I recently received an article on soul gazing, a getting-in-touch-with-your-feelings type exercise that involves holding perfectly still and looking deep into the eyes of another person for several minutes.
I frequently receive material on relationships and communication, so I often ask the husband if he will try out the suggested tips and ideas in the name of research, behavioral science and column fodder.
When I explained the concept of soul gazing, the brainchild of psychologist Robert Epstein, if I remember correctly -- and I do -- the husband's exact words were, "Sounds stupid."
(I apologize, Dr. Epstein.)
Naturally, I tell him it's not that I think our marriage needs work, but that trying these techniques is more like cleaning the lint trap in the dryer -- something you do periodically so that the house doesn't catch fire.
In the instructions for soul gazing, Epstein issues a warning that the exercise can be intense. The man was spot on.
We set the timer on the microwave for two minutes, stand inches from one another and begin gazing. And gazing. And gazing.
The husband's eyes dart to the timer. "Only a minute 50 to go," he says through clenched teeth.
"No talking. We're gazing," I hiss.
Five seconds later the phone rings. "Don't even think about it," I say, still gazing and trying not to move my lips.
Moments later I receive a text. "Killing you not to know, isn't it?" he taunts.
We gaze some more. I notice the nuance to the shades of brown in his eyes and how they still have that natural kindness I first noticed years ago.
The timer chimes. "Well?" I ask softly.
"What's for dinner?" he says.
To his credit, the husband has traveled the communication galaxy with me. We have explored the planets with John Gray's Venus and Mars concepts and wandered through the House of Mirrors.
Mirrored communication was where we listened intently to what the other had to say and then parroted it back to make sure we understood what the other was saying. We sounded like mynah birds.
The only foray he sincerely embraced was the one that said men sometimes need to withdraw into their man caves (the garage, the workshop, a sporting arena) for time alone.
Let's face it, women can talk men to death.
And now I have received promotional material on a book and workshop by Steven Stosny and Pat Love (seriously, her name is Love) titled, "How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It."
"Listen to this," I say to the husband. "They say talking makes many relationship problems worse, not better. Women want to talk about the relationship because they're upset and want to feel better. Men don't want to talk because talking won't make them feel better. In fact, it will make them feel worse!
"What do you think of that one?" I ask.
I can only assume he is on board. Or in his cave.