You searched long and hard for your spouse. Once you found them, you want the relationship to stay strong through whatever life throws at you. You believe that being together makes your lives better. You have a built in, guaranteed support system. You want your partner to know you so well that you don’t even have to tell them what you need.
In order for that to happen, you need to be intentional in the relationship. You need to spend time and effort towards keeping the relationship strong. It needs to withstand the many challenges and changes you will face. Because every relationship faces difficulties.
One of the easiest ways to keep your relationship strong over many years is to talk with your spouse. Talking provides a window into your partner’s mind. It lets you know how and what they think. When you have regular conversations about a variety of topics, you each feel known and understood.
So, why do couples spend so little time talking?
There are a lot of things that get in the way:
Lack of time. This is everyone’s favorite reason that they don’t talk with their spouse. You are busy with the work of life. Your kids have practice, you have busy jobs, the house or car needs to be fixed, and you always feel worn out.
BUT: We spend our time on the things that we prioritize. If you spend time watching TV, playing games, or hanging out, then there is time to talk with your spouse. Especially in our digital age, we have so many options for connection.
Talking leads to arguments. In the past, you brought up a concern and it spiraled into an argument. Sometimes those arguments have gotten more intense than you were comfortable with. So, you fixed the problem of arguing by keeping quiet. You were surprised when discussions about little things also started causing arguments. So, you started avoiding those topics, too. Soon, the list of things you can’t talk about is longer than the ones that you can.
BUT: When you shut down to avoid arguments, you shut down lots of other conversations. This leads to silence instead of connection. When you stop communicating, you stop growing together. You stop being aware of the ways your partner is growing and changing over time.
There are things I don’t want my partner to know. Couples stop talking when there is too much judgement and blame in the relationship. One of you starts to keep things to yourself out of self-preservation and privacy. This can lead to a crisis when your partner learns things that you omitted. To them, these things look like lies.
BUT: The real problem here is lack of compassion towards one another. You are supposed to be different people with different needs. When one of you shares something hard, it is important to be kind and caring, even if you would handle it in a different way.
They should know you. You think, “If they really knew me, I shouldn’t have to ask.” Talking about things makes you feel too needy or nagging. So, you wait for your partner to pick up the subtle clues that you leave behind. As you wait, you feel more disconnected, lonely, irritated, and resentful.
BUT: Your partner doesn’t know. They need to a reminder. They might have some feelings about what you want that are important for you to understand.
There aren’t easy answers to your differences. You have talked about hard topics. You believe that you have explored the easy ways of solving the problem and you still don’t agree. So, you avoid the topic. What’s the point of having the same discussion over and over again?
BUT: The only way to end gridlock around an issue, is to talk about it. When you stop talking, you let that issue fester. That’s when negative thoughts and feelings build up and contaminate other areas of your life.
It is important to talk to one another. It is what allows you to deeply know each other. It helps you feel connected as you go through life. It gives you the opportunity to work through problems.
A mistake that many couples make: trying to solve problems with “one-and-done” conversations. This is when you believe that a single conversation will solve a complex problem. This belief leads you to push through a conversation even though it has gotten off track. These marathon, late-night conversations never lead to a real solution.
Instead, most problems need a series of short, focused conversations with time between them so you can think, process, and research the issue.Between conversations, you need to search for creative ideas. You might consult with someone more knowledgeable. You need time to sit with some ideas to get used to them. Then, follow up with another short conversation.
Each conversation may not feel wonderful. However, you will feel more confident in yourselves as you thoughtfully move through a problem. When you reach a good solution, you will feel confident that you will follow through with it because you both believe in it.
Working through problems is hard work. Having a process that works for you makes it easier.
Cheri Timko is the creator of Synergy Coaching, an online community helping committed couples have great relationships. Learn more about how to get involved in this movement of couples who don't just want to stay together but want to thrive together here.