We’ve all seen them—those silent couples sitting across from each other at dinner or waiting for a bus in an endless quiet, seemingly unable to think of one more thing to say to each other. And though it’s easy to judge them and assume that they’ve just stopped making an effort or let the spark die out, the truth is it can be really difficult to keep the conversation alive, especially if you’re in a long-term relationship. While in those first months (or years) it feels like the conversation never stops, after 5, 8, or 10 years, it’s completely normal to find yourself running aground from time to time. So you shouldn't feel like it reflects badly on your relationship, it just means it’s time to try and reignite that conversational spark.
The good news is that it’s actually really easy to do. The hardest part is admitting that you’ve fallen into a bit of a rut and deciding you want to break out of it—once you do that, a few simple tweaks will have you on your way. So here’s what you want to keep in mind, because you can keep the conversation going, no matter how long you’ve been together.
Add a New Element
If there’s one thing that can cause a rut—any kind of rut—it’s familiarity. If you eat the same meal at the same table, take the same walk at the same time, buy the same things at the same store, you’ll run out of things to discuss. Just a few small changes—a totally new activity, a new restaurant, a new holiday spot—can make all the difference. Not only will it help shift you out of your comfort zone, but the new element itself will also give you something fresh to talk about.
Don’t Shy From Direct Questions
Sometimes we’ve been with someone for so long that we start to assume that we know how they feel or what they think about everything. Not only does that stop the flow of conversation, it can really take a toll on your relationship and stop you from connecting. So go back to basics and ask the kind of questions you would at the beginning of the relationship. What are your hopes for the next five years? Are you happy? What’s your biggest fear at the moment? What can I do to make your life better?
Asking these tough questions, rather than assuming you know the answers, can get the conversation flowing all over again.
Similarly, one of the best things for conversations is reciprocity. If you feel like your conversation has stalled, set a good example. Delve deep into what’s on your mind, volunteer information, and share what’s bothering you. Don’t be afraid to share your difficult and negative thoughts, as well as the positive ones. This is your partner, after all, and you should feel comfortable opening up, even if the subject matter isn’t particularly easy.
And it doesn’t necessarily have to be personal. You can bring up the complex themes from a book you just read or movie you just watched—anything that's lingering in your head. If you watched a film or show together, even better—it will make it that much easier to get into the heart of the discussion.
Don’t be afraid to share your difficult and negative thoughts, as well as the positive ones. This is your partner, after all, and you should feel comfortable opening up, even if the subject matter isn’t particularly easy.
Communicate Little and Often
Even though we often think about good communication as having these huge, meaningful conversations, it actually is a lot simpler than that. The building blocks of those big conversations are much smaller, they're found in all of the little connections you have throughout the day. So make sure you stay in touch and keep connected to each other—whether that’s having a quick chat in the morning, sending text messages, or just having the occasional impromptu phone call. They’re little gestures, but they make a big difference. It can be difficult—and a little awkward—if you try to make your conversations go from zero to 60. Touching base and keeping the lines of communication open will make it so much easier to have those bigger conversations later on.
Be Present in the Moment
This should go without saying but: Put. The. Phone. Away. If you feel like your communication is lagging—or you just want to keep it as good as it can be—technology is your enemy. To really get into those meaty, fulfilling talks, you need each other's undivided attention. Your phone shouldn’t be face up on the table—in fact, it shouldn’t be on the table. Away in your pocket is good, but away in the next room is even better.
If you’ve been together a long time, it’s totally natural for the conversation to slip a little bit—so don’t stress if you feel like it’s reached a lull. Instead, focus on reconnecting. It won’t take much to have that conversation flowing again.