My role as a counselor affords me the blessing of working with couples seeking marriage counseling. Being asked on the journey with them is truly an honor. While my goal each session is to help them toward their own goals, I would be lying if I didn’t admit I learn a little bit each session from them as well!
Working with couples has reiterated just how little we talk to our spouse. Truly. The person we live with. The one we promised to be with for richer or poor, in sickness and in health, through thick and thin. That one. The one we don’t talk to much.
But life’s busy. I get it.
We’re holding up most of those other vows…. we never vowed to talk through all of those things. To talk through the busy and and the chaos. To communicate through the stress and frustration. To keep the lines of communication open through pain, disappointment, heartache, failure, soccer season, FAFSA forms, college applications, job changes, in-law stress, or just the daily grind we know as life. There will be time for those discussions later. Right? After the kids are asleep. (Or in college?) After the kitchen gets cleaned up and the yard mowed. After the game. After….after….after.
So that means some slack is expected right? Everything else is going fairly well…so what we didn’t talk that much. No big deal. Right?
I believe that the marriage relationship must only come to second to your relationship with God (if you share that belief) and cannot be pushed aside for anything else on the to do list. The list can wait. And I promise will always be there. If we thrive in this most important relationship it makes the rest of life that much sweeter.
Sitting with couples weekly reminds me and shows me that the inability to talk really does make a difference. And it’s not a good one.
Studies show that married couples talk less than 15 minutes per day on average. That’s just 1% of your day. 1%!!! How can we expect it to be awesome if we’re not even giving it 1%!!!
I know what you’re thinking. We have young kids. When are we supposed to talk? We’ll talk when they’re older. Or when we finally get that date night. Right? Wrong again.
A couple last week told me they finally got that date night and left their kiddos at home with a sitter. They looked forward to going out for a kid free dinner and evening all week. And when they got there they said conversation seemed forced. They couldn’t talk about things that didn’t involve the kids or their schedules or work. It was a wake up call to them. And a scary one! I admired them for not dismissing the event and looking to make communication a daily part of their marriage. Actual, real communication.
While we all think our marriages will get less stressful as the kids age, the reality is that’s not true. In fact, our conversation doesn’t increase as the anniversaries tick by. It actually decreases.
One study found that when given the opportunity for a 60 minute, uninterrupted dinner, spouses talked less the longer they were married. The graph below shows just how many minutes couples spent talking with one another during that time. Shocking.
So, I took this information home. I’ve been married almost 13 years. Does it apply to us? Yes it does. We’re not immune….but we’re armed and determined not to be a statistic. We want to be part of the 1%.
Here’s what we’re doing. When we start our time- we ask a question that does NOT involve work, kids, home, maintenance, schedule or the daily routine. It has to be something not related to those things. And then each question after the first answer has to relate to the previous question. i.e. my husband asked me what vivid childhood memory came to mind and we ended up having a discussion that we never had in being together nearly 16 years! And a great one at that. I asked him what in the next week was he most excited about ….and learned something I never knew.
Talking with our spouse is important. It’s critical. It’s important in good times and I would argue even more important in bad times. If we’re not talking in the happy times, it makes those hard times even more of a challenge to open the lines of communication.
The challenge has been thrown….can we be part of the 1%. Will you join us?