When Trying to Communicate with a Less Talkative Spouse
Has this ever happened to you? When you tell your spouse about your day or share a story, he or she just looks at you with a blank expression. In response, you try to pull for more to learn his or her thinking too. You desperately want to connect but the more you pull, the less your spouse says.
You just don’t get it. You’re easy to talk to so what’s the hold-up. While you’ve always felt most connected when you are communicating verbally, now even you have become quieter. You are just so tired of feeling responsible for the conversation.
So what’s not working here? I think what started out as a difference between how much each uses verbal or non-verbal communication can turn into co-created distancing. Emotional distance is when you are avoiding each other or certain topics because you are upset or don’t want to argue. While it may look similar on the outside, avoidance is not the same thing as being a naturally less talkative person.
If you’ve been trying to manage these communication differences by encouraging your spouse to communicate more like you, then you may be unintentionally helping create some emotional distance in your marriage. But before you give up and think there’s no way to connect with your less talkative mate, let’s explore some options.
4 Ways to Improve Your Communication with a Less Talkative Spouse
- Think of the difference without judgment or diagnosis: Nothing is more of a turnoff than when you are judged or diagnoses by your spouse. While your spouse may have different ways of connecting with you, it doesn’t mean there is a mental health diagnosis. Or that their way is wrong, it’s just different than yours.
- Watch for quiet or quick ways your spouse connects with you: If you are so busy watching for the ways you hope your mate will connect, you may miss the more quiet and subtle ways he or she does turn toward you. It may be very subtle and quick, but you can’t respond if you miss it or are more focused on feeling hurt and angry.
- Be open to connecting non-verbally: While your preferred way to connect may be verbal, be open to other ways to join your spouse in the quiet. If you want to be closer, you can move toward him or her even without verbal communication.
- Give your quieter spouse time to process their thinking: Just because your spouse looks at you with a blank stare, doesn’t mean he or she isn’t listening. Give your spouse time to process and you can always pick up the topic of conversation later when it’s a good time for both of you.
Managing Emotional Reactions to Different Styles of Communication
While differences can be challenging, so is how we think about the differences. Observe what thoughts and emotions get stirred in you, so you can begin to be less allergic to the times your spouse is quieter. And the more you learn to manage your own reactions, the more you will be able to approach your spouse with less pressured communication.
One of the most common anxieties that get stirred in a person when someone else appears unavailable emotionally or verbally is the assumption of disinterest or disapproval. It’s important to challenge your assumptions, so you can reassure yourself that his or her behavior doesn’t define how much your spouse cares about you. When you stop interpreting your mate’s quiet as disinterest in you, then you will be able to relax into communication.
And feeling more relaxed will help you more clearly see those opportunities for emotional and physical intimacy with your spouse.
Marci Payne, MA, LPC offers individual relationship counseling for men and women who feel like they can’t be themselves in their relationships. Marci is a licensed counselor based in Lee’s Summit MO, and currently providing online therapy via phone and video sessions for all Missouri residents (including Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Columbia, and elsewhere in the state). She helps women love themselves enough to stop taking all the blame in their relationships. And she helps men connect with their spouse without pushing their partner further away. Schedule your free 15-minute phone consult with Marci to decide if working with a counselor is the next best step to take.