I was recently watching the TV show, "Up All Night", a witty comedy about the challenges of parenthood and marriage. In the most recent episode, the main couple's TV goes out in the middle of their dinner. So they decide it will be fun to sit at the actual dining room table and chat for a change. Unfortunately, neither can come up with anything to talk about and they are left feeling uncomfortable and disappointed in their inability to communicate.
What's a "Waffle House Couple"?
My favorite part is when the wife compares her and her husband to a "Waffle House Couple". In describing this couple, she states, "You know those couples at the Waffle House who just sit there in silence, reading their Pennysavers, chewing on bacon just waiting to die?"
I laughed and laughed at just how spot on this description is. Don't get me wrong, there is something beautiful about a healthy couple being able to sit in silence and just enjoy one another's a company without feeling obligated to talk.
On the other hand, there is a definite tension and awkwardness for a couple who has been together so long that they feel they've run out of things to talk about.
The Seasons of Marriage
So first things first, know that if you've hit this rut in your marriage, you are not alone. I believe this in itself plays a big role in "Empty Nest Syndrome". Couples spend 18 years of their marriage talking solely about their kids rather than themselves and their relationship.
And what happens? – the kid goes off to college and the husband and wife are left with a total stranger and nothing to talk about. It's all too common but avoidable if you and your husband choose to be proactive about the issue.
Another thing to recognize is that marriages go through different seasons. In the first years, it was probably easy to sit at the table and talk. You probably didn't have children to distract your attention or to steal the focus of your discussion, either.
So be realistic – you probably won't sit on the phone talking for hours and hours with your spouse as you did in the first years of your relationships. That's completely fine. But it is important to make time to sit down and talk, and to be creative with subjects you want to discuss.
How to Get Out of the Rut
As cheesy as it sounds, an assignment I've been giving couples who are stuck in this rut lately is a 20 questions type of game. You can either come up with questions on your own or purchase a game with cards full of personal questions. The point is to ask questions that you've stopped asking after years of marriage.
In the beginning, you have a million questions for your partner: "What's your favorite movie?", "What's your favorite childhood memory?", "Where would you travel if you could go anywhere?" Years later, questions look more like this: "What time are you picking up Suzie from school on Friday?" or "How was your day?" (insert obvious answer – "Fine").
The point of this assignment, then, is to break out of the typical questions and to get to know one another again. I don't know about you, but I've done a lot of growing and changing in the years since I was first married. I am the same person in many ways but have also become a different person in some senses. The same is true for my husband.
So to assume that everything he thinks, feels, likes, and believes now is the same as it was then severely limiting our ability to talk and challenge one another. So talk about how you've grown, how your values and beliefs have changed, and what you are currently learning.
If we really think, there are a plethora of questions we can ask one another on a daily basis. We just have to be intentional about it initially.
My challenge to you is to make this a fun date night. Come prepared with some questions (in your head or on paper) and just sit and talk. Try not to talk about the kid's schedules or your work challenges, but to talk about yourselves as individuals.
Set goals and challenges for yourselves and for your marriage. And just talk and enjoy getting to know your spouse once again. Doing this on a regular basis is sure to prevent you from becoming that "Waffle House Couple".
Here are a few question suggestions to get your juices flowing:
1. What was your favorite date we ever went on?
2. What is God teaching you lately?
3. If you could meet anyone in the world, who and why?
4. Where would you travel if we could go anywhere and had unlimited funds?
5. Where would you like to see our marriage in 5 years?
6. What values and beliefs have changed for you over the years?
7. What does your ideal Saturday look like?
8. What things about yourself have you learned to accept over the years?
9. What are the main things you've learned from being married so far?
10. What things do we need to set as a priority in our marriage and lives?
11. What's your favorite meal?
12. What's the best movie you've seen this year?
13. Who would you trade places with for a day?
14. What are your favorite things about me? (Yes – digging for compliments is allowed.)
15. What has made you really, deep-belly laugh lately?