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BY Simcha Fisher
Warning: the following post is chock full of generalizations and gender stereotypes. My only defense is that it’s all true.
The captain of a whaling ship was getting ready to go on another ten-month voyage. His long-suffering wife pleaded with him: “Won’t you send me a letter this time? Just one little letter. It would mean so much to me to hear from you, when I’m so worried and lonely when you’re gone.” She nagged and nagged, and finally he agreed. He didn’t see the point, but if it would make her happy, he would send a letter.
Two months went by. Three months . . . eight months went by. And finally the mail steamer arrived and lo and behold, there was a letter from the captain. His wife tore it open with trembling fingers, and she read:
I am here, and you are there.
Does this sound like your husband? Maybe he’s not gone for months at a time, you feel like he might as well be, for all the conversation you enjoy together.
There may be nothing you can do about this. You may just be married to that kind of guy, and your only recourse is to remember that you did find his silence attractive at one point, or else you wouldn’t have married him. You may just have to suck it up and find a chatting partner elsewhere.
There may be something seriously wrong with your marriage, in which case lack of conversation is a symptom, not a disease. (Tomorrow, I will talk about how to have a difficult but necessary conversation with your husband.)
You may, however, just be married to a good man who doesn’t see anything wrong with dwelling in happy, peaceful, utter silence with the woman he loves. If, like many women, you feel an urgent need for at least some conversation, then there are a few things you can do to encourage your husband to talk to you a bit more.
Be honest about what you want. Many women say they want conversation, but really they want someone to listen to them. Women get relief and comfort from expressing what’s on their minds, so make it clear that you don’t mean every complaint as a criticism, or every comment as a request for help. It’s okay to talk; but don’t accuse him of not talking to you if he really only needs a break from listening. (And listen to yourself: do you complain and criticize endlessly? That gets old.)
Remember to listen. How often you offer a sympathetic ear? If your husband talks about something that doesn’t interest you, do you act like you’re just tolerating him, or do you ask questions and show concern? If the topic is boring, maybe asking enough questions about it will make it interesting to you. This is your husband, not some stranger on a bus—let him know that what concerns him concerns you.
Don’t interrupt. Women are capable of enjoying an entertaining and informative conversation with each other while both talking at the same time. They talk and listen simultaneously, and it just works somehow. Men generally only do this if they are drunk or on Crossfire. If a man is talking and a woman cuts in, he will take this as a cue to shut up.
Be smart about the timing. Most men will not want to chat about their day when the kids are swirling around them, the kitchen timer is going off, the radio is blaring, and so on. If you’re used to noise and chaos, you may be able to tune it out, but if he’s not, he probably can’t. Wait until the kids are in bed and he has a beer in hand, and then cheerfully suggest leaving the TV off for twenty minutes so you can just hang out.
Be patient. Women tend to take naturally to conversation; men often have to learn it as a skill, just like any other skill that husband and wife develop over the course of a marriage. At some seasons in your marriage, you may have to settle for less: you may both be just too dang tired, busy, or mad to talk much right now. That doesn’t mean it will always be that way.
Provide stuff to talk about. Make a conscious effort to do things together. If you lead separate lives, of course you won’t have anything to talk about.
Pray for him every single day. The Holy Spirit always knows more than you do. He may help you to see your husband in a new light, in ways that will help to draw you closer together, whether you’re talking or not. Conversation is a way to foster intimacy, so be open to achieving that goal in ways besides talking.
Well, men, am I right? Well? WHY WON’T YOU TALK TO ME?