Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: How To Improve Relationship Closeness–“Stop Talking”

While almost everyone working with couples and every self-help book underscores communication as central to any good relationship, there are times when the last thing that brings a couple together is “ talking.”cell phone couples

If you have ever said or heard someone say “ We Need to Talk,” you know that those words rarely invite closeness, valuable communication or good memories!

The reality is that communication between couples is complex and involves much more than talking–particularly when talking is on demand, without attention to the cues of the other and without the on-going life experiences that tell partners about each other in spoken and unspoken ways.

There is often more mutual understanding that comes from spontaneous sharing in the midst of living—than rehashing issues in the well caricatured “ Woody Allen Style.”

Here are some suggestions for those times when alternatives to talking may be worth considering:

After a Cease-Fire–Re-set the Relationship

The period of time in which there is a cease-fire after an argument is not the best time to talk.

Yes, there may be more to say…

Yes, You may feel you have the ability to just clarify…

But, the most effective thing you can do is to re-set the relationship with an experience of your positive connection as a platform for going forward.

“Do you want to get something to eat?”

“Do you want to see the next episode of that series?”

  • Making overtures to go forward allows time and connection which often soften the tension and the “ need to win.”
  • When someone isn’t forced to see something in a certain way, they often have the airtime to see it on their own.
  • Couples often find that when they can dare to put down the fight to make space for they’re positive relationship, a solution or negotiation spontaneously emerges that could not have been reached in the heat of the verbal exchange.

When Sharing Time Together–Use Affection

I have often had partners complain to me that when sharing time with their spouse or partner the other “ doesn’t talk.”

They, of course, are tired of making conversation and often complain to the other “ You never talk.” This approach generally seals the deal for more silence and adds defensive tension to the car ride or walk in the park.

If you observe young lovers, be they in the mall, at a movie line, walking in the park or even stuck in traffic, they are not necessarily speaking. They are communicating with affection. They are holding hands. One or the other has an arm around the other. Someone is rubbing an arm, a neck. They are usually smiling and they are communicating together!

Replacing accusation with affection may make for a very different exchange.

In Face of Exhaustion–Value Sleep

No matter how much you feel you need to discuss an issue, settle a fight or plan for a wedding, when the other is exhausted and has indicated that in body language (like sleeping) or verbally (“ I really need to sleep”), the best thing you can do for your relationship, your partner and your particular cause is – value the sleep.

  • Every study has indicated that cognitive thinking, mood, energy and judgment are impaired when a person is exhausted.
  • If you are bursting, write down everything you had planned to say on paper-which is far less likely than on-line chats or surfing the web to fuel your need to talk or add to your own sleep deprivation.
  • You may even find that you feel differently about what you urgently needed to resolve after a night’s sleep. Your partner definitely will.

In the Heat of a Romantic Moment–Keep it Going

Every couple knows or comes to know their own best moves and moments for intimacy. No matter what you have read in the latest magazine or online site, if your partner has indicated that speaking in the throes of the erotic moment is not a turn-on, don’t speak!!

On the other hand, one of the effective ways that couples extend the romantic moments and affirm their partner is to reference their positive feelings after the lovemaking—that day, the next day, the next week.

Couples experience increased closeness (long-distance partners do this well) when they use words to keep the loving going be it in a comment, a text, a note or email.

Such affirmation increases the likeliness of more closeness as it builds confidence, reduces the fear of rejection or the experience of sexual relating as merely functional rather than loving.

In Competition With Technology–Use It

“ I am in the middle of talking and you need to text someone else?”

“ Speak to me instead of to your phone.”

While there is little doubt that having a partner randomly start to text in the middle of something you are saying is nothing that enhances intimacy, the degree to which it disrupts the evening probably depends on your age. If you are over the age of 40 and more likely a “digital immigrant” than a “digital native” you may be more appalled. If younger, it may be a bleep in the conversation.

  • While couples of any age need to come up with their own norms for handling lapses of attention or interruptions when sharing time, this is a culture where couple connection must account for the technology between them.
  • On a regular basis, meals, conversations, and loving moments are interrupted by hi-tech prompts, bell tones, personalized phone music or Internet checking.
  • Demanding that all devices be turned off when together may be a good idea (at times) but few actually choose to make that happen most of the time.

Using Technology

One possibility for enhancing the connection and communication between partners is to use technology as a “ Shared Option” in the relationship.

That is, let the call that comes in, the need to check a message, the text that bleeps, be points of information that can be dropped, discussed or ignored.

  • “That was Jane – She still wants me to help her with that job.”
  • “ I just remembered, I should check to see if the real estate agent texted back.”
  • “ I want you to see this UTube that Mary sent-it is hilarious.”

The notion of an “ Shared Option” is that when together, an interruption may have the potential to expand the space you share rather than take either of you away from each other or out of the discussion.

Most partners go about their day without “ telling” their partner every move they make or text they send but…

When sharing time together, to take a call, send a text or check something on-line without referencing it to your partner is to metaphorically get up and walk out of the room.

It also overlooks the very interesting possibility of using technology to invite communication– be it spontaneous discussion, shared annoyance at the outsider or a just a chance to laugh at something together.

 So perhaps there are times when we need to ” Stop Talking” to really get closer!