I’m home with small children all day. By the time my husband gets home from work, I could use some adult conversation. But he’s exhausted and just wants to relax. How can we break this impasse?
Caroline: We believe this is a constant struggle for many married couples, but also a real opportunity to grow in love and patience for one another. We read once that women speak 50,000 words a day, while men speak — get this — just 7,000. I remember how, when I transitioned from teaching to childrearing, I craved adult talk with all my being. I wanted to know where Tom went to lunch, what he ordered, with whom he talked on the phone, on what projects he was working. Then I wanted to tell him all about the baby: how long he slept, how many diapers I changed, how he was the cutest baby in history.
I’m sure I drove Tom a little batty. He had been talking all day long, his 7,000 words long since spent, and what he most craved was solitude and a chance to read the newspaper. When he seemed quiet or distant, I took offense and assumed he was not interested in us. I had to learn that his desire for tranquility was natural and not a rejection of me or the baby.
Tom: Once we understand each other’s needs, we can compromise out of love for one another. I know that, when I walk in the door, it’s important for me to greet Caroline and the kids, and then tell her a little about my day. It doesn’t matter if I feel like it or not; it’s important to her, so I do it. For her part, she tries hard not to overwhelm me when I walk in by bombarding me with questions and thrusting a screaming child into my arms. She lets me change and get comfortable, check the mail, and read through the paper a little. After that, the conversation flows naturally. Sometimes, I just let her talk through things while I listen, and she’s okay with that. But I do need to make the effort to share things with her, too.
Caroline: We’ve found that the family meal is a good place for everyone — Mom, Dad and the kids — to catch up on conversation. So I know that if I give Tom a little “time off” right after work, I will have the dinner hour to chat with him. Sometimes we need a conversation starter like, “What’s the best thing that happened to you today?” And then the kids and we take turns sharing.
As the children get older and involved in more activities, it requires a herculean effort to preserve that family dinner time. But we know from experience that the rewards to your marriage and family life are definitely worth it.
The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the
Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.