You can’t get a word in edgewise when you first start dating…
And then you can’t get a word out of him for the next 20 years.
Men get that they have to communicate to make a woman fall in love.
But it’s almost as if they use up their entire supply of words in the first month of dating.
They’ve wooed you and won you, and now they can relax into being who they really are.
Which, in many cases, means someone who sees words as practical tools rather than a source of pleasure.
The same probably isn’t true for you.
For most women and some men, talking is pleasurable. It feels good. It helps you feel connected. It lifts your spirit and recharges your soul.
So it can feel awful when the one you love only talks to you when there’s something necessary to discuss.
It’s a trap so many couples fall into. The longer they’re together, the less they talk to each other.
Communication is primarily practical, focusing on getting life organized: who’s going to pick up the kids, what’s happening this weekend, when is the car due for a service, etc.
How can you start talking again, like you did when you were dating?
How can you have the kind of conversation that keeps you up until the wee hours of the night, drunk on each other’s words?
Some strategies are obvious:
- Make time for talking. If you switch the television on as soon as you get home and pick up your phone the minute you sit down, the chances of having a good conversation are slim. Give yourselves the daily gift of 15 minutes of non-digital peace.
- Create openings for good conversations. Master the art of asking intriguing questions, ones that hook his interest. By now, you know which questions rarely elicit a reply (“Hi, honey, how was your day?”) and which questions fire him up (“Who do you think will win the playoffs?”). Get him talking, even if the subject isn’t one that excites you.
- Listen. If you’re not listening, he’ll stop talking. We all have a gut instinct that tells us when someone’s not paying attention. It may be a great timesaver to do the dishes and tidy up while you’re having a chat, but he may perceive multitasking as a sign you’re not really interested in what he has to say.
There’s another strategy, though, that I find exciting.
It involves creating the space for transformational conversations.
These are conversations that leave you changed. You see something as a result of that conversation you never saw before. You understand him or yourself in a completely different way. The way you look at the world shifts.
Chances are, you had transformational conversations in the beginning of your relationship, as you shared your thoughts and beliefs about the world and the kind of lives you wanted to live.
By now you assume you know all that about each other. You don’t have to ask each other what you believe and what you want, because you assume you know the answers.
But here’s the key:
None of us know our partners as well as we think.
Our partners ALWAYS have the capacity to surprise us, enlighten us, and jolt us out of complacency.
And transformational conversations are one tool to do that.
So how do you have a transformational conversation?
You can begin by simply talking about some aspect of life. Maybe he’s having a hard time at work, or maybe you’re struggling to find time for everything.
Instead of focusing on the details of that experience, you focus on the context of that experience.
You broaden the lens, so to speak.
Instead of saying his boss is a jerk or his work doesn’t appreciate him, you wonder about larger questions…
Like whether having a hard time is part of every job, and what it would take for a job to be more fulfilling, and what it means to him that this aspect of his career is so difficult.
You use the experience to explore deeper questions about who you really are and how you’d really like to live.
Transformational conversations aren’t necessarily for everyday use. They can be time-consuming. They take a lot of emotional energy.
Use them when you really feel the need for connection, or when you can sense that larger issues lie behind a particular subject. Experiment with transformational conversations on date night or when you’re lying in bed on a Sunday morning with no plans for the day.
The words don’t have to dry up in a relationship…
Not as long as there are still questions to kick around.