Small talk

B and I had dinner out a few nights ago. We had words. A disagreement. I upset him, I think that’s closer to the truth.

I have a problem lately in that when we go out for dinner, the conversation is stilted. I’ve spent my day at work so I can easily talk about what I’m working on, what a ridiculous colleague said to me today, a pointless meeting I attended etc. When it comes round logically to B’s turn to speak, it all goes quiet.

There are a few issues here. The first is that B, by the very nature of his days at the moment, isn’t doing much that he can talk about. Having a nap and putting a load of washing on probably doesn’t seem worth mentioning. It’s been even worse lately as he’s been ill. He’s barely left the house.

B is naturally a solitary person, but it worries me that this situation is making him even more insular. Sometimes several days will pass in which his only human interaction has been with me. I know what you’re thinking: ‘lucky devil’. But it really can’t be healthy.

He’s aware of this and agrees with me, but so far isn’t doing a lot to change it. I know that since the brain surgery his speech is not as proficient as it was before. It’s not something that is immediately noticeable to others, but he needs to think more before he speaks, and he often chooses simpler words to say than he would have previously.

B’s speech exercises have fallen by the wayside too, although he will be seeing a speech therapist again in a few weeks. In my opinion he needs to do a lot more reading aloud and writing and many other things, but I can’t force him and I won’t continually nag him about it.

I’m not asking him to join a support group and sit around in a circle talking about cancer, but I do think he needs to be more social. Even incidental communication with others ‘in the community’ would be helpful. The longer he avoids it, the harder it’s going to be.

The other issue is that being German, B doesn’t do small talk. For Brits (and Australians) casual chitchat is essential to social interaction. Not for the Deutsch. The German edition of Paddington Bear is an amusing and illuminating example.

The BBC reports:

This exchange of small talk occurs in the English original: “‘Hallo Mrs Bird,’ said Judy. ‘It’s nice to see you again. How’s the rheumatism?’ ‘Worse than it’s ever been’ began Mrs. Bird.”

In the German edition, this passage is simply cut.

Therefore while it’s relatively easy for me to blather on about mundanities, B finds it considerably more difficult. Even before the tumour, he could be conversational hard work at times.

So the other night, did I discuss these factors calmly and rationally with B? Not quite. I stalked off to the bathroom, asking him to think of something to talk to me about while I was away. I returned. I said ‘I just want to have a normal conversation that isn’t about cancer!’ He got upset. I felt like a right bitch. Situation normal.

I’ve since apologised (again) and everything is fine between us. These little things seem to come up all the time now. It feels as if the cancer is insidious, not only in its relentless pursuit of B’s brain but also in the way it infiltrates our relationship. Or perhaps I’m just in the mood for melodrama today.



  1. 😦 This made me feel sad. Love to you both. xoxoxox

    1. We’re ok sis, it’s just hard at times. Not every post can be a happy post 😦 xx

  2. I don’t think you realise when first diagnosed just how far reaching cancer can be. The chemo is taken at home, so no contact with others there. I know Jay felt really lonely at times, all his friends were at work when he could have done with some company. He was a self-employed trainer, used to write and deliver training courses and obviously that has had to go by the wayside. Just to get himself out he does some voluntary work 2 days a week, would that appeal to B?

    1. You’re so right Kathleen. So far volunteer work doesn’t appeal to B but he has said he will get a referral to Mulberry Place – part of Trinity Hospice which is right near us. So he could go there for complementary therapy eg. massage to start with. He enjoyed that at the London Clinic.

  3. Chin up, it will get easier and so will B, it has taken me a while for me to accept the big C! Just think from next week you go to a shorter week and can do things together, even just a walk in the park and people watching (love this), library etc. Maybe after his treatment you could get a flight to Germany for the weekend? I have all the info about insurance etc. Have a great weekend away and you will come back better for it.

    1. Thanks Karen. B and I will definitely do more things together on my days off, especially in London as the museums and galleries will be quieter than they are at the weekend. Really looking forward to that. We will go to Germany sometime next year. Edinburgh tomorrow for me – can’t wait!

  4. We can also help with good insurers for travel when you are up for it.

  5. My partner has a brain tumour and is 8 weeks delayed on his 5th cycle of Temozolomide so to say I understand how much of a strain it can be would be an understatement. Feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall? 2000mg/day of Keppra has royally screwed up his liver for chemo and dexamethasone has made him put on tons of weight, all contributing to his ever growing inability to socially interact with anyone besides me. We had to get rid of the dog as he became violent when the boyf had seizures, and I have a baby on the way that he can’t be left alone with – he lives in a world of self pity. Hoping that coming off of Keppra and onto a different tablet, completing the chemo and ridding of the steroids will eventually improve his attitude -I feel like super-bitch sometimes, we’ve argued that often. It has helped us get things off of our chest though – each to their own I guess. Our palliative counselor says at least we’re getting our feelings out, I’m not sure how healthy it is long term though!

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