I adore my hus­band – I just don’t want to have din­ner with him!

Daily Mail - - Femail Magazine - by Laura Kemp

THE si­lence is pound­ing away, punc­tu­ated only by the oc­ca­sional scrape of a knife on a din­ner plate or the chink of a wine glass knocked against clenched teeth.

How long has it been since some­one has spo­ken? Should I say some­thing? But I can’t for the life of me think what to say. If you’d have told me a few years ago this is what a date with Jamie, my hus­band of six years, would be­come like I wouldn’t have be­lieved you.

Back then, we used to howl with de­risory laugh­ter at those cou­ples in restau­rants eat­ing in stony si­lence. We would never be­come like that, we thought, dur­ing our dat­ing years, when hours seemed to fly by in restau­rants as we flirted and gig­gled through course af­ter course and nu­mer­ous bot­tles of wine.

Back home, we could stay up into the small hours chat­ting about noth­ing and, when we were apart, we would text, email and ring each other dozens of times a day.

Six years, one mort­gage and a son later, things are slightly dif­fer­ent.

Now, my heart sinks when Jamie sug­gests a ro­man­tic din­ner for two. Some of the ex­cuses I’ve used are truly pa­thetic: I’ve just got some chicken out of the freezer, there’s a doc­u­men­tary on TV I want to see.

Din­ner-a-deux is now an oc­ca­sion more to be en­dured than en­joyed and it is al­ways with a sense of shared re­lief that we pay the bill and head for the com­fort of our home.

But don’t be mis­taken, you haven’t just read a de­scrip­tion of a fail­ing mar­riage. My hus­band and I love each other to bits. He’s my best friend, soul­mate and, along with our son, the per­son I’d choose to be stranded with on a desert is­land, be­cause he’s funny, in­tel­li­gent and a great fa­ther.

So, how did this hap­pen to us? Was it be­cause we be­came par­ents or did our re­la­tion­ship just ma­ture this way?

Well, the chitchat slowed down, the early nights be­came about sleep and the texts were re­quests to pick up milk on the way home.

A typ­i­cal evening be­came one spent at home hap­pily of­fer­ing lit­tle asides here and there, with plenty of quiet — not of the tum­ble­weed va­ri­ety, but of a cosy kind.

We reached an un­der­stand­ing that one can­not be siz­zling com­pany all the time and en­joyed be­ing able to of­fer each other time out af­ter a day of work­ing and rais­ing a child.

I have my own the­o­ries: when Jamie be­came a fa­ther, his life was not turned in­side out, as mine was. I was the cen­tre of our son’s life, but my hus­band dipped in and out due to his ca­reer. He has time to think dur­ing his day at work, whereas mine — as a work-from-home mum — is spent bash­ing out words be­fore hang­ing out the wash­ing, mak­ing lunch and do­ing the house­work.

I’ve for­got­ten how to com­mu­ni­cate with adults; I no­tice it with child­less friends who can chat away for hours with­out run­ning out of steam.

But, at the not-too-ripe old age of 37, I am spent by 9pm; con­ver­sa­tion re­quires lis­ten­ing, think­ing and delv­ing i nto one’s thoughts. Frankly, once my son is in bed, I haven’t got the en­ergy to do that. I’d rather re­lax with books, cross­words and the TV and then go to bed, so I can recharge my de­pleted bat­tery.

What’s more, I don’t feel the need to prove in pub­lic that our mar­riage is in good or­der. Go­ing out when you only had eyes for each other was be­cause you wanted the world to see you as an item, thor­oughly in love and co­cooned in in­ti­mate ‘do not dis­turb’ con­ver­sa­tion.

These days, when we go to a party, we ar­rive and leave to­gether, but in be­tween we’ll min­gle sep­a­rately. We’ve heard each other’s sto­ries a mil­lion times and part of the fun in go­ing out is to share the gos­sip in the cab on the way home.

Parenting ex­pert Tam­sin Kelly, editor of par­ent­dish.com, says such be­hav­iour is per­fectly healthy.

‘I’m sure we’re the only cou­ple who, in­stead of com­plain­ing about be­ing let down by the babysit­ter, rou­tinely let the babysit­ters down,’ she says. ‘Early Satur­day evening, we re­alise we can’t be both­ered to go out to make con­ver­sa­tion when we could be ly­ing on a sofa watch­ing the lat­est grip­ping box set and eat­ing bis­cuits. ‘ It’s dif­fer­ent if we’re in other peo­ple’s com­pany — then my hus­band both­ers to make his job sound funny and in­ter­est­ing, rather than talk­ing about end­less peo­ple called Dave. ‘And we can tell ever-so-en­ter­tain­ing anec­dotes about our prog­eny with­out ei­ther of us want­ing to hiss: “I know, I was there, too.”’ When it comes to si­lence, clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Dr Funke Baf­four says we should em­brace and en­joy it, rather than see­ing it as a sign of a re­la­tion­ship gone stale.

‘Si­lence is not a bad thing. When peo­ple are happy with it, it is a form of re­lax­ation, a time to sit and re­flect. Si­lence is ex­tremely healthy within a re­la­tion­ship,’ she says.

It’s true that when my hus­band does force me to go out alone with him, pluck­ing me from my hid­ing place in the wardrobe and bundling me into the taxi, I do re­lax, aided by a bot­tle of wine and a good steak.

But I’m yet to be con­vinced that a take­away in front of the telly, just the two of us, can be beaten.

Per­haps the next time he sug­gests a night out, I can per­suade him to see a film, so we can sit in bliss­ful si­lence in the cinema in­stead.

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