While 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. When we did talk, we ended up arguing, or it seemed he kept 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. Here's what I learned.
1. Listening requires zipping my lips.
"Honey, you never tell me how you feel," I repeatedly complained to Steve.
Finally, one day he started to. But as soon as he mentioned his first feeling about a family conflict, I blew it by blurting, "You shouldn't feel that way."
"That's why I don't tell you how I feel," he said.
I once saw a t-shirt 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 instead of listening to what he's saying now, Steve opens up more freely.
2. 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 muse mournfully, My girlfriends think what I say is interesting; why doesn't my husband?1