Encourage Conversation with Disengaged Spouse FMTM

Even though my hubby’s more of an extrovert than I am, he still struggles to fully engage in a deep conversation with me. That’s because it’s easy for an extrovert to remain on the surface.

Oh sure, they love to talk! They’re ever scanning a crowd for an opportunity to strike up a conversation, especially with strangers. But initiating a deep “heart-to-heart” with their loved ones (especially when they’re male extroverts) is not high on their priority list.

The shallow waters are just fine, thank you! 😉

However, many times the disengaged spouse is an introvert—sometimes an extreme introvert. Therefore, opening up and conversing might not even be in that person’s skill-set, much less comfort zone.

Conversation

But when a mate disengages, especially a husband, there might be other issues at play that are creating more polarization than would occur if those issues were dealt with differently.

That’s what I’m going to focus on for today’s post . . . Doing some key things differently, in an effort to encourage reengagementbringing the relationship more back into balance.

Often there’s something of a tug-of-war that occurs when one spouse hungers for more engagement from the other. But just like a tug-of-war, if you drop the rope, your mate will come hurdling toward you.

Though the momentum of that “hurdling” force won’t be replicated (Thank goodness! Someone could get hurt!), you’ll increase the likelihood of drawing your mate to you through these methods.

1. Accept your mate’s quietness.

If you don’t accept your mate’s quietness or limitations in this realm, then your mate will probably want to avoid you. And certainly won’t be motivated to talk more with you, simply because you’re complaining about it.

If your mate is like my hubby, he often has days when he’s much more talkative than others. When I know that he’s not in a “talkative” mood, I don’t let this turn into an opportunity to criticize his disengagement.

I simply wait until a day and time when he’s more open and avoid pouting until that day comes! 😉

2. Patiently wait for “open” conversation moments.

This means asking Open-Ended and Non-Intrusive Questions (OENIQ) whenever you’re together. When and if your mate refuses to answer, then share your thoughts.

But remember to also allow for silence. If you constantly end up “filling the space” because you’re uncomfortable with silence, then you may be inadvertently pushing your disengaged spouse further into his/her shell.

Here’s a silly little riddle for you . . .

[Tweet “How do you get your mate to open up to you? You OENIQ up on him! #corny”]

3. Do an activity together.

Find something that both you and your spouse enjoy doing together, then ask (OENIQ) as you go for a walk, or go for a car ride, or work on a project together, or play a game together, etc. There’s just something soothing and disarming about doing something while you talk. This is especially true for men. In fact, this is the preferred way that men relate to each other—over activities.

4. Encourage same-gender friendships outside of your marriage—for both of you.

If you’re the disengaged spouse, this will help you to practice connecting with others. In time, that will improve your conversation skills, making deeper conversations with your mate more comfortable.

On the other hand, if you’re the engaged but frustrated spouse, this will aid your need for emotional connection. Sometimes your frustration over the lack of engagement can create too much pressure on your marriage. By having a support network of same-gender friends, you disperse that neediness—relieving the pressure on your mate. You become more well-rounded and secure and that’s always very attractive to a spouse.

Whatever you decide to do, be aware that . . .

[Tweet “You must let your mate enter into the relationship in his or her own way and time. #avoidpushing”]

The less pushy, critical and domineering you are about your mate’s hesitancy, the more likely you are to encourage deeper conversational engagement.

[Tweet “Christian bloggers, come and join us at From Messes to Messages Linkup! #MessyMarriage”]

 

In what ways have you been pushy, critical or domineering in your relationship?

 

How have you seen that discourage your mate’s engagement with you?

 

I’m still preparing for my once-a-month series on sexual hang-ups in marriage, hopefully with your help! If you’d like to learn more about how to anonymously share a part of your story, click here for guidelines.

 


Joining with my friends at Giving Up on Perfect, Christian Blogger Community, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and LifeGivingLinkup.

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  • Mary

    Growing up with four brothers, I feel like I have some insight into introverted and extroverted men. I think there is an even split between them. I understand engaging in conversation when they are in a talkative mood-that would be my older son. You certainly cannot force conversation. I can dominate the conversation because I am the type who doesn’t like lulls in the middle. Thank you for your wise words!

    • I bet you do have a lot of experience to draw from regarding men, Mary! And then to have three sons on top of that! You’re a regular expert, aren’t you?! 😉 Thanks so much for adding to the conversation and encouraging me, my friend!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth! I hope that a lot of people…well, lady-type people…ead this and find a way to converse with their husbands.

    A lot of men, as you say, are just waiting to open up.

    Two thoughts – and please forgive, bad day, lucidity is flickering

    1) Keep cultural influences in mind. I am Asian, and have learned that I am hard-wired not only to silence, but to carefully consider what I say…and I often don’t say it, following that reflection. It’s not an indication of indifference. It’s a cultural caution – “the upstanding nail will be hammered down’.

    2) Many people, especially those whose personalities run to the ascetic, don’t KNOW what they are thinking and how they feel. Introspection does not give clarity, except in the understanding that feelings are transient and therefore not to be trusted. Asking one of these blokes how they feel about anything…literally anything beyond a preference between Red Lobster and Outback…will overload their cognitive circuits. Thus, know thy spouse, and his or her philosophical/spiritual predilections.

    And one more…

    3) As I’ve been driven deeper into illness I’ve found that my thoughts and feelings are skewed with respect to the ‘normal’ world. For instance, I regard myself as increasingly expendable, NOT from a “what’s the use” feeling of depression, but from the ‘happy place’ that life can and must go on after I’m dead. It’s very hard to relate that to someone who isn’t waiting besides Styx’s shores.

    Hope this was not too meandering, and that it was at least coherent.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/09/your-dying-spouse-209-flickering.html

    • Yes, Andrew, so many of these typical situations are quite different for you and the challenges you face daily. I’m sure that your Asian heritage factors in greatly as well. I’ve often wondered though when you say that you’re of Asian descent, because I’ve seen the photo of you on something in cyberspace and it looks like you have blonde or light brown hair. I’ve just always wondered about that. 😉

      Yes, asking how someone feels can be off putting. Agreed. It’s more about you both deciding to share an emotion. But this cannot be forced. When my hubby and I do workshops and encourage discussing emotions, we go into much more detail than I did here. It’s a tricky subject but if done well can be so very helpful individually and as a couple. Thanks for making that clarification.

      I’m sure that your illness makes discussing feelings that much harder–especially if your wife cannot really relate to where you’re coming from (as would be expected). I do hope that you and Barbara say the things that need to be said to each other, though before your passing. It’s so very hard to do, but so very important! Praying for you in all sorts of ways, my friend. Rest easy today!

  • NanaHood

    Good thinking friend. I always enjoy your advice posts!

    • Thanks, Teresa! I appreciate your encouragement.

  • pioneerpat1

    I love the saying about the freezer.

    Some of us are introverts and people don’t understand how to deal with us. Some of us let others lay all their cards on the table and look around before deciding. People have big issues with that.

    • Thanks, Patrick! Yes, it’s hard when someone has no problem laying their “cards on the table” but you still keep yours close to your chest. I do hope you have people who are patient and accepting of you in this. Everyone needs to be known intimately by at least one other trustworthy friend. I hope you find that in your life, Patrick!

  • I have a hard time waiting out the silence with my extreme introvert husband. These ideas are great – have a great week!

    • Yes, it’s very uncomfortable, especially with an extreme introvert. My youngest son is like that. He knows that i will press him for more than he would like to offer. But gives me that grace, I believe, because I’m his mom. Although I’m not sure he’ll give the same grace to a future wife! I do hope so! I’m glad you liked the ideas, Lisa. I hope that something helps you and your husband to connect in conversation!

  • Pingback: But, Lord, the steps are just too big! - Hope In The Healing With Nannette Elkins()

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Beth,
    Like you, I have learned not to push for my husband to tell me what’s on his mind when I know that something is clearly bugging him. Sometimes (most times) he likes to work things out in his own mind, in his own time and then will come to the table. Hurrying or rushing the process usually ends in disaster. Still learning…great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • Yes, that’s so true, Bev. No one ever likes to be rushed, especially when they feel burdened and confused already. Thanks for encouraging me and adding to the discussion, my friend! Hugs to you!

  • Elizabeth @ EllieandElizabeth

    This is great advice, my husband is the quieter of us and I’ve had to learn to give him his space to open up and the wisdom to let him be quiet when he feels like it.

    • Yes, that’s so wise of you to do, Elizabeth. Hopefully that will only encourage him to view you as safe and welcoming when he does open up.

  • Great suggestions, Beth! I’m married to one of those crowd scanners. I used to think, “Just once can we NOT be the last ones out of the church building!” LOL. Accepting our mates for who they are with their personalities and styles of relating is so important. It sets the stage for everything else, doesn’t it. Blessings and thanks for hosting!

    • Funny! Yes, that’s been true for me until we started driving two cars to church! 😉 Of course, Gary has to stay longer since he’s one of the pastors. I suppose it’s a crucial aspect to his ministry–to connect with those who are there on the weekends. But yes, acceptance is so very important. We so often miss this when we’re in a stalemate with our mates. I hope this gives some clarity to the issues. Thanks for encouraging me and joining the conversation!

  • Loved the post! My husband is an introvert and I am an extrovert. We have started to figure out how to communicate a little better. But it is helpful to remember we have different natural communication patterns.

    • Yes, it takes a while to learn those aspects of our differing personalities–not to mention, differences in upbringing that we all bring to the marriage table. I’m glad you and your hubby have figured a lot of this out, Cassie! You’re two steps ahead of most young couples. And congrats on the second pregnancy! What a wonderful time of life that you and Ryan (I believe?) are in!

  • Susan

    I always love your posts and your linkup.

  • Josh&AmindaParafinik

    Doing an activity together is absolutely the most effective way for us to have deep conversations!

  • Super, just super, Beth.

    And this beautifully said it all –>’The less pushy, critical and domineering you are about your mate’s hesitancy, the more likely you are to encourage deeper conversational engagement.’

    Amen.

  • Why am I just noticing that you have a link-up!!! Happy to join and praying God blesses your powerful ministry Beth…blessings, Crystal

  • I am smiling all the way through this, Beth, because this is my life! It was tough in the early years, but we have both come so far. Now my hubby can be quite the comfortable talker, too:-)

    Blessings, my friend!
    Lori

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    I am reading this today but woweeeeee so glad I found it! This is us! I am typically the introvert and my husband the extrovert. But when we come home,he is quiet as a peep and I had days of battling jealousy from how he was with others. I get this is him, and I am learning to back off and let the Lord’s Holy Spirit guide me or quiet my heart. We are also learning he has struggled with ptsd stuff but didn’t know that is what it was. God is in the healing business though for sure. Thanks for this message!