How Did We Get Here?

They sat quietly, slowly eating their dinner.  This was the third day of their Carribean cruise and the pattern was already set.  The came to dinner each evening without a word.  They sat at the same table – ordered the same cocktails – ordered from the menu with as few words as possible – and then just sat and looked at each other.  When the food arrived, they ate in silence.  But, oh – the words racing through their minds were etched on their faces – but to hear these words, you would have to be listening with your heart.

SHE: He just sits there – slowly chewing each bite over and over again so he does not have to speak to me.  I remember when we first met – oh, how he went on and on about his future plans and how I fit into his life.  We would talk for hours.  And he was always taking my hand – putting his arm around me – stroking my hair – lavishing me with little kisses that spoke volumes.  Now after years of marriage – raising children – becoming grandparents – retiring in comfort – we never talk.  I convinced him that this cruise would help us to reconnect – I all but begged him.  I told him that time alone would allow us to talk – to rekindle our relationship – to help us create a new vision for our future together.  He finally agreed that we needed to do something and booked the cruise.  Now here we sit – silent – as if we have nothing to say to each other anymore.  How did we get here?

HE: Go on a cruise, she said.  It will improve our relationship, she said.  We will talk, she said.  And yet, here we are – eating in silence.  We could have done this at home for a lot less money.  I try to talk to her but she never really listens.  She either replies with something about the kids and what they have been doing or criticizes me about something she feels I did not do or did not do correctly.  I stopped trying to share my feelings with her a long time ago.  I remember when we were dating – she hung on my every word – she shared my enthusiasm for our future together – she even added to my plans in a way that told me she wanted to be with me forever.  So, here we are – at forever.  How did we get here?

SHE:  Please, talk to me!  Say something.  I don’t know if I can take this silence much longer.  Please! Wait – he is opening his mouth.  Finally – just maybe – he will start a conversation.  I will lean forward to show interest.  Oh, he was just getting something to drink.  More silence.  How did we get here?

HE:  If she would just give me a sign – anything that would tell me she still cares – she still finds me engaging – she still loves me.  Wait – she is leaning forward.  Finally – just maybe – she will start a conversation.  I will smile to let her know I really want to hear her voice.  Nothing – more silence.  How did we get here?

SHE and HE:  I don’t think we are going to make it.  How did we get here?

Hazel and I just returned from a wonderful Carribean cruise. Each night when we went to the dining room, we laughed and joked with the staff – asked questions to get to know more about them – engaged other couples sitting near us – in all, had a wonderful time.  But there was one couple who sat at the same table in silence every night.  I can’t tell you that the above internal conversation took place – but I can tell you that their faces reflected what I wrote.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of taking each other for granted – of focusing more on our children instead of our soulmate – of allowing life to get in the way of living.  If you recognize yourself in this piece, then you can fix it.  It starts just by talking.  You don’t need to go on a cruise or any other fancy get-away.  Get a cup of coffee and sit at the kitchen table and talk.  Be honest – be respectful – be attentive to each other’s words.  Laugh – cry – hold your head down in shame that it has gotten this far.  But please, talk.  When you are done there will be some wounds to which you must attend but remember – wounds do heal if bandages are applied by someone you love.

If you do this, then you will never have to ask the question that haunted this couple.  You will never say to yourself, “How did we get here?”

Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.
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Larry Tyler

Great Story Len and great advice.

BIZCATALYST 360°

Great question and one that should inspire many people to sit back, unplug, and consider fully. My wife and I have witnessed precisely the “zombie” couples you speak of, and it’s sad to watch. But rarely is it ever too late to change the trajectory if both parties are prepared to focus on what’s important. I mention “unplug” above as it’s simply amazing how many couples we witness in restaurants that, although sitting at the same table, are entirely focused on their devices versus each other. And this includes families who all come prepared to have dinner with their devices versus each other. A sad commentary indeed…

Johnny Johnston

Great story and oh so true! 2 books, Love and Respect and Five Love Languages ( my favorite).

Jane Anderson

Len, this is perfectly timed. I have needed to get to this level of discussion and honesty with my husband for quite a while. Just this morning as I was out taking a walk it came back to me again. Wondering how I could make this happen. Now I have a little bit more inspiration and wisdom for the experience.

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