By Bev and Phil Haas
My husband and I need to talk with each other more, but quite honestly, after dealing with people at work and the kids at home, I’m all talked out. However, the isolation is creating a wall between us. Any suggestions on how to get us talking with each other again?
There is mounting evidence that “couples build intimacy though hundreds of very ordinary, mundane moments in which they attempt to make emotional connections,” reported Janice L. Driver and John M. Gottman in their article “Daily Marital Interactions and Positive Affect During Marital Conflict Among Newlywed Couples.”
In one study of couples, both men and women agreed that the emotional connection they shared with their partners determined the quality of their relationships and whether they believed they had a good marriage or not, explained Rosalind C. Barnett, and Caryl Rivers in She Works/He Works.
So if husbands and wives don’t set aside time to talk and process their thoughts with each other, the marriage is put at risk. Often an extramarital affair begins because one spouse finds another person to simply talk to and confide in. Consider the time you spend talking with each other as a way to risk-proof your marriage.
Get the Timing Right
I (Bev) am not a morning person, so Phil and I know not to get into a heavy conversation early in the day. The problem is, I don’t stay up late either, so when can we talk? Most of our conversations happen as we are going along. When we are eating or sitting at the table after a meal, it’s natural for us to share what’s been happening and how we’re coping with various situations. Those long drives on the way home from work? We are each other’s captive audience with our cell phone earpieces in as we drive the various interstates.
Some of our most revealing talks have occurred on walks and bike rides when the everyday distractions don’t get in the way. When we had young children at home, we often set a timer for “Mommy and Daddy Talk Time” that wasn’t to be interrupted unless there was bloodshed!
Include Common Interests
Recently our senior minister talked about how men liked to act or do rather than talk. What do you and your spouse like to do? What activities were you two involved in when you dated? Have some dates and do fun activities. Yes, there will be some maintenance talk about the children and work, but it’s a beginning for deeper conversations. Take one step at a time as you rediscover each other and learn new things about one another.
I took up biking to spend time with Phil, and we’ve had some interesting discussions over the same books we share. Our daughter, a definite “girly girl,” embraced camping with her young family, and they are creating memories and conversations.
Be Positive and Intentional
Keep your conversation upbeat and forward. Though there are times for conflict resolution, you need segments of personal, heart-to-heart talk time. Neither spouse wants to dread a conversation because of a fear that he or she is in trouble. Sometimes we are hesitant conversationalists because we fear looking too deep.
Remember Philippians 4:8: “Final-ly, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Anniversaries are good times to look back and reminisce; then look forward and make plans for the future. What goals do you share?
I recently heard Dr. Greg Smalley say couples spend about 4 minutes a day talking with each other in meaningful conversation; we need a minimum of 20 minutes a day. If talking together really is a priority, set aside your tablet, phone, TV, or whatever time-stealer is in your way. Other responsibilities and people, many of which are good and important, are all vying for our attention, but the best we can offer ourselves, our spouse, and our children is a strong marriage. We all have the same amount of time each day, and it’s a choice what we do with those 24 hours.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have two grandsons.