Although it may appear counterintuitive, knowing when to say nothing can be a powerful form of connecting with your significant other. However, being truly silent is not just an absence of words, it requires a quieting of the mind as well. Silence does not mean just biting your lip while your mind races on in this eternal inner battle to be right, to negate or to harbor internalized feelings of anger. Silence and stillness requires an intense, conscious decision to be fully present with what is happening and what is being said.
If you are in a relationship where reactivity is a familiar pattern, then practicing silence may feel rather uncomfortable. It may trigger your partner to demand a response. “Don’t just stand there, SAY something!” You may need to inform your partner of what is happening. “I am here, and I am listening without thought or judgement.”
This can be a highly infectious practice. Not only are you learning to quiet your mind, but you are sending a clear message to your partner that in spite of the circumstances, there can be peace and a sense of warm receptivity. As Eckhart Tolle states in his book, Stillness Speaks (2003):
“True listening goes far beyond auditory perception. It is the arising of alert attention, a space of presence in which the words are being received. The words now become secondary. They may be meaningful or they may not make sense. Far more important than what you are listening to is the act of listening itself, the space of conscious presence that arises as you listen. That space is a unifying field of awareness in which you meet the other person without separative barriers created by conceptual thinking” (p. 95).
Practice sitting in stillness together, just being aware of each other’s presence without attaching words, thoughts and judgements to the experience. You will find an easing of tension and find a peace that goes beyond words, bringing you closer together on a level that goes beyond the mind.