Communication — 19 March 2006
Daily conversation is essential to a healthy relationship

In early stages of a relationship most couples spend many hours conversing with each other. They do so with curiosity, interest and acceptance. It is a period of learning about and getting to know one another through shared attention and mutual fascination. Regrettably, many couples do not keep this intimate practice as their relationship matures and thus may lose some of their intimate connection.

When couples are asked why they no longer talk meaningfully with each other some of the reasons cited are: achieved familiarity, change in task, life and time demands, awkwardness and fear of being hurt.

After the courtship period ended and the pair is in a committed union, some feel that the intense conversations of old are no longer necessary. They already know each other pretty well, have chosen to be together, so what is there to delve into further?

Some attribute their original long and exhaustive talks to the courtship stage. “It is normal to talk when you fall in love.” Once the love is publicly declared, other tasks are now at hand. “Now that we are married we need to work hard to provide for ourselves and prepare for our future.” Talking suddenly appears to be a distracting activity.

With added responsibilities for children, extended family, bills, home and other life demands time is limited. When asked why they no longer talk to each other intimately, one man put it this way: “We don’t have a minute to ourselves, if I have a choice between talking to my wife or getting a few more minutes of sleep, I know both of us would pick sleep.” Understandably, fatigue and overwhelm reduce the interest in verbal connection.

For some pairs the need for conversation beyond practical exchanges is unclear. They are either unaccustomed to talking, lack the verbal skills, have had no role models for intimate connection, or see no need to converse deeply. “What is there to talk about every day?” they ask. “My parents didn’t talk to each other much and had a fine marriage”, he said. “I wouldn’t even know what to say every day”, she added.

Yet others avoid talking for fear of getting into fights, hurting each other or being criticized or misunderstood. This is indeed a real concern for pairs who do not know how to safeguard their own and their mates’ safety and create a positive, intimate exchange.

Daily conversation is essential to keeping the emotional connection between mates. The same energy that propelled them to converse for many hours during courtship is still needed throughout their life together.

• It helps partners stay current with each other’s thoughts, feelings experiences, wishes and pains and thus stay emotionally connected.

• Daily talks help cement their friendship, partnership and maintain their united and efficient team.
• Talking helps each partner express him/herself and be honored by the accepting attention of the partner.
• It is only through verbalizing one’s opinions that personal clarity and cooperation occurs.
• Couples who talk together- stay together. “We just drifted apart” is avoided.
• Being heard and understood helps one feel healthier, more empowered and worthy. This is true for both genders.
• Respect, trust, and decision-making efficacy are increased as partners share their ideas and feelings with each other.
• Emotional closeness promotes greater physical intimacy.

Here is the formula for daily conversation that will keep your relationship and intimacy alive.

• You can and must find twenty minutes a day for uninterrupted eye-to-eye conversation. Select a time that works for both of you either while the children are asleep or when they are older teach them to not interrupt Mommy and Daddy’s special time. This also models respect, boundaries and a healthy communication pattern for the youngsters.
• Ask your mate about his/her day, positive experiences, thoughts, concerns, new ideas or anything worth sharing. Listen and appreciate what is said without judgment, opinion or problem solving ideas. The goal is to understand and feel with your partner as he or she evolves daily.
• Life or parenting problems can be discussed once they are labeled and the mate is asked for specific ideas or opinions. The solution must be reached by consensus or compromise.
• Relationship difficulties should be discussed at another time, not during the daily connecting minutes. This makes this time safe and positive for both partners.
• Thank each other for listening well and being understanding and kind.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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