Have you and your spouse stopped talking (except about grocery lists, car problems, home repair and bills?) Do you look at each other on date night and wonder what in the world there is to say? Do you each glance hungrily at your cellphones and wish you could text a friend, or surf the Internet?
It happens. And there is a time in life when all these things are the focus of your marriage. It may be time, though, to remind your spouse that you are his/her best friend and the person (s)he wants to talk to about …whatever. Here’s the best way to get the conversation going. Ask questions and then just listen. Don’t try to solve the problem. Don’t try to help. Don’t try to get your spouse to see a different perspective. Practice seeing things from your spouse’s perspective. People (including your spouse) want to be heard, understood, and appreciated. They do not necessarily want to be improved.
Here is an example of what I mean:
You: How was your day?
You: Anything interesting happen at work today?
Spouse: Not really.
You: What do you think about the latest on The Ukraine?
Spouse: I don’t know! Could we just watch TV or something?
You: Sure. What do you want to watch?
Spouse: I don’t know! Let me see the remote.
You: Ok. Do you want anything to drink, my darling angel?
Spouse: Uh, yeah. Could you bring me some tea?
You: Sure. Oh, look, there’s that actor that was in Maverick.
Spouse: That was my favorite show when I was a kid.
You: Really? I used to like it too.
Spouse: It came on Saturday nights and I’d get to stay up and watch it, we’d pop popcorn, and yada, yada, yada.
You: laughing and reminiscing.
You have now had your first “coke date” after however many years you have been married. Next time you feel like listening so your spouse will talk, (s)he may tell you something that happened at work.
You: Hi, Sweetie. How was your day?
You: Anything interesting happen?
Spouse: Not really. Bob didn’t get the figures in on time, so once again, I’ll have to work that report in tomorrow, when I’m already super pressed for time.
You: Oh boy. I’m sorry. You seem to have to do that a lot.
Spouse: No matter how many times I remind him, he is always late, and I always have to … Oh, never mind. Whatever.
You: What you do isn’t easy. I so appreciate how hard you work, even when it drives you crazy.
Spouse: Well, don’t have much choice.
You: Sure you do. You could just wake up one day and decide you were done. I really appreciate how much you do for me, and for this family.
Spouse: I do do it for you.
You: I know. And I love you so.
You are now on the verge of being your spouse’s best friend. Notice how you didn’t try to tell him/her how to get Bob to get the reports in earlier, or how to free up time if (s)he already knew (s)he would have to cover. You also didn’t hijack the conversation by listing all the things you had to do which were much more difficult, and which you did brilliantly without complaining.
Remember – your spouse wants to be heard, understood and appreciated – not necessarily improved.