Are you guilty of giving your best energies to work? Do you come home tired, irritable, ready to zone out rather than zone in?

Many of the couples coming to work with us at The Marriage Recovery Center are disconnected, having lost the fine art of conversation. They have drifted apart, hardly noticing the ground they’ve lost and the chasm that has developed between them.

This ‘marriage drift’ happens for a myriad of reasons. Most of us give work our most creative energies. Many work hard, perhaps even perfectionistically. We strive to do the best we can. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. Scripture, in fact, encourages us to work hard: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).

However, if we come home exhausted, we will be serving our work masters and cheating our mate. We rise in corporate ranks, but lose rank when it comes to pleasing our mate and our family.

Because of this I’m suggesting a very specific tool: Ask the second question. What do I mean by this? I’m not literally suggesting that you ask two questions and then drift into the rec room to play on the computer.

No, I’m suggesting that you go beyond the perfunctory question of “How did you day go?” and into a closer review of what your mate did that day. I’m suggesting you take an active interest in their life and show that you remember what they are doing, the challenges they may have faced, and what they enjoyed and what they disliked about their day.

Why am I suggesting asking the second, third and fourth questions? Because, it is in the asking of these second, third and fourth gentle questions that we make connections with those whom we care about.

Imagine the following scene:

A man comes home from the office shortly after his wife had come home from a separate office.

“How was your day?” she asked curiously.

“Fine,” he says. “Typical office politics were kind of draining.”

She pauses for just a moment, sensing that he doesn’t really want to talk about it. But, she cares and wants to offer support.

“I’d like to hear more about what is happening... if you’d like to share?” she asks.

“Oh, Sam pushes his weight around making us feel insignificant,” he laments.

She decides to continue with a few more questions.

“What is he doing now?” she says, not being too quick to offer any advice, nor being too pushy.

Her husband proceeds to open up about the struggles of his day. He feels supported and cared for, expressions of her love for him.

Having shared his feelings, he more automatically asks deeper questions about her day. This forms a deeper connection between them. What could have stopped at the first question, leading to disconnection, went much further, leading to a greater sense of connection.

Here are some additional ideas for cultivating the fine art of conversation: 

First, show that you care about your mate’s life. We all want someone to show an interest in our day. Even though for some the day may be filled with excitement and drama, and for others filled with routine, each wants to have someone express a keen interest in them.

Second, remember what is taking place in the life of your mate. Remembering what is happening in the life of your mate is a way to say, ‘I care about what you care about.’ It is a way of showing that you are attending to their interests and can be a remarkable expression of affection.

Third, ask the second, third and fourth question. This is not done in the spirit of prying, but rather in the spirit of active interest. Be gentle in the questions you ask, being sensitive for when your mate no longer wishes to talk about their work or aspect of their day.

Fourth, listen for the untold story. Listen for what your mate is not saying. What are the emotions woven between the story line? What concerns are they not sharing with you? What are the themes in the day to day conversation with you? Show that you have listened not only to the story today, but to the themes of previous days.  

Finally, show that you enjoy the conversation. Few activities bring the sense of connection that conversation brings. Conversation is an art and must be cultivated, but once cultivated yields a true connection. You learn about your mate and enjoy the discovery process. You show value to your mate by listening and by sharing of yourself.

In summary, we all have the opportunity to create a connection with our mate and others in our life. We do this by asking gentle questions and encouraging others to share with us. Offering our undivided attention is a profound expression of caring, kindness and love.

mrc2We are here to help and offer phone/ Skype counseling on issues related to this article. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, including other free videos and articles. Please send responses to me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

Publication date: July 28, 2014