Rule #4: Be a Good Conversation Partner

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communication and couples

“Communication is the fuel that keeps the fire of your relationship burning; without it, your relationship goes cold.”  – William Paisley

I recently read an article with a great headline that said something to the effect of, “Follow these 7 marriage rules from divorce attorneys … and never end up in their offices!”  What married person wouldn’t continue to read that article? Who wants to end up in the office of a divorce attorney? Been there; done that. No more, thank you very much!

Welcome to this series. I decided to write an article on each of the 7 rules, what each one means, and how we can apply it! If you are just joining in, we are at the mid-point! You can catch up on the prior 3 rules here: Rule 1, Rule 2, and Rule 3.

Today we are on Rule #4. Be a good conversation partner. Many a couple has blamed “communication breakdowns” on the failure of their marriages. What does that even mean? I don’t think it is communication breakdowns that are the issue. If there are breakdowns, it means you are still communicating in some way, shape or form. Rather, I think the problems start when communication stops altogether.

Think back to the early days of your past relationships. You talked on the phone multiples times a day. You texted quick little updates or quirky little messages that had no real meaning. You couldn’t wait to share every mundane detail of your day. You could talk for hours and hours about your history, your stories, and those moments that made you who you are.

If you had so much to talk about then, how come you have so little to talk about now? The multiple phones calls a day started to dwindle. The little text messages dissipated. Over time you became too tired, or too busy doing other things to share those mundane details of your day. You feel your partner has heard all the stories that have shaped and molded who you are. Suddenly, there is no breakdown in communication; there is simply no communication.

One place for us to start being communicative again is to stop what we are doing and focus on our partners and really talk with them. Engage in a two-way dialogue. Be interested in what he or she is saying. Respond. React. Reply. In other words, turn off the TV and put down your smart phone. Replying to the emails that are chiming in, keeping up with the latest game stats, playing Candy Crush, and checking on the weather can all wait.

My husband and I have a couple of sets of cards called “Table Topics” that we keep around the house. We have a “couples” edition and a “family” edition. Every now and then we’ll get them out and pull a card and all have to answer the question. It’s a great way to get dialogue going. It was fun when we first started dating to ask each other questions that we might not think about and to hear the answers. We usually couldn’t get past more than a few questions at a time because they led to such great conversations. With two teenagers in the house now, we love the “family” edition. We recently had a great conversation amongst the four of us in response to the question, “Would you rather be the best player on a mediocre team, or a mediocre player on a great team?” The dialogue that ensues is always interesting, and I hope we are raising our “wired” kids to become good conversationalists!

The point is this: Talk. Share. Listen. Don’t let communication disappear from your relationships. It’s far too important. We are all going to have those days where we are just too tired to talk, and that’s OK. When I have those days, I simply tell my husband that I need some quiet time, and that I’m “talked out” from my day. I just don’t have it in me to talk more. He knows to give me time and I’ll recharge. The important thing is that I can’t have too many of those days in a row.

One closing thought. As this rule states, it is important to be a good conversation partner. And, it’s appropriate to recognize that being a good conversationalist means you are just as good at listening as you are at talking. It means actively listening and acknowledging appropriately. It means showing empathy and compassion. It means providing advice (if it is wanted), or just listening and soaking it in (when advice isn’t needed or wanted). It’s not a very healthy or productive conversation if one person is doing all of the talking. That’s not a conversation; it’s a speech!

“Communication to a relationship is like Oxygen to life. Without it … it dies.”  – Tony Gaskins

What do you think? Are communication breakdowns the problem, or is it when communication stops altogether?

About the Author:

Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” (2010) in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys, and “The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view” (2013) to provide perspectives on love, marriage, divorce and everything in between. The books are available on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.HighRoadLessTraffic.com.


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