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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Are you…talkin’ to me?

A wise person I know hates when the conflict in a book she’s reading could easily be resolved if the two dingbats who are at odds would simply talk about their problems. I get what she’s saying. But then, doesn’t lack of communication cause all kinds of problems in real life?

Talking it out. A thing that, ironically, is easier said than done.

Along comes a book called 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great, in which University of Michigan research scientist Terri Orbuch tells us talking more will improve your romantic life.

And by talking more, she means ten minutes a day. Not ten more minutes. Ten minutes total.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. You can’t just drag out a discussion about who’s going to pick up the kids and who’s going to pay the bills until you’ve met the requirement. You have to, for instance, ask something like, “If you could pick up the kids in any vehicle from all of history, what would it be and why?” Or say, “The Highlights subscription is up again, and even though one of our kids is in college and the other graduated from college two years ago, I’d like to continue because Goofus and Gallant and The Timbertoes are my favorite cartoons of all time, and here’s why…”

Orbuch calls that “self-disclosure,” a.k.a. “sharing your private feelings, fears, doubts and perceptions with your partner.” And if you’re fifty and telling someone you love you can’t live without your monthly dose of Goofus and Gallant, you’re really laying it out there.

Expressions of love and support are good, too, as are actions or words “that make your partner feel loved, cared for or special.” These can include a random hug, saying thank your or buying your partner’s favorite food, even if the favorite food is green beans.

Or maybe, especially if the favorite food is green beans.

At any rate, doesn’t this all seem to come from a dusty file in the back of the cabinet labeled “Duh”? And yet, here’s a $26 book that gets all five-star reviews on Amazon from people who can’t say enough about what great advice that ten-minute rule is.

I don’t blame the author. It just amazes me that people need a book to tell them they have to communicate with someone if they want the relationship to keep going. For God’s sake, the word simple is right there in the title!

Except maybe this only helps prove that talking ain’t all that simple.

In real life, at least. Maybe our expectations are a little different in fiction. It’s probably not a good sign when you find yourself screaming, “Just freakin’ say it already!” to a ream of paper in your lap.

The way I address that in Fast Lane is by making it impossible at first for Lara to share certain secrets with Clay without blowing her cover. And later, when it seems like blowing her cover might not be such a bad idea, those same secrets look even more sinister.

Fun times. And pass me the green beans.

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