Here's why I don't speak to Mr Miner when he's away

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Hi! I'm Sarah Long. I arrived in Australia from the UK in early 2010 and met my Mr Miner soon after. We're based in Sydney and he does drive-in, drive-out (or DIDO) to Orange in country NSW. I came out here as part of a six-month backpacking trip around the world, and never went home!

A friend recently asked me how often I speak to Mr Miner when he’s away. My response was "sometimes not at all". She was absolutely shocked by this: how could we possibly go all that time without speaking?

To clarify, we do text each other three times a day, every day during this time and he is only away for four days at a time. But, it is true that sometimes we don’t actually speak to each other and most often we only speak once or twice during the four days.

This is not the first time I’ve had a conversation like this with one of my friends. To the people who speak to their partners at least three times per day, to ‘check in’ or ask what’s for dinner, four days without a chat is inconceivable.

But the truth is we don’t have anything to talk about in that time. Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I used to think the same thing: isn’t there something wrong in a relationship if you have nothing to talk about?

The thing is, when we have something important to talk about, we do talk. But when we’re tired and we have both been at work all day, sometimes trying to force conversation out of idle chit-chat just leads to arguments and awkward silences. When you hang up after a phone call of sniping or angry silence, you tend to feel much worse than if you haven’t spoken at all.

If we’re honest, then, the reason we want to speak to each at all is because we miss each other and want to be together. But no matter how hard you try and how long you keep talking, you’re never going to replicate the feeling of spending time together .

Apart from lack of conversation, the other communication hurdle while Mr Miner is away is technology. As with most mining towns, the phone service in Orange is not very impressive. Mr Miner stays outside of town and it’s pretty much hit or miss.

Add to that actually finding time to talk and it becomes clear why sometimes texting is easier. If he is working nights, by 7.30am when he gets back from his shift, I am halfway to the office, somewhere between a bus and a train. Similarly, when he leaves for work at 6pm, I am on my way home from work and surrounded by traffic.

If you combine all of these factors we end up in a situation where Mr Miner is standing on the bath with his head out the window, trying to get phone service in Orange, while I stand at an unbelievably windy bus stop, with Sydney traffic blasting by. And we’re both shouting "Sorry? What? I can’t hear you!" Then my bus arrives and I have to go anyway.

These conversations are by far the least satisfying and most frustrating I’ve ever had. And it feels like such an anticlimax after being excited to speak to him all day.

I must admit, with all the news around about people spending their time texting, Facebooking or Tweeting and not actually speaking to each other, you start to feel guilty for not calling. But really it’s the face-to-face conversations that matter.

Skype has been a huge help and, when there’s time, this is usually the best way for us to talk. Just being able to read each other’s facial expression makes the whole ordeal better (plus if you run out of things to say you can just pull stupid faces at each other!) But this is only possible when Mr Miner is on day shift, which isn’t all that often.

I actually asked Mr Miner if he thought it was a bad thing that we didn’t speak to each other while he was away. He described his day to me like this: go to work at 6am, finish at 7pm, then head straight to the gym. After the gym, cook dinner and make lunch for the next day, by which time it’s 9.30pm and time for bed to be ready to get up at 5.30am the next day. With this routine, four days goes by so fast that you hardly have time to notice you haven’t spoken.

In the end, from what I have observed from my friends, it all comes down to routine. I remember from previous 'normal' relationships that most phone calls are made out of necessity or boredom.

Just because we’re not calling three times a day to ask what’s for dinner or what time we’ll be home doesn’t mean we don’t care. We text every day at our routine times: always to say good morning, after work to ask how each other’s days are and before bed to say goodnight. If something big has happened in our day, it’s followed up with a phone call.

Communication is important, but then again, so is knowing when to say nothing at all.

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