He buttered his bread, and I took a sip of my soda while my eyes scanned the room. Deep conversations and laughter buzzed all around us while Shawn and I sat, waiting for our food to come. He cleared his throat. “Boy, it sure is hot outside today.”

Really? It’s come down to the weather now?

I looked at my phone and checked into Facebook, captioning it “Date Night!” without mentioning the fact that we were sitting in silence.

I usually love silence.

The absence of sound, other than a ticking clock or that weird noise the washing machine makes when I forget to take something out of a pocket, is like therapy. I didn’t know why we had nothing to say. Everything was great. The kids hadn’t fought all day, which could be because they were spending the day separately at friends’ houses, but I still counted it as a win.

On top of all that, I was at 28 days without screwing up the checking account. That means it was 29 days ago when I announced an extra $130 had mysteriously appeared in the checking account. Ten pounds of Taco Bell, and a pair of new shoes later, we all wandered around the house trying to figure out what happened to the Wi-Fi. And that’s when we discovered never to trust checking a count errors — unless they are in the bank’s favor.

Many things have happened in the 18 years we’ve been married, but silence isn’t usually one of them, because no matter what is happening in our life, there has always been something to say about it.

That’s not to say we don’t often sit in comfortable silence while I work on my laptop and he watches TV, or when we are driving down the road enjoying the scenery.

There are also moments we sit in angry silence, but that’s after an argument when we’ve both said too much already. Once, we got lost on our way back from vacation because the GPS decided home was someplace in rural Wisconsin when we live in Missouri.

“Don’t blame Tom-Tom. I’m pretty sure he didn’t program himself,” Shawn said while making a U-turn to avoid a pond. We then griped at each other, while learning to read a map to the nearest Walmart where we bought a new GPS-system.

Her name is Garmin, and she saved our marriage.

Her soothing voice and gentle direction filled the car as we quietly drove the rest of the way home. We were now experiencing a different kind of silence — awkward silence.

It’s my least favorite of all the silences, and I’ve noticed this tends to happen to us while we are alone in restaurants. If we go to the movies, walk around downtown and window shop — or just about anything else — we are our usual silly selves. When we get dressed up and face one another in a booth, it’s like we are on our first date again (except now we aren’t at Taco Bell on a $9 budget).

This has always bothered me as I look around at other couples enjoying kid-free evenings while we sit and avoid eye contact. Is there something wrong with us? Why can’t we laugh over dinner, trade bites of each other’s dishes, and then share a dessert?

“Why are we so weird at restaurants?” I finally asked him.

Shawn shrugged. “I didn’t know that we’re weird at restaurants.”

He never even noticed.

While I mulled over fundamental problems in our relationship, he just thought about how good the spinach artichoke dip was. As I looked around and compared us to everyone else in the room, he was comparing prices on the menu.

We spent the remainder of dinner discussing and laughing about how awkward we are, and he even offered me a bite of his shrimp pasta (after I told him to). For one night, date night was everything I hoped it could be.

And then the waitress came over with the debit card, whispered something in my ear, and just like that we were back to zero days I didn’t screw up the checking account.

That’s a whole different kind of silence.

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