Marriage Makeover: How to Have Meaningful Conversations
“Would you be interested to hear what happened today on my way to work?” she asked excitedly, walking into the house. “I’d rather skip to the part where I hear what we are having for dinner. We can talk about the rest later,” he replied passing by, barely looking at her. Conversations missed, moments of connection are rushed. Marriage becomes crushed by the weight of daily responsibility, emotional dullness, and perpetual fatigue. Relationships continue to exist out of habit, as a routine. Work, parenting, helping others — sure. What is left for your spouse is a flat-lined level of energy sprinkled with crumbs of good intentions?
Meaningful dialogues? Forget it. What we have left for each at the end of the day are “useful conversations.” They are made of half-constructed thoughts, lazy listening, and functional orders focused on the execution of responsibility and errands. Sexy lingerie and candlelit dinners are replaced by other secret desires: clean kitchen, a cooked meal, laundry done, kids early to bed, and some TV as a survival reward. Marriage is on a perpetual diet.
What can we do to have a happy, healthy relationship? Easy: just finish reading this blog to learn quick, easy, proven solutions! Just kidding! However, the good news is that there are no secrets. You already know most of the things that you need to do. Just like with exercise and diet: some push-ups and an apple a day. However, skipping push-ups and eating a Hershey bar is easier. People’s nature is to pick the path of least resistance and minimal effort. We are also falsely hopeful, thinking that at some magical “later” time we will be stronger, more motivated, in the mood to do the “right” thing. What happens, in reality, is perpetual hoping and postponing, leaving us stuck in a rut.
How do we tackle this complex issue without feeling like busting through stones? Be proactive and start with small consistent steps. We are wrong thinking that small kind steps are seldom appreciated. How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time. Can’t solve the whole problem, then focus on solving part of the problem.
The next part is actually doing something. Even the best information will not help if you don’t put it into use. You know what they say, “the road to failure is paved with good intentions.” A better life will not come from wishing and hoping. We want to ice the cake without having to make the cake. We need a new positive action. Only actions can bring specific results.Here are examples of the simple proactive steps that can help to improve communication, and heal and restore connection.
- Make eye contact, look and act friendly and approachable.You have to become adept at daily communication and staying connected. Put your phone down. Turn off the TV. Just be in the same space, open and present to talk and connect with each other. Come out to greet your family when they arrive home. Stay in the same room together, not looking busy with other things. Make eye contact. Say “Hi. Please. Thank you. This is lovely. How are you doing today?” and so on. Little moments, kind words, fostered as a daily habit. Small talk is not idle chat.
- Don’t wait for someone to read your mind, speak up openly.It is quite simple: what you don’t ask for, you won’t get. Be clear on what you want, what you are willing to give, then ask for it. “Could you please sit with me for 10 minutes and hear about my idea for our next vacation?”; “Could you please come out and greet me by the door any time you hear that I return from work?”; “Can we do something fun together this weekend, just us, no kids?”
- Pay attention to get attention. Drop the tyranny of expectations, in which your spouse must do something first, so only then you are to respond with a nicety. Who cares who “started it” and “whose turn it is?” You are in the same boat, and it is leaky. Decide to be first to start fixing it. Be curious about your spouse. Ask questions and listen. Give them the spotlight. Do something nice, unexpected, no strings attached. Good energy will be returned to you in abundance.
- Respect the rules of good behavior. We all know that it is not good to scream, call names, throw objects, and slam doors. There are rules related to respect and self-control. We tend to forget them when stressed out and when we feel that the other person is not treating us nicely. So, it is fair game to be bad in return! Even when your spouse is seemingly “underserving”, decide to stay kind, polite, and play by the rules.
- Seek common ground and build on areas of agreement.You may disagree on types of movies, style of music, what to eat, sleep schedules, and how much and how often to wash and clean. But you are likely in agreement that your children need love and care, that both of you can benefit from having more fun and less stress, that being friendly and polite is better than hostility. Bring up more subjects that you know both of you share and support. Discussing such topics will foster the bond and improve communication skills, gradually allowing you to tackle things that are more sensitive and require negotiation.
- Seek help and support, if needed. No man is an island. We are more alike than different. But we also can be very stubborn. If you feel that your marriage resembles a truck with its wheels stuck in thick mud, and no maneuvers or acceleration result in any positive movement, don’t wait long to seek counseling.
To conclude, marital success and personal happiness don’t make cameo appearances in your life. You have to become aware, intentional, and disciplined to implement positive changes, making small but consistent steps. You also need to decide to be a grown up in your relationship, taking ownership of positive intentions, making it unconditional regardless what others do or don’t do. Take care of your partner, and your spouse will take care of you.
Dr. Nadia Persun is a Clinical Psychologist working in Wheaton and Naperville, IL, treating anxiety, depression, weight problems. She also focuses on therapy with adolescents and couples in distress, aimed on conflict reduction and divorce prevention. Dr. Persun is a Medical Directory of “GreenPath Clinic”, which offers services for mental health problems, chiropractic, naturopathy, physical therapy, and nutrition. On her spare time, Dr. Nadia is a gardener, blogger, reader, chef-dilettante, and avid traveler-explorer together with her family.
Read more about her on http://GreenPathClinic.com,
For more resources on marriage and relationship building, you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.