How do I get my spouse to talk to me?

If you need help with conversation in general, check the blog post on that topic.  This one will focus on relational dynamics. 

When a couple first meets and strikes up an acquaintance, there's so much to discuss!  The conversation seems to flow so easily, and you can't wait to tell each other about your day.  

As the relationship matures, you may find yourselves in a different place.  You've already told each other all about your families, you don't really want to tell the same jokes over and over, and maybe work just wasn't that interesting today.  Reticence can develop, and then one day, you realize that you can't get your spouse to talk to you about anything except practicalities.  What can you do?  

A large part of successful communication rests on choices you can make.  Here are some of the choices that will help you succeed:

  • Choose the timing.  You might be ready to explode with all your news as soon as your spouse walks in the door, but s/he might need an hour to decompress with a good book before s/he wants to share.  Introversion may play a role.  On the other hand, your spouse may be exhausted by 9 pm, and you might need to wait on a long conversation until the next day.  If you want the best from your spouse, try to catch him/her at the best time for him/her.  This sets your spouse up for success.  You may want to ask if now is a good time to talk.  
  • Choose your topic.  If you're trying to get your spouse to talk to you more, then you will want to pick a topic that works for him/her.  Ask about his/her interests, or favorite moments, or a movie s/he just watched.  You may not be able to get to the deepest darkest secrets in the first conversation.  
  • Choose your reactions.  If you want to encourage talking, be positive about it.  Make it a fun experience for your spouse, and not a test or an interrogation.  
  • Choose your partner.  Your spouse may not be the one to ask about some things.  If s/he is easily overwhelmed by talking about finances, and you want financial advice, ask a financial advisor and then confirm it with your spouse.  If you need to vent about your family and your spouse has already listened to you, seek a friend who's willing to be supportive.  (You should never lie to your spouse or hide information)
  • Choose your attitude. If you were successful at all in getting your spouse to talk more, look on it as a victory.  Don't try to get more than your spouse is willing to give.  Maybe ten minutes is all s/he has today.  By making your marriage a safe place to express emotion, you encourage further sharing.  If you criticize (even "constructive criticism"), you will be less likely to experience a repeat.  
  • Be aware of your spouse's soft spots.  If s/he had a difficult relationship with mom or dad, that probably isn't the first topic to broach.
  • Reinforce.  Thank your spouse for the conversation you had together, and express that you liked talking.  

If it sounds like I'm asking you to cater to your spouse's whims, it's because you want him/her to do something that s/he isn't currently enthusiastic about.  You have the best chance of success if you make it as easy as possible.  After some practice, you may be able to change some of these preferences - maybe after several conversations about what your spouse likes, you can direct the conversation to what you like.  Of course, we hope that your spouse will enjoy the conversations you're having so much that s/he will begin to initiate them and cater to your desires as well.  This is ideal.  You certainly have a right to choose the topic half the time.  If you assert this right, you may be less successful in encouraging conversation.  You may have to start slow when you're trying to change a habit.  

These two had some good conversations

These two had some good conversations