In Praise of Eating Dinner in Total Silence

published Feb 8, 2018
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(Image credit: Shannon Wolf Photography)

When my husband and I got married four years ago, a friend of mine who had already celebrated several wedding anniversaries gave me one piece of unsolicited advice: Sometimes you’re going to eat dinner in silence — and you both should be okay with that.

It’s not like we had never eaten in silence (or near silence) before. We had already been dating for many years and had hundreds (thousands?) of meals together. But her words really hit me: By getting married, we were basically agreeing to have dinner together every night, whenever possible. What would we talk about all those nights? Turns out, not much!

The First Time I Realized We Were Eating in Silence

With my friend’s words fresh in my head, my new husband and I went off on our honeymoon. The third night, we were sitting in this amazing restaurant in an old bath house on Crete (a Greek island, which I strongly suggest visiting!) and I realized we weren’t talking. We had already recapped the wedding earlier in the trip, we had talked about the next day’s plans during pre-dinner drinks on the hotel roof, we already swooned over the cute older couple sitting next to us, we had just commented on how cool the place was and how good the food was … and that was it. We had nothing else to say to each other.

There we were, on our honeymoon in one of the coolest settings we’ve ever been and we were sitting in silence. I’d be lying if I said I was totally cool with it. I definitely panicked a little bit. We were newlyweds! And we had nothing to say to each other? I reminded myself of what my friend said.

There was no reason to freak out — we had been with each other nonstop for the last 72 hours and had nothing to say to each other at the moment. That didn’t mean we wouldn’t have anything to say tomorrow — or 50 dinners from now. It was one night. And honestly, the silence was fine. It’s not like it was an awkward first date; I was sitting there with the man of my dreams who just vowed to spend the rest of his life with me.

Why I Like the Fact That We Sometimes Eat in Silence

It’s been four years since our honeymoon and that night in Crete hasn’t been the only meal we’ve eaten in silence. Back in real life, we work for more than nine hours a day. During our days, we email back and forth several times. (We don’t call each other up to chat or tell each other little things like some couples do — we just have a very long email chain that we try to respond to every hour or so.) We use those emails to send each other funny links, talk about upcoming plans, update each other about our days, etc.

By the time we get home from work, we’ve usually already told each other all the big things we wanted to say. Sometimes we’ll elaborate on a story or think of something that was missing, but we’re usually pretty talked out by the time dinner gets on the table.

That means, we’re sitting in (relative) silence. Or — prepare to judge — eating on the coffee table in front of the TV. And at the end of a long day, I’m happy to do either of those things. We’re both tired. We’ve already filled each other in on our days. We just want to eat dinner and be in each other’s company. We can just sit there in silence or watch a show and enjoy sitting there together. And let’s be honest — even if I’m not talking, he knows what I’m thinking about anyway.

Phew. That was a lot of words about saying no words at all.

Not okay with silence? Read this: 10 Questions to Ask Your Partner at the Dinner Table

Do you ever eat dinner in silence? Is it awkward or totally comfortable?

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: Sometimes My Husband and I Eat Dinner in Silence — And That’s Okay