Q: I’m in desperate need of marriage help. My wife keeps complaining that I don’t communicate with her anymore—she says it’s like pulling teeth getting me to talk when I get home from work. Honestly, I just don’t know what to talk about most of the time…What should I do? ~ Quinn
A: In my couples counseling practice, I often hear this complaint from many of the wives and girlfriends I work with. Here is a question I often ask the overly quiet husbands or boyfriends: Think back to a time when your marriage or relationship was new. What did you and your spouse/partner talk about? And the answer I often hear is that couples (including the husbands) talked about basically anything and everything.
It seems that the excitement of new love propels us to share even the smallest details of our day. Unfortunately, this level of sharing often dwindles as marriages and relationships mature and as the mysteries of getting to know each other fade away and responsibilities mount.
Guys seem to forget this fact: that at one time they shared the trivialities of their day—all the seemingly unimportant things that happened all around them. Granted, the reality is that a guy who is generally quiet and introverted isn’t going to become a chatterbox. But this isn’t what I hear women asking of their mates.
What do women want from their husbands?
When your wife says, “You don’t communicate with me,” in essence she is saying that she wants to feel emotionally connected to you and that when you share your thoughts and feelings she feels this kind of connection.
Relationship Help: Communication Skills for Men
This is very simple communication strategy I’d recommend to all those quiet husbands/boyfriends who don’t know how to share themselves with their spouse/partner:
•Share what happens at your job (Bob bought a new condo and he plans to invite you both over; Betsy has started Weight Watchers for the fifth time in as many months);
•Share what happens whenever you run out for an errand;
•Share what you read about in newspapers, magazines, online;
•Share a dream you had;
•Share your thoughts and emotional reactions about current events;
•And don’t forget to ask questions about your wife’s day or about her opinions!
Share the trivialities of your day!
Don’t judge what happens to you or what you observe throughout your day as important/unimportant; relevant/irrelevant (doing so will cause you to dismiss 90% of your day and you’ll have nothing to share with your partner!).
Instead, start to view everything as grist for the conversational mill. If you have a tendency to forget your day, carry around a small pad and jot down two or three things:
None of this sharing needs to be laborious and time-consuming (so don’t panic and retreat). And the main point I’d like you to take away from this is that the content of what you share is less important than the fact that you are sharing (conversing).
Focus on the act of sharing to refuel intimacy. The simple act itself is more important than the specifics of what is shared. So make it a habit to share the trivialities of your day with your partner.
To find out more about other communication strategies, check out my comprehensive communication workbook Communication Breaththrough: A Couples Communication Guide