How do I have the conversation?
I have a client who I will refer to as James. James called me today and said that he just opened the door for a conversation with his wife about their marriage. He said he sent a text because they have never been able to communicate much and every time he tries it just does not go well.
He told her that we was not happy and that he wants more. He said he thinks there is more out there and they both deserve to be happy. So he asked her if she was happy. He asked her if she thinks the marriage is salvageable. He asked her if there was something more she needed or wanted especially now that their lives were changing and the kids were starting to leave home one by one.
When she replied, she said that things were fine and that she didn’t need anything else. She said she kind of knew he wasn’t thought it would be okay. The conversation just sort of stopped there. He did not really know what else to say and is not sure how he can keep the subject open.
He really wanted to know how he can continue the conversation? How can he really express what he wants and do so in a loving way? How could he continue this conversation with her so when he decides to leave the marriage it will be less hurtful? How can he explain that he thinks he would be happier alone or to explore other options?
There are several things wrapped up in this conversation and I want to point out a couple of that I really like about his approach. James really wants it to be gentle and loving, and it absolutely can be. No one tells us this and it always seems a lot easier to walk away in anger and wait to be pissed off before you leave. You can do it that way but that does a lot of damage and it does not have to be that way.
The other thing about this approach is that he’s bringing her along with him on this journey. He is leaving her “breadcrumbs” so speak about having these conversations and about where he is right now. You can think of this like a continuum that relates to where you are in your marriage. On one end is number 1 and other is number 10. 1 is -we’re going to figure this out, we’re going to make this feel good, even though it doesn’t feel great right now and work on the marriage. 10 is – I know my answer is to leave. Right now, James is closer to the 10 end of that continuum because he wants to know how to continue this conversation so when he decides to leave, it will be less hurtful. That is a very different discussion then if you’re in a place of I wanting to see if you can save it.
Now here is the situation. Her reaction is “I’m fine with fine”. She knows he’s unhappy, she said could tell he was unhappy, but she didn’t really want to address it. She really did not want the answer and now she knows he is not “fine” with fine. They have a very big disconnect.
How can he continue this conversation?
The best way is to continue to engage with more questions. Keep asking questions. What it will do is it will bring to light where the disconnects are so that you can gather more information. So you can figure out if you can create a different kind of relationship together or realize that you want really different things. Either is good to know.
Here are some ideas for questions you can use to keep the conversation going:
-How do you want to feel in your marriage? Give me 3 descriptive words that would say how you want to feel in your marriage?
– What are you most excited about in your life?
– What are most excited about for next phase of your life? What do you want that to look like?
You want to ask her this, but you also want to have these answers for yourself. You don’t tell her what your answers are first, because you genuinely want to know what her answers are. For example, if she wants safety and security and you want passion and adventure, this is good to know. You guys want very different things. You are not going to change a safe partner into an adventurous one .
You want to keep engaging in conversation. Do it in person. I get that you feel you’re not good at communication but if you don’t get good at it the next relationship is going to look and feel a lot like this one after a while. Be brave enough to have a conversation. Hear answers that you don’t want to hear or you don’t have a response to right now and be okay not knowing.
These are just a few ideas to help you keep the conversation going about your marriage and what you want. If you want to find more ways to keep the conversation going and find out if you can create a relationship that feels good again, or if it is time to release it as lovingly as possible, I invite you to schedule a complimentary Exploratory session below.