When you first started dating, you could listen to your partner talk about anything for hours. But now, the conversation between you two seems stilted. "After a while," says Laurel House, relationship coach and author of Screwing The Rules: The No-Games Guide to Love, "you know each other's stories, you're sick of their opinions, and you don't want to hear their differing perspective anymore. Your routines and dramas are no longer exciting and you no longer find their daily play by play fascinating. You may feel like you are grabbing at anything for anything you find interesting enough to discuss."
But guess what? "It's normal," House says. "Your lives are melding and so are your interests, activities, and stories. Just because you aren't jumping from one topic to the next and you are no longer staying up all night talking because you have so much you want to say, doesn't mean that the relationship has gone stale. Your conversations need to shift from fresh to depth." Here's how.
1. Get your own life — one that's separate from your partner's.
What your now-spouse found sexy about you from the start was your individuality, points out House. And it was those interesting, individual interests, quirks and stories you likely gabbed on about. So "bring some of that back into your relationship," she says, suggesting taking up new classes or hobbies, or booking a solo trip or girlfriend getaway. "The more you bring into the relationship," she says, "the more layered and interesting it becomes."
2. Ask "why."
Close-ended questions — those that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" — often bring conversations to a halt. But "asking 'why' allows you to understand your partner's perspective and point of view," says House. "Why do they think that way? Why do they feel that way? Why do they have an interest in that topic? What inspired, drove, motivated them to make that choice? It's about expanding and deepening conversations instead of simply giving one word conversation-ending answers."
3. Compliment each other.
And make sure they're authentic niceties that go deeper than how great he or she looks in his or her new outfit. Saying "how smart they are, or mentioning what amazing curiosity they have or their admirable dedication, is disarming," explains House. "We may have put protective walls up with out even realizing it. If we feel safe, appreciated, and supported, we can allow those walls to come down again and we can open up emotionally, therefore having more conversations about deeper, more meaningful things."
4. Acknowledge your after-work chats aren't the gabfests they once were.
If you think there's a deeper reason — such as a relationship disconnect — that you're not talking as much to one another, it's OK to gently address the lack of flow in your conversations, says Sharon Rivkin, Santa Rosa-based marriage counselor and author of Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy. You can, for example, "tell your partner, 'I know some things have been building with me that I'd like to talk to you about. And I would imagine that the same holds true for you, so let's figure out a way we can make it safe enough to talk about these issues,'" she says. Then set up a new conversation routine in which you each don't interrupt, repeat back what your partner says, and work to keep the conversation on track, Rivkin says.