Sometimes when you want your spouse to be more of a conversationalist, it is your questions and responses that may get the ball rolling.
How do you get your spouse to start talking, open up, communicate?
Many couples find that after they’ve lived together for some years they feel they have little to talk about or share. It’s not that they don’t want to talk to each other. They just don’t know how to start the ball rolling or they’re out of practice.
Here are a few suggestions to get those lines of communication flowing:
• When your mate says something, come back with a comment that indicates you’ve heard him and you support his thinking. For example, if he says, “This would be a great day for golf,” you might respond with, “Yes, it’s beautiful out.” If he says, “I think I need to get some mulch for the flower beds,” you might say, “That sounds good. Do you want any help?”
• If your spouse starts talking about a particular issue or problem, stop what you’re doing, look at him, and listen. Nod. Make comments such as, “Oh... that’s great... how terrible... unbelievable.” Also make “reflective listening” remarks that show you are listening and trying to understand. “Sounds as though you were feeling overwhelmed.” “I guess you were really disappointed.” It sounds like you took the bull by the horns.”
• Instead of hitting your mate day in and day out with that tired old question, “How was your day?” say, “Tell me what you did today.” It’s likely you’ll get much more information with the second tactic.
• When trying to reopen lines of communication, be extra careful not to be critical, or move into a problem-solving mode, or take over the conversation. These responses will usually stop the discussion. I find that most people will talk if they feel supported.
Be aware, too, of what topics of conversation you bring to the table. If your topics are generally about housekeeping and scheduling issues such as what bills need to be paid or who is going to take Tommy to swim practice, you’re not adding to the quality of your conversations.
Topics you might discuss include a health or political article you read in a magazine or an interview you heard on the radio. You might also share the story line of a book you’re reading. When I’m busy writing a book, I have few spare moments to read. During these times my husband will tell me about the novel he’s currently reading.
Be conscious also of how much self-disclosing you do. Do you share with your mate when something goes wrong on the job? Do you tell her when something exciting happens? Sharing the little pleasures and sadnesses of your life invites your mate to do the same.
Another thing to be aware of is where and when might you have your best conversations. Some couples talk over that second cup of coffee after dinner. Others do better when they walk together. Some save their talk time for when they’re in bed.
I know one couple who telephone each other several times a day to share bits and pieces of their lives. Try to establish several times and places for talking with your mate.
With determination and effort, you can reopen those lines of communication in less than two weeks. This mutual openness will make your marriage stronger, more interesting and fun.
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,” and “Thin Becomes You” Doris’ web page: doriswildhelmering.com.