My mom and dad live in the same house but do not speak to each other. Their marriage of 35 years has resulted in them helping each other logistically through the exchange of notes. I would like for them to communicate more and exchange affection. How do I convince them to do this?
35 years of marriage is long. It is already a miracle that they have stayed together and manage to communicate at all. Many long-term marriages are held together by a very thin thread, and there is nothing wrong if the thread has to be made of notes. Some people, who have the luxury of space, sleep in separate rooms and live in different homes. The old romantic couple holding hands and dancing together is a fantasy not too far past that placed longevity as the highest achievement. That fantasy is becoming obsolete. It will be very difficult for you to achieve that at the rate society is changing. This is not the end of the world. The 35 years have also created a strong habit loop for your parents, and trying to convince them might not be so effective.
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In fact, is there a problem with the way they communicate? Does it bother them or just you? You wanting them to change their communication method might not mean that they want to change it. Sometimes people develop strategies to avoid hurt and awkwardness and might not want to move out of the comfort zone they have reached. Some married couples want to maintain their status quo, avoid confrontation and the opening of old wounds.
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You will have to respect how your parents feel. Do you know what they feel? Once they start opening up to you, it will be easier to introduce different types of communication and also the expression of affection. All feelings are contagious, both negative and positive ones. If you individually start introducing laughter, care, hugs, and emotional intimacy, your parents will be more likely to mimic you at home.
The writer is an Intimacy & Relationship Coach, Founder of The Intimacy Curator, an organisation promoting self-discovery through emotional and sexual well-being (www.theintimacycurator.com). (Have a query? Send it on firstname.lastname@example.org)
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