Written by Aaron & April Jacob
We hear from couples all the time who say they don't talk to their spouses anymore.
"We don't have anything to talk about."
"We know everything about each other."
"She doesn't want to share her thoughts."
"He doesn't like talking about his feelings."
"Talking turns into fighting, so we avoid talking."
This happens to a lot of couples and can create a lot of distance - both emotionally and physically.
If you and your spouse haven't been talking a lot lately or don't feel like you have a lot to talk about, don't get discouraged. The good news is that you can get better at talking. You can.
The real question is, are you willing to?
Once upon a time you two had a lot to talk about, and you enjoyed sharing your stories from the day, your deepest fears, and your biggest dreams. Somewhere along the way life happened and you may or may not have unintentionally stopped talking and listening to each other like you used to.
Good news, with a few simple tips, you will be able to practice opening up again, and listening with love.
And the good old days are already on their way back.
In our new book, Love is Patient, Love is Kind: A Christian Marriage Devotional, we share a few very practical tips for how to start talking again.
Here is a short excerpt from the chapter in our book called Connected Conversations -
"1. Acknowledge each other.
When you wake up, go to sleep, leave, come home, or walk into a room, acknowledge your spouse with words - even just a simple "hey, babe" or "you look nice." By acknowledging your spouse's presence in a friendly and engaging manner, you'll help conversation flow more naturally.
2. Share first.
If you and your spouse have a hard time talking, decide to be the one who will share first. Share the details of your day, even the seemingly normal ones. What was funny, what was hard, and what do you need advice on? Practice your storytelling skills. As you open up to your spouse about your day, he or she will be more likely to open up to you as well.
3. Open your heart.
At some point, if you really want to feel close to your spouse and be madly in love again, you'll need to be willing to share more than surface-level feelings. Share your emotions, your goals, and your dreams. This may not come naturally to some people, but it is something you can get better at and more comfortable with through practice. As you learn to be vulnerable, real, and sensitive, good things will happen.
4. Ask meaningful questions.
Avoid yes-or-no questions, and if your spouse gives you a one-word answer, try to ask a follow-up question. Ask about your spouse's worries, fears, hobbies, interests, and favorite pastimes. Actively listen to what your spouse shares with you and validate their thoughts, feelings, and opinions." - From Love is Patient, Love is Kind: A Christian Marriage Devotional
Now, these things are easier said than done.
Create an ideal setting.
In our new book we also talk about ways to create an ideal setting for talking. If you can create rituals and routines that invite connected conversations, then you will be creating a safe, healthy, and warm foundation for a lifetime of talking, sharing, laughing, and loving.
We love what Dave & Ashley Willis suggest - that some men and women are more apt to talk when they are side-by-side instead of face to face. So instead of staring at each other over dinner wondering what to talk about, go for a walk, drive in the car, or bake a treat together. Conversation will come far more naturally than if you are just staring and waiting for it to come.
Often one of the best times to talk is right before bed. Set a goal to put your phones/devices away and just lay side-by-side or cuddle for ten minutes - just be. See what kinds of conversations come up when you take the lead and start to share or ask questions. You also may be surprised at how intimate your conversations are if you spend a little time loving each other first. That may seem like the opposite way to approach things for some people, but sometimes physical love first can invite emotional sharing after. Just saying...
And finally, the most important thing.
Pray for inspiration that is tailored to YOUR needs! God knows your spouse, and all that he or she is going through and dealing with. If anyone can help you navigate a more connected conversation with your spouse on the daily, it is God.
If you will pray for discernment of your spouse's true needs, and for eyes to see ways to serve, lift, support, love, and be there for your spouse - then you will know exactly what to do when you two aren't talking. And you will be inspired about specific things you can do to invite more conversation and communication in.
If you listen to the promptings that come to you, you will know how you can learn to open up more to your spouse, how to feel safe again, how to overcome past hurts, and how to listen without judgment or a need to retaliate.
We are so confident that things can start to get better the very moment you decide you want to improve. Whatever you do, don't give up on your relationship because there is currently a lot of distance between you two. Trust that God will help you close that gap, heal old wounds, and bring your hearts together again.
Read why communication won't save your marriage here and here.
So you have a few questions...
Let's do an impromptu Q&A session - thoughts on this little thing we call com-mun-i-cating.
Q. What do you do if your spouse just isn't in the mood for talking?
A. Don't press it. Instead, find a way to connect without talking. Rub his shoulders, give her a hug, make him a sandwich, ask her if she wants to cuddle and watch a show. Seriously, don't force the talking thing. Instead, plan something fun to do this weekend, leave your spouse a love note in the car, or find another way to stay close and connected to your spouse, even if you aren't talking a lot.
Q. What do you do if your spouse doesn't care about your emotions, goals, and dreams?
A. Whatever you do, don't point out that he/she isn't listening, doesn't care, or that they don't want to talk. Just because your spouse isn't well-practiced in the art of listening, validating, and being sensitive, doesn't mean he or she doesn't care. Be okay with whatever level of attention, listening, and conversation your spouse can offer you right now - because those skills can improve!
Q. What do you do if you share first and then your spouse has nothing to say?
A. Recently I (April) was at a MOPS meeting where a Marriage Therapist was being interviewed. She spoke about how sometimes one spouse takes up too much room in the relationship and the other spouse just lets them take over. She said if you normally do a lot of the talking in the relationship, step back and give your spouse more room, more space, and more time in the relationship and you'll be surprised at how they open up.
Q. How do you become a better listener?
A. Being a better listener isn't just about skills, it's about listening with your heart. It's about really caring about what your spouse is saying because you love your spouse, and you want to feel close, connected, and emotionally intimate with him/her. Evaluate your heart, the demands on your time, and the distractions that normally sneak in, and you'll know where and how you can become a better listener. Oh, and you'll appreciate these 5 tips.
“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN COMMUNICATION IS HEARING WHAT ISN’T SAID” ~ PETER DRUCKER
Q. Why do my spouse and I not talk anymore?
A. In this article we talk about
The Five Levels of Why
The Five Levels of Why is a method Sakichi Toyoda came up with and it was originally used at the Toyota Motor Corporation (here).
The gist of the method is to repeat the question "Why" five times until you get to the root cause of the problem or process and are then able to begin asking "How" questions in order to find a proper solution.
For example (now, this story could both ways for sure) -
Why are we not talking? Because he had a long day at work and just wants to relax.
Why does he want to relax? Because work is stressful.
Why is work stressful? Well, it's not just that work is stressful, but it seems that everything is piling up at all once - his reports are due Friday, his mom just got out of the hospital, he hasn't been sleeping well, he needs to take his truck into the shop asap, and his anxiety is sky high.
Why isn't he sleeping well and why is his anxiety so high? He's worried his mom is going to need to go to a care center, and wondering who is going to pay for it. He's been avoiding everything he needs to do by staying up late and watching shows, and he can't seem to shut his brain off at night. He feels alone, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
That is only four why's and it's preeetty clear that perhaps his wife could figure out some how's:
- How could she help him with his truck, or his mom?
- How could she be there to listen to him vent about his anxieties and worries at night instead of going to sleep at 9pm?
- How could she do something to serve him and make his day easier?
She could encourage him to play basketball with his buddies, or send him an encouraging text during the day, or spend more time cuddling with him before going to bed.
And yes, we could ask a few more why's here and get down to some nitty gritty details on his anxieties and his mom's aging, and his truck (yes, he loves his truck), but we'll stop here.
And yes, he should take some responsibility for the fact that he isn't showing up 100% as a husband, and yes, he should strive to intentionally give more time, attention, and connection to his wife, but as you can see, he is super super super worn out.
And instead of talking, what he may need is a lot of love.
So, you see, it's easy to look at not talking as the problem, when really the problem to address is something else. And if you can address the real problem, then it is wayyyy easier to fix the problem of not talking.
So ask the five why's, or as many as you need, and address the root cause of the problem.
Q. What do you do if you're not talking that much because every time you do you start to fight?
A. Focus on listening, on validating, on being vulnerable, and on apologizing. Take responsibility for your part of the conversation and remember it takes two to tango. If you can practice healthy and safe conversation, then you will probably be able to keep cool, calm, and collected, which will help your spouse feel more calm, safe, and willing to talk.
Q. Where do I start?
A. If you are at a lack for great conversation starters, here are some of our favorites. Oh, and we just used these when we were driving home from our ski date last week. We skipped the ones we didn't love and had a blast with the ones we did like. We also love these nine questions and these 36 questions. Read through them and find a few you want to ask your spouse today. Start there.
You can also start with technology. If you are already avoid each other and spend too much time on your devices, start texting more often throughout the day. Or use an app to connect, leave a video message, or share a pic with your spouse. Start where you are and you'll get better as you keep at it.
Q. Why does it bother me so much that we don't talk a lot?
A. It may be because your love languages are "words of affirmation" or "quality time." Or it may be because what you are both longing for isn't necessarily communication, but rather, connection - emotional and physical connection.
Renowned marriage researcher and author, Dr. John Gottman, speaks of "bids for connection," which include any small bid for your spouse's attention, love, empathy, affection, and love.
What you do with your spouse's bids for connections matters.
Especially if you want to talk more.
If you are aching and aiming for more connection in your conversations and in your marriage, then please check out this article on 25 Ways to Give Your Spouse the Time of Day and see if trying some of these things doesn't invite more conversation, and more heart-to-hearts about the things that matter most.
We hope something in this article has inspired you with something you can do today to improve communication and connection with your spouse. We're confident that you and your spouse can start talking again, especially if you take the lead and decide to make an intentional effort to improve.
Ultimately you know why you and your spouse aren't talking. You probably knew before you even clicked on this article. If you search your heart, it will probably be very obvious to you what may be getting in the way of having connected conversations with your spouse. The minute you know what to do, we invite you to do it! You are the only one who can take steps today towards nurturing your marriage. As you do, your spouse is likely to follow suit!
We would love to hear your tips and thoughts below!
always cheering you on in your most important relationship,
April & Aaron
Some of our other favorite articles on communication:
- One Simple Tool to Help You Communicate with Your Spouse
- Your Marriage Needs these 10 Communication Tips
- 15 Tricks to Help You Learn to Talk to Your Spouse Again
- 5 Ways to Have a Better Conversation
You may also enjoy What is Your Listening Style? and 6 Ways to Improve Communication in Your Marriage
“Marriage is a mosaic you build with your spouse. Millions of tiny moments that create your love story.”
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