Think back to your dating days or your engagement period. Remember the hours you spent, on the phone or in person, bonding with your significant other — the time you spent connecting with each other through deep, meaningful conversation. I know I enjoyed that season of my life!
If there’s one thing that my wife, Erin, and I have been working on in our marriage, it’s this need for connection through meaningful conversation. It’s something we used to do so naturally, but then things changed. About five years and two daughters later, Erin and I woke up and realized that our conversations had mutated. We were focused on administrating our marriage (talking about the budget, schedule and to-do list), working through conflict or talking about how to keep up with our busy lives. We wondered what happened to our long walks through the miles of trails in Arizona, the talks we had while shooting baskets at the park, or even the laughter we shared together over things that were irrelevant. Where had all that interaction gone?
The value of 10 minutes together
We’ve since discovered that the average couple spends less than four minutes a day in meaningful conversation. What in the world? Where are couples going awry? Apparently, Erin and I were not alone in our need to connect as a married couple.
So we set off on a mission to rediscover meaningful conversation in our marriage. More recently, we came across a piece of research that inspired us to press on in our endeavor. Dr. Terri Orbuch, an Oakland University professor and research professor at the University of Michigan, completed a 30-year study of more than 400 couples. She discovered that the happiest of these couples spent time every day connecting with each other, talking about meaningful things for at least 10 minutes. Indeed, the lack of deep, intimate conversation had been wreaking havoc not only in my marriage relationship, but also in the relationships of millions of others.
The joy of rediscovering each other
At first I had no idea what “meaningful conversation” even involved. But since that time, I’ve learned that all this means is getting to know your spouse’s inner experience and social world — his or her daily routine, likes, dislikes, needs, emotions and dreams. It’s about having an intimate knowledge of each other, kind of like the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” That’s exactly what married couples seem to be longing for —a return to the early years when they were fully knowing and fully being known by each other.
The goal of having meaningful conversation is to talk about things that keep you current and deepen your understanding of who your spouse is. What are his or her likes, dislikes, preferences, feelings, stressors, friends and life dreams? It makes me think of the popular ’80s song “Faithfully” by the group Journey. The song contains a line that says, “I get the joy of rediscovering you.” Indeed, each and every day married couples can choose to set aside 10 minutes in order to “rediscover” each other. What a simple way to stay updated about that special person to whom you are married!
I want to encourage you to make a commitment to your spouse — that you will fight for this daily time together for meaningful conversation. Make it your goal to talk for 10 minutes every day. You can discuss anything other than work, kids, household management, finances and your relationship. This can be done face-to-face or on the phone. And if you need help thinking of good questions to get the conversation started, Focus on the Family has a great app that provides hundreds of questions to ask your spouse.
Take the time to continue getting to know your spouse, and in return offer him or her the gift of getting to know you. As Erin and I have discovered, this simple change can infuse new life into your marriage relationship.
Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Family Ministries at Focus on the Family and the co-author of Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage.