Soon after they married, Bruce and Kathy felt they'd arrived at a good level of intimacy. Feeling satisfied, they settled in, figuring they could coast on what they'd achieved. But over time, they discovered they weren't as close as they used to be. Their conversations seemed constricted, empty and problem-oriented.
How can a couple work their way back to an easy, satisfying level of communication? It's easier than it seems. When Bruce and Kathy committed to six weeks of daily Timer Talks, they discovered there still were plenty of things to learn about each other. They enjoyed the mutual attention and acceptance, and communicating became less "work" and more enjoyable. The structure of the Timer Talks helped them get over previous communication pitfalls and focused their conversations on the positive goal of getting to know each other better.
Here's how the Timer Talk exercise works:
- Set aside 20 minutes a day for uninterrupted time together.
- Set a timer for ten minutes.
- Alternate who will go first each day. (On the first day, flip a coin to see who starts.)
- For ten minutes, Partner A shares what he or she is feeling and what is important to him or her, including goals, aspirations, values and worries. Partner B must remain silent.
- At the sound of the timer, Partner B can ask any clarifying questions but may not offer a quick fix, make any comments on what Partner A has just said or make any criticisms.
- Partner B now shares for ten uninterrupted minutes followed by clarifying questions from Partner A. Then they move on to other activities without futher discussion.
- The next day repeat the process with Partner B going first.
Ingrid Lawrenz, MSW, is a marriage and family therapist with New Life Resources, a Christian outpatient clinic in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.