Why won’t you talk to me?!
How can you encourage your spouse to open up to you? Keep reading to find out more…
The old adage “opposites attract” rings relatively true when we survey marriages around us. In many marital relationships, there seem to be one spouse who tends to be the ‘talker’, and the other, quieter one deemed the ‘listener’. For the talker, the effort needed to communicate seems completely one-sided, and it can get rather tiring after a while.
While there are certain reasons that can be attributed to this (e.g. Personality differences), what is important to note is that communication matters. And this usually go beyond questions such as “So how was your day?” or “Do you think the children will enjoy going to Gardens by the Bay?”
Communication is essential to maintain a friendship with your spouse, and it is this friendship that will help you go through thick and thin together.
So if you are the ‘talker’ in your marriage, here are 5 ways you can encourage your ‘listener’ spouse to start talking more!
1. Tell him why conversations are important
Never assume that your ‘listener’ spouse knows what you’re thinking! You can share why conversation matters to you, and to help you articulate your thoughts and emotion, put them through the HCR funnel.
Am I sharing how I honestly feel? Have I gotten to the underlying reason of why this matters to me?
Are my words clear and easy to understand?
Am I treating my spouse with respect through the words that I use?
As you articulate how much you would appreciate conversations (and perhaps even conversations initiated by your spouse), you are helping your better half to understand your needs better. This moment of honesty and vulnerability is a doorway to more intimate communication.
More tips on having an open communication in marriage on the next page…
2. Encourage your spouse when he/she makes the effort to talk to you
Be alert during your daily interactions. When you sense your ‘listener’ spouse opening up and sharing more with you, be sure to show your appreciation and give your attention.
Non-verbal cues such as a smile, a stroke of the arm, or even a nod as you listen can help your spouse feel more at ease when speaking.
Resist the urge to pass quick judgment or develop a remedy to whatever is being shared with you. The question “Why?” may come across as rather judgmental, so ask leading questions beginning with “What” or “How” instead. It will show that you are genuinely interested in his views, and will also help your spouse to open up.
3. Commit yourself to a 10-minute plan to talk, listen and share with each other daily
Some ‘listener’ spouses aren’t sure what to talk about when a conversation doesn’t have any firm objective or focal point. If that’s the case, you might want to consider doing a “book review” together. Set aside some time to read a book on marriage or communication, and try out some of the tips shared in this article.
This helps to add a fun dimension to your marriage while giving you a chance to put into practice some tried and tested tips that can enhance the quality of conversations between the both of you.
4. Turn routine activities into times of opportunity for great conversation
A trip to the supermarket, eating out, sending the kids to enrichment classes – these can double-up as wonderful opportunities for both enjoyable and meaningful conversations.
Reminisce about your childhood days as you visit familiar eating places you both used to go to as children. Dream up new recipes together as you wheel your shopping cart around the supermarket. Chat with your spouse like you would with a really good friend. Talk about your hopes and dreams for the future.
Often times, our conversations are “transactional” where we rattle off a long to-do list and check them off verbally once it’s been accomplished. As you inject more interesting topics into your conversations, it will be gradually easier for your spouse to open up to you.
5. Keep a sense of humour in conversations
There is no need to have intense conversations where feelings are shared deeply and major issues are discussed in all seriousness. While daily routines and serious topics need to be discussed, author Ted Cunningham insists that having fun in marriage is important.
“Life is difficult, yes, but you can decide to find those (fun) moments and enjoy each other,” says Ted. “Develop the ability to pause, not take yourself too seriously, be able to laugh at yourself and cut loose.”
Let’s get talking!
If you feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start, pick one and act on it. Do not despise the days of small beginnings! The fact that this is an area you want to work on in your marriage is highly respectable, and is an opportunity for growth in your marriage.
For couples who are finding communication a bit challenging, you can also consider getting guidance and support in putting the above ideas into practice with a counselor or marriage therapist. Should you be considering this option, Focus on the Family Singapore has trained professional counselors specialising in marital communication who would be delighted to journey with you in strengthening communication in your marriage.
Focus on the Family Singapore is a local charity dedicated to helping married couples and their families thrive through differentiated programs, trusted resources and counselling services. Find out more at http://www.family.org.sg/marriedcouples.