by Cathy Neville, LPC and Aisha Simmons on July 21, 2014
Making Marital Conversation Meaningful Again
What was it that your spouse said this morning?
Right before you left for the day… something about the mortgage payment?
What was it that you said?
Do you have more passionate conversations about what to watch on TV than you do about your relationship?
When was the last time you and your partner discussed anything worth remembering?
It seems that you just don’t talk anymore.
You can make your marital communication memorable and meaningful again. Consider the following 7 techniques for improving the way you and your partner communicate:
- Start with a touch. People tend to open up when someone they care about physically demonstrates that they care too. How much easier is it to say I love you when your spouse leans over to kiss your forehead or wrap you in a lingering hug? How much more sincere does your interaction seem when you touch his shoulder or hold his hand?
- Date like you mean it. Get reacquainted. Get away from the kids, emails, and the ever-growing collection of electronic screens. Seek out experiences you meant to share but never got around to. Start to see each other as whole, interesting people with remarkable adventures and perspectives to share.
- Intend to talk. Get your head in the communication game. Don’t assume your spouse knows what you’re thinking or how you feel. Think about what you want your spouse to know. Is there something you’re experiencing at work that occupies your thoughts? Are there relationships with friends or family that require a lot of your mental energy? Do you miss certain aspects of your early relationship? Gather your thoughts and prepare to share them openly and honestly.
- Get beyond good intentions. Once you know what you want to say, plan time to say it. Devote time to true, focused discussion. Engage fully, enthusiastically, and regularly. Don’t worry if your mind starts to wander, the conversation gets repetitive, or your partner’s voice starts to sound like the white noise machine you used to put the kids to sleep. Stick with it; don’t give up! Though it may feel forced or uncomfortable at first, the more you make communication a priority, the better you’ll become at meaningful connection.
- Expect to learn. Listen actively to your spouse. What have you missed amid the demands of your lives? As the conversation starts to flow, ask questions. Find out “why and how”, not just “who or what”. What’s the story behind the day that was “fine”? Discover how “the usual” day at work looks and feels for your spouse.
- What aren’t you saying? Are things too quiet between you because you are trying to avoid conflict or uncomfortable emotions? It’s okay to accept a few “irreconcilable differences”. Don’t allow differing opinions to shut down communication or a deeper connection to each other. You don’t always have to agree to communicate lovingly, effectively, and respectfully.
- Call in a coach early. If you need help prioritizing time for your relationship, identifying communication gaps, or breaking ineffective habits, a couple’s therapist can be a great help. If conflict or unresolved emotions are factors in communication, a counselor can suggest skills that will help you manage issues that are stifling your relationship. Don’t wait until there’s nothing but silence and indifference between you. Seek help early and often for the best possible results. Remember, your spouse can be more than a bill buddy or parenting partner.
Shake off the conversational cobwebs.
Pay closer attention to each other.
Practice intentional, meaningful dialogue.
Rediscover your best friend.