When we were dating and early in our marriage, Steve and I talked for hours, sometimes late into the night. As the years passed, however, he backed off. And when we did talk, we ended up arguing, or it seemed he tried to keep conversations superficial. I often wondered, Why doesn't he talk to me anymore?
Then I discovered, through trial and error, that I was engaging in conversation-stoppers such as being a bad listener, a conversation hog, and at times, a nag. So I began a quest to encourage meaningful communication with my husband once again. This is what I discovered.
There's an art to listening.
"Honey, you never tell me how you feel," I'd repeatedly complained to Steve.
Finally, one day he started to. But as soon as he mentioned his first feeling about a conflict he was having with a relative, I blew it by blurting out, "You shouldn't feel that way."
"That's why I don't tell you how I feel," he said.
I remember seeing a T-shirt once that read: "I'm talking, and I can't shut up." I couldn't help but think, That's me.
The apostle James says we need to be "quick to listen, slow to speak" (James 1:19). When I put this advice into practice and don't make quick judgments or think about what I want to say next, Steve opens up more freely.
Letting him lead brings us closer.
My dissatisfaction with our communication came not so much from the fact that Steve didn't want to talk, but that he didn't talk about what I wanted to discuss. Often I'd think mournfully, My girlfriends think what I say is interesting; why doesn't my husband?
He doesn't because he's not one of my girlfriends. Steve just can't get excited about hearing about people he doesn't know or about what happened at my women's Bible study like my girlfriends can.
But I still wanted to talk with him! In Ephesians 5:21, the apostle Paul says we are to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Part of that submission for me means I adopt a "What do you want to talk about?" attitude. For instance, Steve loves sports. While I usually find sports boring, I love people, so I read about the lives of sports figures and tell Steve about what I've read.
He also enjoys reading the newspaper, so I try to read it as often as I can. We discuss the stories we read, which often leads to talking about how the stories relate to our lives.