How to get your ‘silent partner’ to talk to you more often

He:  “Do we have to talk about this right now?”
She : “If I wait for you to bring it up, we’d never talk about anything!”

Blaming each other for everything only leads to more conflict and less connection in relationships. When conversations have become predictably negative and our partner seems to be avoiding talking, we are left feeling hurt, alone and very frustrated. Unresolved conflicts can stack up in the background only to resurface days later in a flash. Soon tension fills our relationship and we may wonder if we will ever feel close again. Does this sound like your relationship?


o    Own the possibility that you could be partially responsible.  Communicate this to your partner.  Don’t communicate blame even if you think your partner is a bigger part of the problem.
o    Ask for your partner’s honest feedback about how you could do better. “I would really like us to have more productive conversations and I’m willing to see how I could do a better job of improving my end of it.  What do I do that frustrates you when we talk?”
o    Really listen to what your partner says and agree to try to improve.  For example, if they accuse you of going “on and on” and not sticking to the point, your response might be, “OK, I will work on having shorter conversations and try to stick to just one topic.  Will that help?”

“Why do I want to invite their criticism?” you might ask.

This objection is a common one when you are already feeling hurt by your partner’s silence. After working with many hundreds of couples, I find that when one person takes some responsibility without blaming, it increases the likelihood that the other partner will take a little responsibility too. Starting with a different attitude can make a world of difference.

Mark and Janet (fictional clients who could be considered typical) were married with two small children.  Their communication was less and less frequent and more and more often filled with conflict.  Mark seemed easily frustrated when Janet tried to talk to him and would end their conversation by turning on the TV and ignoring her.

Janet approached Mark one evening as they were getting ready for bed.  She acknowledged her part in their communication problems and asked if he would think about what she did that frustrated him and let her know the next evening after the kids were in bed.  Although he was skeptical that she really wanted his honest feedback, he decided to give her a response the next night.  While it was hard for Janet to hear some of his comments, she promised to work on the things that bothered him. She even thanked him for his feedback. Eventually she noticed that he was trying to be more patient and listen to her more.

In summary, when we approach a relationship problem by owning our part in it first, our partner is more likely to do the same.  Asking what is not working for them shows our willingness to consider their feelings.  Breaking the cycle of blaming each other can be a powerful start toward better communication.

Give these tips a try before giving up on better communication in your relationship.  If you need help in getting your partner to work with you on improving communication, sometimes a professional 3rd party can help implement and support some positive change.

If your relationship could use some help with communication,

Call us:   510 277-3111



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