My wife and I can’t seem to talk anymore with an argument ensuing. How can we stop this destructive behavior pattern?

The cycle you describe is a marital oldie, but no one would call it a goodie. As conversations continue to devolve into arguments, a couple spends even less time communicating — which results in even more likelihood for argument the next time.

 What might be the root of the problem? Simply, lack of communication.

Studies have shown that married couples spend an average of four minutes per day in true conversation with each other. That’s slightly more than the length of one commercial break during a TV show! If either of you has any true concerns to share, four minutes will not do the trick.

Also, bear in mind that this statistic concerns both positive and negative conversation. When you were dating, you probably spent hours in deep conversation, revealing not only your problems but also your hopes and dreams. You likely paid each other wonderful compliments as well.

With marriage and then children, that dynamic changes. We get comfortable around each other. We think the other no longer has anything new to tell us. The daily routine gets busier. Time spent together shrinks in the face of life’s demands.

There are some concrete steps you can take to minimize the chances of this happening over and over again. (Notice that we didn’t say it would never happen again. We are all sinners and we all are susceptible to falling into old patterns of behavior.)

First, you must simply make time for each other a top priority. If you must, sit down with your daily planner and make an appointment with each other. After the kids go to bed, there’s a natural time to have a conversation.

Have your conversation in a setting where you cannot be distracted by other things. Turn the TV off and don’t answer the phone. Better yet, go for a walk around the neighborhood. Just spending a few moments away from the reminders of all the things you need to do can be very helpful.

A short amount of time each day is great, but a longer stretch once in a while is just as important. Go out for a cup of coffee together. Go see a movie or play together. Do whatever it takes to create more shared experiences you can talk about.

By making time and changing the setting, you’ll find it easier to ensure that negatives don’t dominate your ongoing conversation.

Make it a point to talk about your hopes and dreams again. Still discuss your problems, but within the larger perspective of your life together. We think you’ll keep finding out new things about each other — and learn to love each other even more.

The McDonalds are family-life

coordinators for the

Diocese of Mobile, Alabama.