For the last two weeks, I have been teaching Literature to 2nd year students of the Asia Baptist Bible College (a ministry of the Sta. Mesa Baptist Bible Church under Rev. Joseph Boyd Lyons). Since I began teaching this subject, I have spent the first week of this one-month long subject reading and discussing poetry (Shakespeare, John Milton, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Omar Khayyam, Khalil Gibran, etc).
A consistent favorite among my students is the Philippines’ very own “Beyond Forgetting” written by Rolando Carbonell. As part of the graded activities, I require my students to recite “Beyond Forgetting” from memory. With some background music by guitar or piano, the students’ recitation of the poem can sometimes be, well, beyond forgetting …
Carbonell (who has seven earned doctorates!) wrote this love poem and several others for his wife in the 1960’s, if I’m not mistaken. I remember reading this collection of poems when I was an AB English student in Philippine Christian University in the late 70’s.
More marriages die, not from violence, but from silence
You might be wondering why I am talking about love poems in a blog that focuses on more practical issues in relationships, marriage and the family. Well, the persona in Carbonell’s poem, near the end of the poem, says, to wit,
You went away because you mistook my silence for indifference. But silence, my dear, is the language of my heart. For how could I essay the intensity of my love when silence speaks a more eloquent tone? But perhaps you didn’t understand.“Silence is the language of my heart …” It’s great poetry, brimming over with passion that makes women swoon, but such sentiment about “silence speaking a more eloquent tone” is the stuff that breaks marriages apart. Or as someone has wisely put it, “More marriages die, not from violence, but from silence.”
Most experts in relationships and marriage will tell you that “communication is the key to your marriage.” In fact, there is a best-selling book by H. Norman Wright with these words as the title. Willard Harley Jr. in his classic book “His Needs, Her Needs” says that a man should spend at least 15 hours a week talking to his wife or girlfriend. Dr. Gary Chapman in his book “The Five Love Languages” says that “Words of Affirmation” is a language that a lot of people speak. It is not silence, however eloquent it may be, but words of affirmation that bring vitality to a relationship.
The inability to talk to one another: symptom of a deeper problem
Dr. James Dobson, in his classic, best-selling book “Love Must Be Tough” (copyright 1983, 1996 by Word Incorporated; published 1999 in the Philippines by OMF Literature) however has a different take on the lack of communication between spouses. He says on page 26, to wit,
The inability to talk to one another is a symptom of a deeper problem, but it is not the cause itself. The critical element is the way one spouse begins to perceive the other and their lives together. It is a subtle thing at first, often occurring without either partner being aware of the slippage. But as time passes, one individual begins to feel trapped. That’s the key word, trapped.But the fact is, during the intense, passion-filled days before marriage, a man and a woman can hardly keep themselves apart, talking, whispering, sharing secrets, plans, hopes, wishes and dreams. So what happens after marriage? The man retreats to reading his newspaper or watching the news on TV, while the woman tends the kids, watching the telenovelas by herself. So what happened? Too many wives and husbands have been hearing nothing from their spouses except for what Simon and Garfunkel said in their 1960’s hit song - the sounds of silence.
(Please read my post “Transformers: Why do persistent suitors become passive husbands?" You might also want to re-read my article "Love Potion No. 9" which discusses the effects of the so-called cuddle chemicals on the emotions of love, and what happens when these chemicals subside.)
Women’s foolish and persistent notion that men can read their minds
In the 1970’s the late Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder starred in a Superman movie that produced a hit song entitled, if I’m not mistaken, “Can you read my mind?” A common mistake that a lot of women make (okay, okay, some men also make this mistake) is assuming that their boyfriends or husbands can read their minds.
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in his website http://www.loveandrespect.com/ has a video clip where he narrates the story of a man and woman talking about where to celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary. It’s a very funny clip, but it shows how wives can sometimes leave their husbands hanging in mid-air, not knowing what women really want. And all because women have this foolish and persistent notion that if their boyfriends or husbands are really in touch with their emotions, they would be able to read their minds and know what they want.
Lest you think that I am just being chauvinistic, let me cite two authors (female, mind you) who encourage women to say directly to their husbands what they really want. These are Gaye Wheat, co-writer of the book “Intended for Pleasure” (copyright 1977 by Fleming H. Revel, 1981, 1997 by Ed and Gaye Wheat; published in the Philippines by Christian Literature Crusade and available in National Bookstore branches), and Dr. Laura Schlessinger (more popularly known in the US simply as Dr. Laura).
Gaye Wheat, in pages 153 and 154 of “Intended for Pleasure”, say:
It is amazing how silent we women are on something as important as the sex act in marriage. We wish in silence or we suffer in silence or we hope that this time he will be different, that this time he will think of doing that which we long for him to do. Why not just tell him?While Gaye Wheat makes this wise observation in the context of a wife’s sexual relationship with her husband, such advice for a wife to speak up and say what she wants can be translated into other areas of marriage.
I’m sure a lot of you are now reaching out for your Bible and searching for Proverbs 27:5 which says, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” Hebrew poetry is marked by parallelism, by the use of antithesis and synthesis. Most preachers have interpreted Proverbs 27:5 as an antithesis, but that’s wrong. The verse should be read together with Proverbs 28:234, Psalms 141:5 and Galatians 4:16, and should be interpreted as a synthesis. That is, if you love somebody, you should be brave enough, willing enough to confront that person about his errors and sins.
Men need direct communication from their wives
Dr. Laura has written a book entitled “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.” Probe Ministries, through Sue Bohlin, has a review of Dr. Laura’s book which you might want to check out. Dr. Laura says that women should realize that men need direct communication from their wives. Among other things, Dr. Laura says,
Men make terrible mind readers, so be direct. Dropping subtle hints doesn’t work with most men, and it doesn’t mean a man is insensitive, uncaring or oblivious.The bottom line? Men cannot read their wives’ minds and neither should wives expect their husbands to be able to do so. It may be a lot less romantic for a woman to engage in direct communication with her boyfriend or husband, rather than dropping subtle hints here and there. But she will save herself a lot of heartaches and frustrations if she, as Gaye Wheat and Dr. Laura both say, engages in direct communication with her boyfriend or husband.