stewart. In the United Kingdom, it topped the ‘UK Singles Chart’ as a double A-side with ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’ in 1977.
All good marriages that last the length of time profits from effective communication at its heart. Space must always be made for talking to each other and placed at the top of one’s relationship agenda. Whatever occupies too much of your time and exhausts you, whether it be parenting children, looking after the needs of aging parents in failing health, or working all the hours God sends either outside or inside the home, the less a couple talks to each other, the more trouble they are storing up for their marriage in the long run.
The old saying, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ is true. Talking about what worries you is the main nutrient of any healthy relationship. Failure to talk with or listen attentively to one’s partner is a recipe for disaster down the line. So many people in stressful work positions come home, and the first thing they need to do is to off-load the stressful day they have had by telling their partner about it. Usually, the last thing their tired partner wants to hear as they are preparing the family meal, or is getting the children ready for bed, is their partner letting off steam in their ear, instead of having off-loaded their stress onto the person who upset their applecart in the first place!
While talking itself represents an essential start to establishing a good relationship, the art of listening is a necessary component to complete effective communication. Expressing one’s thoughts and feelings honestly has a better chance of maintaining a healthy relationship between a couple than repressing what one actually thinks and feels. This is not to deny, however, that occasionally between a couple learning to leave some things unsaid also leads to healthier relationships.
Anyone who can remember their courtship days when they were deeply and madly in love will remember how often they spoke into the early morning hours about all manner of subjects. Being in love makes one want to speak and listen attentively. It makes one want to share and to understand the thoughts and feelings of their lover. What matters to them matters to you and vice versa, and if it doesn’t, then you are not in love with the other person, so either give them back their engagement ring or put your clothes back on and get out of their bed! There have been many a time in my romantic years of a new relationship when the young woman I was with and myself have spoken into the early morning hours, forgetting the parental deadline of what time the young woman was expected back home.
My own personal experiences have shown me that even when one always expresses oneself honestly in any relationship, while being truthful encourages truth to be spoken in return, it does not always follow that it will be. Take for example one marriage partner who suspects their other half is being unfaithful and voices their concern honestly and appropriately. Having been confronted with their suspected wrong deed does not mean that the unfaithful partner will automatically admit to having an affair. Indeed, most confronted adulterers (fearing the possible consequences should the truth emerge) would be more likely to deny their infidelity and attempt to brave-out their dishonesty the first time they were confronted and challenged by their cheated partner. Very few unfaithful partners are prepared to risk the breakup of a marriage, by openly admitting to an affair they have had, especially where young children and a major shift in finances and social division are involved.
As a Probation Officer of 27 years, I undertook the additional specialist role of Marriage Guidance Counsellor for four years of my career. I was trained by the Tavistock Clinic, which in the 1970s was the crème de la crème of training courses for marriage counsellors. I know that the greatest reason for a marital breakdown is overwhelmingly a lack of communication between a couple. Whenever trying to save a rocky relationship, the essential ingredient in the worker/client process is encouraging the couple to talk honestly to each other about their positive and negative feelings, their fears, their hopes; indeed, anything that affects one’s overall sense of well-being or which threatens their future. Indeed, not too differently what new lovers discuss at the start of their romantic relationship!
Whatever the nature of one’s upbringing, no subject should ever be off the agenda’. However threatening or uncomfortable one may find oneself in discussing any topic of a highly personal nature, staying quiet about one’s real concerns should never be a serious consideration if the relationship is to be salvaged. If the couple do not discuss whatever is worrying them in an honest and sensitive manner, they are more likely to blurt it out during a future row, and at a time when they may be less concerned if or how much they hurt the other person’s feelings.
I usually found that the most threatening topics to discuss in all couple relationships were ‘sex’ and ‘money’, and ‘poor communication’.
There are still too many households where austerity rules supreme. In my youth, the husband was the breadwinner who brought home the wage, and his wife was the one who managed the weekly income and household expenditure. I will never forget my mother once telling my father on a short week when his wages had been reduced, that anyone can economically manage a household effectively if the wage earner brought more in than was going out, but not even the cleverest economist in the world could perform this function in reverse and maintain a healthy balance sheet. That view of my mothers contrasts greatly with Great Britain in the 1970s when whatever amount working-class husbands gave their wives for weekly household expenditure came with an expectation that their wives were capable of financial miracles; of feeding the 5000 with five loaves and five fish!
It has become so easy to fall into debt today, especially by families who start off on the breadline. A recent study showed that a third of the country owes between £5000 and £10,000 on credit cards and other indebted means (excluding mortgages), and it is estimated that at least one-third of the country is less than two paydays away from not being able to pay their mortgage or rent on the property they occupy. God only knows what financial chaos awaits millions of people who have lost their businesses and their jobs during the present pandemic virus of Covid-19?
One of the main difficulties when one partner falls into heavy debt (whatever the reason), is that they invariably become more secretive in their problem behaviour, usually out of shame or to avoid rows and confrontations. They invariably won't own up to having a problem until it can no longer be denied to all and sundry.
Regarding any sexual problems between a couple, the most common problems I encountered included frequency (either too often or too rarely) and the nature/quality of love-making practices engaged in (unacceptable to one partner to produce pleasure and satisfaction). My 'Golden Rule’ was always that the only things which remain ‘on’ or ‘off’ limits in any relationship that stands a chance of working are those things that both parties 'agree to’.
In situations where a sexual relationship has virtually ceased between the couple, another advisable approach by the Tavistock Clinic practitioners was to introduce ‘the tree of forbidden fruit’ by forbidding the couple to have any sexual contact, between one session and the next session. The couple would be advised to talk to each other in bed, but not to engage in any other activity than talking. After a few weeks, the couple were then given permission to hold hands in bed, but only while they talked to each other. As soon as ten seconds of silence between them existed after they had stopped talking, they were instructed to instantly stop holding hands. A few months along the line of most marriage counselling sessions where both man and wife genuinely wanted things to work out right between them, communication between the parties had greatly improved. This was usually the period when the couple started to behave like romantic teenagers who had fallen madly in love for the first time and who found it virtually impossible to keep their lips, hands, and whatever else off each other! I cannot recall the number of times a smiling married couple told me that they found themselves breaking the rules and making love (partaking of the forbidden fruit). In fact, I will never forget one man who had understood the ‘forbidden fruit’ analogy smile as he told me that “It was way better than eating an apple, Mr. Forde!”
All of this was only relevant, however, in situations where both man and wife genuinely wanted their marriage to improve, and where they were prepared to enter into the marriage guidance process and weekly counselling sessions constructively and positively. Where neither or only one person was committed to genuinely seeking reconciliation, failure was inevitable.
Love and peace