When You & Your Spouse Don’t Talk Anymore

WHEN YOU & YOUR SPOUSE DON’T TALK ANYMORE

Aaron & April Jacob

We hear from couples all the time who say they don’t talk to their spouses anymore.

“We don’t have anything to talk about.”
“We know everything about each other.”
“She doesn’t want to share her thoughts.”
“He doesn’t like talking about his feelings.”
“Talking turns into fighting, so we avoid talking.”

This happens to a lot of couples and can create a lot of distance – both  emotionally and physically.

If you and your spouse haven’t been talking a lot lately or don’t feel like you have a lot to talk about, don’t get discouraged. The good news is that you can get better at talking. You can. 

The real question is, are you willing to? 

Once upon a time you two had a lot to talk about, and you enjoyed sharing your stories from the day, your deepest fears, and your biggest dreams. Somewhere along the way life happened and you may or may not have unintentionally stopped talking and listening to each other like you used to.

Good news, with a few simple tips, you will be able to practice opening up again, and listening with love.

And the good old days are already on their way back. 

In our new book, Love is Patient, Love is Kind: A Christian Marriage Devotional, we share a few very practical tips for how to start talking again. 

Here is a short excerpt from the chapter in our book called Connected Conversations – 

1. Acknowledge each other.

When you wake up, go to sleep, leave, come home, or walk into a room, acknowledge your spouse with words – even just a simple “hey, babe” or “you look nice.” By acknowledging your spouse’s presence in a friendly and engaging manner, you’ll help conversation flow more naturally.

2. Share first.

If you and your spouse have a hard time talking, decide to be the one who will share first. Share the details of your day, even the seemingly normal ones. What was funny, what was hard, and what do you need advice on? Practice your storytelling skills. As you open up to your spouse about your day,  he or she will be more likely to open up to you as well.

3. Open your heart.

At some point, if you really want to feel close to your spouse and be madly in love again, you’ll need to be willing to share more than surface-level feelings. Share your emotions, your goals, and your dreams. This may not come naturally to some people, but it is something you can get better at and more comfortable with through practice. As you learn to be vulnerable, real, and sensitive, good things will happen.

4. Ask meaningful questions.

Avoid yes-or-no questions, and if your spouse gives you a one-word answer, try to ask a follow-up question. Ask about your spouse’s worries, fears, hobbies, interests, and favorite pastimes. Actively listen to what your spouse shares with you and validate their thoughts, feelings, and opinions.”
 – From Love is Patient, Love is Kind: A Christian Marriage Devotional

Now, these things are easier said than done.

Create an ideal setting. 

In our new book we also talk about ways to create an ideal setting for talking. If you can create rituals and routines that invite connected conversations, then you will be creating a safe, healthy, and warm foundation for a lifetime of talking, sharing, laughing, and loving.

We love what Dave & Ashley Willis suggest- that some men and women are more apt to talk when they are side-by-side instead of face to face. So instead of staring at each other over dinner wondering what to talk about, go for a walk, drive in the car, or bake a treat together. Conversation will come far more naturally than if you are just staring and waiting for it to come.

Often one of the best times to talk is right before bed. Set a goal to put your phones/devices away and just lay side-by-side or cuddle for ten minutes –  just be. See what kinds of conversations come up when you take the lead and start to share or ask questions. You also may be surprised at how intimate your conversations are if you spend a little time loving each other first. That may seem like the opposite way to approach things for some people, but sometimes physical love first can invite emotional sharing after. Just saying…

And finally, the most important thing. 

Pray for inspiration that is tailored to YOUR needs! God knows your spouse, and all that he or she is going through and dealing with. If anyone can help you navigate a more connected conversation with your spouse on the daily, it is God.

If you will pray for discernment of your spouse’s true needs, and for eyes to see ways to serve, lift, support, love, and be there for your spouse – then you will know exactly what to do when you two aren’t talking. And you will be inspired about specific things you can do to invite more conversation and communication in. 

If you listen to the promptings that come to you, you will know how you can learn to open up more to your spouse, how to feel safe again, how to overcome past hurts, and how to listen without judgment or a need to retaliate. 

We are so confident that things can start to  get better the very moment you decide you want to improve. Whatever you do, don’t give up on your relationship because there is currently a lot of distance between you two. Trust that God will help you close that gap, heal old wounds, and bring your hearts together again. 

Read why communication won’t save your marriage here and here. ​​

my spouse and I never talk anymore - we have nothing to talk about

So you have a few questions…

Let’s do an impromptu Q&A session – thoughts on this little thing we call com-mun-i-cating. 

Q. What do you do if your spouse just isn’t in the mood for talking?
A. Don’t press it. Instead, find a way to connect without talking. Rub his shoulders, give her a hug, make him a sandwich, ask her if she wants to cuddle and watch a show. Seriously, don’t force the talking thing. Instead, plan something fun to do this weekend, leave your spouse a love note in the car, or find another way to stay close and connected to your spouse, even if you aren’t talking a lot. 

Q. What do you do if your spouse doesn’t care about your emotions, goals, and dreams?
A. Whatever you do, don’t point out that he/she isn’t listening, doesn’t care, or that they don’t want to talk. Just because your spouse isn’t well-practiced in the art of listening, validating, and being sensitive, doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t care. Be okay with whatever level of attention, listening, and conversation your spouse can offer you right now – because those skills can improve! 

Q. What do you do if you share first and then your spouse has nothing to say?
A. Recently I (April) was at a MOPS meeting where a Marriage Therapist was being interviewed. She spoke about how sometimes one spouse takes up too much room in the relationship and the other spouse just lets them take over. She said if you normally do a lot of the talking in the relationship, step back and give your spouse more room, more space, and more time in the relationship and you’ll be surprised at how they open up. 

Q. How do you become a better listener?
A. Being a better listener isn’t just about skills, it’s about listening with your heart. It’s about really caring about what your spouse is saying because you love your spouse, and you want to feel close, connected, and emotionally intimate with him/her. Evaluate your heart, the demands on your time, and the distractions that normally sneak in, and you’ll know where and how you can become a better listener. Oh, and you’ll appreciate these 5 tips. 

“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN COMMUNICATION IS HEARING WHAT ISN’T SAID” ~ PETER DRUCKER

​Q. Why do my spouse and I not talk anymore?
A. In this article we talk about

The Five Levels of Why

The Five Levels of Why is a method Sakichi Toyoda came up with and it was originally used at the Toyota Motor Corporation (here).

The gist of the method is to repeat the question “Why” five times until you get to the root cause of the problem or process and are then able to begin asking “How” questions in order to find a proper solution. 

For example (​now, this story could both ways for sure) – 

Why are we not talking? Because he had a long day at work and just wants to relax.

Why does he want to relax? Because work is stressful.

Why is work stressful? Well, it’s not just that work is stressful, but it seems that everything is piling up at all once – his reports are due Friday, his mom just got out of the hospital, he hasn’t been sleeping well, he needs to take his truck into the shop asap, and his anxiety is sky high. 

Why isn’t he sleeping well and why is his anxiety so high? He’s worried his mom is going to need to go to a care center, and wondering who is going to pay for it. He’s been avoiding everything he needs to do by staying up late and watching shows, and he can’t seem to shut his brain off at night. He feels alone, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

That is only four why’s and it’s preeetty clear that perhaps his wife could figure out some how’s:

– How could she help him with his truck, or his mom?
– How could she be there to listen to him vent about his anxieties and worries at night instead of going to sleep at 9pm?
– How could she do something to serve him and make his day easier?

She could encourage him to play basketball with his buddies, or send him an encouraging text during the day, or spend more time cuddling with him before going to bed. 

And yes, we could ask a few more why’s here and get down to some nitty gritty details on his anxieties and his mom’s aging, and his truck (yes, he loves his truck), but we’ll stop here. 

And yes, he should take some responsibility for the fact that he isn’t showing up 100% as a husband, and yes, he should strive to intentionally give more time, attention, and connection to his wife, but as you can see, he is super super super worn out. 

And instead of talking, what he may need is a lot of love. 

So, you see, it’s easy to look at not talking as the problem, when really the problem to address is something else. And if you can address the real problem, then it is wayyyy easier to fix the problem of not talking.

So ask the five why’s, or as many as you need, and address the root cause of the problem. 

Q. What do you do if you’re not talking that much because every time you do you start to fight?
A. Focus on listening, on validating, on being vulnerable, and on apologizing. Take responsibility for your part of the conversation and remember it takes two to tango. If you can practice healthy and safe conversation, then you will probably be able to keep cool, calm, and collected, which will help your spouse feel more calm, safe, and willing to talk. 

Q. Where do I start?
A. If you are at a lack for great conversation starters, here are some of our favorites. Oh, and we just used these when we were driving home from our ski date last week. We skipped the ones we didn’t love and had a blast with the ones we did like. We also love these nine questions and these 36 questions. Read through them and find a few you want to ask your spouse today. Start there. 

You can also start with technology. If you are already avoid each other and spend too much time on your devices, start texting more often throughout the day. Or use an app to connect, leave a video message, or share a pic with your spouse. Start where you are and you’ll get better as you keep at it.

Q. Why does it bother me so much that we don’t talk a lot?
A. It may be because your love languages are “words of affirmation” or “quality time.” Or it may be because what you are both longing for isn’t necessarily communication, but rather, connection – emotional and physical connection.

Renowned marriage researcher and author, Dr. John Gottman, speaks of “bids for connection,” which include any small bid for your spouse’s attention, love, empathy, affection, and love. 

What you do with your spouse’s bids for connections matters.

A lot.

Especially if you want to talk more. 

If you are aching and aiming for more connection in your conversations and in your marriage, then please check out this article on 25 Ways to Give Your Spouse the Time of Day and see if trying some of these things doesn’t invite more conversation, and more heart-to-hearts about the things that matter most. 

In Conclusion

We hope something in this article has inspired you with something you can do today to improve communication and connection with your spouse.  We’re confident that you and your spouse can start talking again, especially if you take the lead and decide to make an intentional effort to improve. 

Ultimately you know why you and your spouse aren’t talking. You probably knew before you even clicked on this article. If you search your heart, it will probably be very obvious to you what may be getting in the way of having connected conversations with your spouse. The minute you know what to do, we invite you to do it! You are the only one who can take steps today towards nurturing your marriage. As you do, your spouse is likely to follow suit! 

We would love to hear your tips and thoughts below! 

Don’t Hesitate to Do These 8 Hard Things for Your Mental Health

DON’T HESITATE TO DO THESE 8 HARD THINGS FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Marc Chernoff

You need to do hard things to be happy in life…because the hard things ultimately build you up and change your life from the inside out.

Daily stress is one of the primary causes of major mental and physical health problems in our lives: it can cause heart disease, anxiety, sleep deprivation, auto-immune disorders, weight problems, unhappiness, and even deep depression.

But we’re busy – we all have places to be, things to do and people to see.  So, how do we alleviate stress and still get our work done right, without neglecting our loved ones and ourselves?  What can we realistically start doing today to nurture our mental health and overall wellness?

I’m going to be brief about this, because time is of the essence.  There are eight simple (but not easy) things that need to be practiced.  A few mindset shifts and a couple actions that take only a few minutes a day.  These can’t solve the most severe stress-related problems, but they can help most of us in a major way.

1.  Be in the moment, completely, with just one task at a time.

Instead of being in a stressful task-switching state of mind, take your next task, let everything else go, and just be in the moment with this one task.

Let yourself be immersed in this task by letting go of the feeling that you need to quickly rush through it – that you need to move on to the next task waiting for you.  There will always be a next task, because that’s the nature of TO-DO lists – they’re never-ending.  So let those later tasks come later.  Just be 100% in this one task, like it’s your entire world.

Bottom line: Slow down.  Breathe.  Review your commitments and goals.  Put first things first.  Do one task at a time.  Start now.  Take a 5-minute break in an hour.  Repeat.  (And always remember, results are more important than the time it takes to achieve them.)

2.  Let go of controlling what can’t be controlled.

Fear is causing you to be stressed, not external factors like your job obligations or family issues.  Those external factors are just a part of life, but they become stressful when you fear failure, fear people won’t like you, fear you’re not good enough, fear abandonment, and so forth.

Your fears are based on some fantasy in your head about how things are supposed to be (and you fear that your life may not live up to that fantasy): you have an image in your head that you’re going to be perfect, have people like you, be comfortable all the time, and succeed on all fronts.  These fantasies are a way to feel in control of a world that you don’t actually control, but they’re hurting you by causing fear and stress.  Instead, let go of control.  Be OK with chaos and uncertainty, and trust that things will work out.  You’ll fear less and feel less stress.  (Read The Untethered Soul.)

3.  Accept people just the way they are, and smile.

We get upset with others because they don’t meet our fantasy of how they “should” act.  Instead, try accepting them for who they are, and recognize that, like you, they’re imperfect and seeking happiness and struggling with finding it.  They’re doing their best.  Accept them just the way they are.  In most cases it’s impossible to change them anyway (and it’s rude to try).  So save yourself from needless stress…

Instead of trying to change others, give them your support today and lead by example.

4.  Perform short mindfulness practices.

You don’t have to meditate for 30 minutes to get the benefits of mindfulness…

  • You can do a quick body scan (focus on your body and notice how each part of it feels right now) in 30 seconds.
  • You can pay attention to your breath for 60 seconds (listen to it and feel it).
  • You can watch your thoughts about concerns, fears, judgments, doubts, and ideals for a minute (recognize that these thoughts are simply thoughts; you don’t need to believe them or react to them).
  • You can walk mindfully, paying attention to your feet, your body, your breath and your surroundings, as you walk.

You can do each of these short mindfulness practices in little bits whenever you need them throughout your day.

5.  Purge untrue thoughts.

You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.  Behind every stressful feeling is an untrue thought.  Before the thought you weren’t suffering, but after the thought you began to suffer.  When you recognize that the thought isn’t true, once again there is no suffering.  When you change your thoughts, you change your life.  So next time you catch a thought stressing you out, ask yourself these four questions:

  • Is it true? – This question can change your life. Be still and ask yourself if the thought you’re dealing with is true.
  • Can I be absolutely, 100% certain that it’s true? – This is another opportunity to open your mind and to go deeper into the unknown, to find the answers that live beneath what you think you know.
  • How do I feel when I think this thought? – With this question, you begin to notice internal cause and effect.  You can see that when you believe the thought, there is a disturbance that can range from mild discomfort to outright panic and fear.  What do you feel?  How do you treat the situation (or person) you’re thinking about, how do you treat yourself, when you believe that thought?  Be specific.
  • Who would I be, and what would I do differently, if I were not thinking this thought? – Imagine yourself in your situation (or in the presence of that person), without believing the thought.  How would your life be different if you didn’t have the ability to even think this stressful thought?  How would you feel?  Which do you prefer – life with or without the thought?  Which feels more peaceful?

(Angel and I discuss this process in detail in the “Letting Go of Painful Emotions” lesson of the Getting Back to Happy course.)

6.  Consciously squash the needless comparisons.

Sometimes the reason we struggle with stress and insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes circumstances with everyone else’s public highlight reel.  Give it up.  Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 15.  Follow your own path, write your own life story, and never give up on yourself.

Next time you catch yourself comparing your life situation to someone else’s, refer to these two formulas:

  • Happiness formula = Do YOUR very best and feel good about it.
  • Unhappiness formula = Compare yourself to everyone else.

7.  Track what’s going well and give thanks.

Overlooking everything that’s wonderful is a tragedy.  Do your best and surrender the rest.  When you stay stuck in worried thoughts of the life you think you should have, you end up missing the beauty of what you do have.  You will have a hard time ever being happy if you aren’t thankful for the good things in your life right now.

Here’s a super simple, five-minute, daily gratitude exercise that has worked wonders for thousands of our coaching clients over the past decade:

Every evening before you go to bed, write down three things that went well during the day and their causes.  Simply provide a short, causal explanation for each good thing.

That’s it. We spend tens of thousands of dollars on expensive electronics, big homes, fancy cars and lavish vacations hoping for a boost of happiness.  This is a free alternative, and it works.

In a study of this gratitude exercise’s effectiveness by Martin Seligman, participants were asked to follow those exact instructions for just one week.  After one week the participants were measurably 2% happier than before, but in follow-up tests their happiness kept on increasing, from 5% at one month, to 9% at six months.  Even more interestingly, the participants were only required to keep this gratitude journal for one week, but the majority of them continued journaling on their own because they enjoyed it.

I tried it for myself many years ago – I set a goal of doing it for just one week, and I’m still doing it today.  So I can assure you, it’s addictively effective.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the Happiness chapter of our New York Times bestselling book, Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs.)

8.  Use your body.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, your body is the greatest instrument you own.  So when all else fails, and your stress levels are mounting, use your body to sooth your mind.

The mind reflects your body by responding to its levels of tension, rate of breath, speed of movement and mental focus.  Likewise your body mirrors your thoughts, feelings, mood, and responds to your state of mind, the questions you ask and the words you speak.  So if the mind and body are intrinsically connected – meaning that one has a direct affect on the other – it becomes clear that if we directly and consciously take control of one, it will influence and transform the other.

By mindfully adjusting how you use your body you can directly influence your state of mind, and dramatically transform your attitude.  Just imagine you’re sitting there in a bad mood, shoulders hanging forward, shallow breathing and frowning.  Go ahead and do this right now to experience how it influences your state of mind.  And then do the opposite: stand up straight and put a big smile on your face.  Take some deep, strong breaths and stretch your arms into the air.

Notice how you feel better?

Bottom line: Take the vehicle your creator has given you and use it!  Your body is the best tool for changing your attitude and relieving stress in an instant.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re still looking to make positive changes after doing the eight things above, I have a few more recommendations:

And remember that most people cope with stress in the easiest, unhealthy ways imaginable – drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, eating sweets, arguing with people, mindlessly watching TV, procrastinating, and so forth.  Ironically, these activities often cause even more stress and mental anguish.  So don’t take the easy way out.  Instead, use the ideas above to cope without these unhealthy crutches…

Start doing the hard things you know you need to for yourself!

Every.  Single.  Day.

Now, it’s your turn…

Before you go, I’d love to hear from YOU in the comments section below.

Which point above do you resonate with most?  What helps you nurture your mental health and overall wellness when life gets stressful?

Please share your thoughts.

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