Much of your talk with your spouse is “business” talk. Sure, it’s stuff that has to be discussed so things run smoothly around the house day to day, but you really wish you had more meaningful conversations with your spouse. How do you move from “business” talk to deeper, meaningful conversations about your marriage, the health of your family, feelings, needs, and hopes? Meaningful conversations build intimacy and keep you and your spouse connected.
You need them and you definitely can have them!
Let’s look at the common roadblocks to meaningful conversations and how to remove them.
Roadblock 1. Busyness.
Conversations have a better chance of being meaningful if you and your spouse aren’t tired, distracted, or constantly interrupted. Pick a good time to talk. You may have to schedule some talk-time or get on a regular date-night schedule. Build margin into your day—maybe you both get up a little earlier so you can talk over breakfast or coffee. Maybe you go to bed a little earlier than usual so there is time for some pillow talk. Try having some “phone-free” zones set up in your day and week. Get out of “survival mode” and don’t let your day “happen to you.”
Bottom Line: Be intentional. Carve out time for meaningful conversation to happen.
Roadblock 2. Nobody Is Leading.
Take the lead in guiding conversations to deeper levels. They say there are usually three levels to typical conversations:
(3.) Talking about people. (Co-workers, friends, the kids, neighbors.)
(2.) Talking about events. (The news, the kids’ soccer games, what happened at work.)
(1.) Talking about ideas. (Feelings, needs, dreams, expectations, frustrations.)
Someone has to step up and make sure that conversations get down to Level 1. This might involve you being transparent, vulnerable, and opening up. Your spouse might meet you there.
Bottom Line: Be patient and keep setting the example by modeling the behavior you want to see more often. Here are 200 conversation starters for couples to take you deeper.
Roadblock 3. You’ve Had The Same Conversation A Million Times.
This is very common. You’re not alone. Some couples just kinda run out of stuff to talk about and they default to, “How was your day… whatcha got going on this week… anything new at work?” This can become a little cliché. (The answers, by the way, are “Good… the usual… no.”)
YOU NEED NEW STUFF TO TALK ABOUT! Consider taking up a hobby together. Have a book club just between the two of you. Start listening to some podcasts, TED Talks, or audiobooks.
Bottom Line: Stretch yourself. Be a lifelong learner and you’ll find more meaningful things to talk about.
Roadblock 4. Not Having Family Meetings or Regular Check-In Times.
Write this down: Sunday Nights @ 8:30. This is the time set aside for you and your spouse to check in with each other and keep your fingers on the pulse of your marriage. Take turns talking and listening to each other. No interrupting. The speaker can air whatever is on their heart. (Pro-Tip: Use “I” Statements instead of “You Statements.” “I feel – I need – I think…” This usually goes over better than, “You always… you never… your mother…”) BONUS: Use this time to decide if you need to call a family meeting and what you need to talk about during it.
Bottom Line: Again, prioritize the time. Put it on the schedule. You will be having a healthy, two-way dialogue about meaningful things in no time.
Roadblock 5. You Need To Improve Your Listening Skills
There. I said it. Do you and your spouse not have meaningful conversations because you dominate the conversation, interrupt, make it all about you, or don’t give your spouse your full attention? Are you more of a “talker” and your spouse is more of a “listener?” Are you the extrovert and your spouse is more introverted? All of this will impact the quality of your conversations. Learn “active listening skills.” Ask open-ended questions. Become curious about your spouse. (Check out this article on active listening skills—especially the Six Levels of Listening.) Are you an external processor—you need to talk to figure out what you think? Is your spouse an internal processor—they need to think for a while to figure out what to say?
Bottom Line: Notice the differences in how you both communicate and respect those differences. There is no one right way.
Roadblock 6. Avoidance
Is there an issue or incident that has caused you or your spouse to clam up? Maybe there was a major breach of trust, someone may have done something incredibly hurtful, a fight or argument may have never been settled, or there is a major issue you both know you completely disagree on and frequently fight about. Avoidance is not allowing conversations to reach a meaningful level because it might go there. It might stir an issue back up with all of its associated emotions.
If you want meaningful conversations, you are both going to have to face this and deal with it constructively to the satisfaction of each of you. After this hurdle, meaningful conversations should start flowing again.
Bottom Line: If it were that easy, you probably would have dealt with it by now. It might be time to call in the pros and let a reputable, qualified marriage counselor guide you both through this process.
★ Look, here’s the thing, you and your spouse might have huge differences in your definitions of “meaningful.” This might be where you need to start. Here comes a big fat fancy word: “metacommunication.” It just means “talking about talking.” All you might need is to have a talk about how you talk. Come up with a shared definition of “meaningful.” Talk about both of your communication needs and expectations. Check it out—you’re having a meaningful conversation!
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***