How can I get my spouse to open up and talk with me? We've been married for almost two years, and I don't understand him any better than I did before our honeymoon. Any advice or suggestions?
This is a common problem in marriage. Meaningful interaction is vital to the health and survival of any relationship. But all too often there's one partner who feels that the efforts to communicate are completely one-sided.
Sometimes this is purely a matter of gender differences. It sounds like a stereotype, but women are generally far more verbal than men. Many husbands take the view that they demonstrate their love primarily through action – working hard – rather than through words. It's important for a caring wife to understand this perspective. But she should also find gentle and nurturing ways to help her spouse realize that actions alone aren't enough.
How can this be accomplished? We'd suggest something we call "the Ten-Minute Plan." Ask your spouse if they would be willing to try this exercise. Three times a week you'll spend four minutes reading a recommended marriage book together. After that, you'll take four additional minutes to have a positive discussion about what you've read (no criticism allowed). You'll finish with a two-minute prayer.
It won't be as easy as it sounds, of course. Even the simplest plan of action can't succeed without commitment and dedication. But if you persevere, we predict that your decision to adopt the Ten-Minute Plan could become a turning point in your marriage and the key to enriching your life together and making a good relationship great. By setting this time aside each week, you'll create an environment where it becomes comfortable to talk. This in turn can easily lead to a desire for more interaction and even more minutes together.
If you still have trouble encouraging your spouse to open up, it might be helpful to keep these five principles in mind:
- Remember to communicate your need for conversation in a clear, respectful, and honest way. Don't assume your spouse knows what you're thinking.
- Be sure to take notice when your spouse does make an effort to talk with you. Reinforce this behavior by expressing your appreciation with sincerity and kindness.
- Commit yourselves to the Ten-Minute Plan of reading, talking, listening, and praying together. Don't give up even if it's difficult at first.
- In addition to the Ten-Minute Plan, look for opportunities to turn a routine activity – shopping, visiting yard sales, or preparing a meal together – into times of conversation.
- Keep a sense of humor about the unexpected challenges that may arise during the course of your conversations. Be patient and persistent.
If you find yourselves struggling, it might be beneficial to get professional assistance to help you implement these ideas. Call our Counseling department. Our staff would be happy to provide you with referrals to qualified therapists in your area who specialize in marriage and family counseling. They'd also consider it a privilege to discuss your situation with you over the phone.
Communicating Through Your Differences: Greg Smalley shares thoughts on how you can learn to more deeply share your thoughts and feelings with your spouse.
Learning to Communicate