All the kids have gone to sleep. The rush of the holiday season has passed. You and your spouse are lying in the bed and ... Silence. You can't think of anything you want to say, though there's probably a lot of things you'd like to say. This is happening quite often. There are more and more moments where you and your spouse are together and there's just silence.
How do you break the silence and start talking to your spouse again? Here are some ideas to try.
1. Do something together. Hiking, playing tennis, taking a dance class and attending events together create shared interests and experiences that lead to discussions about what each of you saw, heard and think about what you're encountering. Dr. Howard Markman, co-director of the University of Denver's Center for Marital and Family Studies, says the university's research indicates the more you invest in fun, friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time.
2. Put your marriage before the children. You can get so busy tending to the needs of your children, work and community that the connection in your marriage suffers. According to neuropsychologist Paul Pearsall, author of "Super Marital Sex," "The marriage comes first. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work and play all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes."
3. Be curious about your spouse. Take an interest and ask them about their dreams, goals and future desires. Ask them about the most impactful experiences in their childhood they believe frame who they are today. When you focus on learning and getting to know your spouse, you may hear about their secret fears and struggles. Look for those moments where you find yourself saying, "We've been married all this time and I never knew that about you!"
4. Put questions in a hat and pull out one or two each day. Look through the internet for questions to ask your spouse. Write them down on a slip of paper and put them in a hat. Each night before bed, pick one or two. Have a real discussion about the question. Some questions can take you down memory lane while others may cause you to reflect on yourself or the marriage.
5. Listen to your spouse. We all have a desire to be known, respected, valued and understood. If we don't feel like we are being heard so that we can be known, then your solution may be to shut down and withdraw. Be to your spouse what you'd like them to be to you. Help your spouse realize that you want to know and understand them.
6. Seek help. Are there unresolved issues you continue to rehash with no solution? Maybe you keep having the same conversation over and over? Talking to a trusted couple or seeking out a good marriage counselor may help you work through the unresolved issues that are stifling communication in your marriage.
Many couples experience times within a marriage where they seem to have nothing to say to one another. This is not necessarily a sign that you've run out of things to talk about or that the marriage is falling apart. Being intentional about pushing through those times can launch your marriage into new levels of intimacy and connectedness. Now that's something to talk about.
Lauren Hall is president and CEO of family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.