When you are reluctantly separated and want to save your marriage, you often intuitively know that communication is vitally important.  Saving your marriage means that you are going to eventually need to overcome what drove you apart in the first place and then re-create the intimacy that will allow you both to want to rebuild your lives together.

This all sounds very simple on the surface. However, people who are separated already know that meaningful and intimate communication can be difficult and/or awkward. Sometimes, you may decide to give one another some time before you attempt regular or deep communication, but this can pose challenges when you attempt to pick up where you left off. Other times, you may speak regularly, but the conversation may be disappointingly casual. It may feel as if all you are doing is small talking with your own spouse.  Understandably, many people struggle with this. For many of us, our spouse was the person with whom we most regularly communicated and now that has been taken away from us.  Not surprisingly, this break in deep conversation can create a sense of panic because we can know that we need to start talking - really talking - and soon. And yet, sometimes our circumstances and our spouse make this challenging.

Someone might describe the situation this way: "I know that if I am going to have any chance at all to save my marriage, my husband and I have got to start talking again. The main reason that we are separated now is that we grew apart. My husband got very restless and said he needed some time away. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn't accept any other options. He moved out about three and a half weeks ago. Since that time, he has never denied me access to him. He always answers my calls and texts. And sometimes he calls and texts me also. But the conversations are always very short. We will basically touch base and exchange information about practical matters related to the house or bills and then he will want to sign off. I am grateful that we are in touch, but I'm very discouraged. He doesn't seem willing to have real conversations with me and I know that this is necessary. How can I encourage real conversations without pushing? Every time I have tried to push him in the past, he shuts down on me. So I know that I can't overstep. But I also know that I feel like time is getting away from us."

I definitely have some tips for this. I experienced nearly the same thing during my own separation. Unfortunately for me, I was not as smart as this wife and I DID push - with disastrous results. My husband started to avoid me, and of course, communication became more scarce. So, I had extra work to do just to get back to the cordial point that I started with. But once I did, I vowed to take whatever small gains I was given. (You can read the entire story of how I turned things around and got him back by clicking here.) Bear with me. I know that you are likely saying, "I don't want small gains or small talk. I want meaningful conversation." We will get to that. But as you likely already suspect, if you push for too much too soon, you will do more harm than good.

Setting The Stage Upon Which You Can Build Deeper Communication: Here is something that I realized from reading tons of self-help, doing some individual counseling, and just soul searching. When you are separated, your relationship changes so that you are, at least in some ways, back to the place when you were first dating. What I mean by this is that, in a sense, you are at a starting point where you don't necessarily know what the future is going to bring. Sure, you want to save your marriage. But, you don't know how long this might take or how it all might unfold. So you are in that same pattern you were in when you first met. You're hopefully on your best behavior, and the two of you are feeling one another out, trying not to misstep or misspeak. You may be tongue-tied now.  But when you were first dating, you used your very best of your communication skills to draw him in, intrigue him, and put him at ease. What better time to do all that again than right now? You drew him in with your words once and you can do it again.

After You've Established Comfortable Communication Again, Inch Toward Something More Meaningful: Since many separated spouses have grown apart, it's very important to begin to rebuild the intimacy. Deep conversation is an important part of this, but you have to build up to it. Any time that you feel strong resistance from your spouse or notice him pull away, stop and go back to light-hearted, comfortable banter. ( I learned this from painful experience.)

However, hopefully, there will soon come a time when it is pretty obvious that you are ready to move onto deeper conversations. Understand that deep down, your husband likely wants this as much as you do. We all long to be fully known and accepted by someone else. We all want to feel very close to that one person in life who totally "gets" us. So, these conversations, when done right, can start you along that path. The goal is to deepen your current understanding of who your spouse is at his core and get to the crux of what he truly wants. Note that personal topics can feel vulnerable. Many couples find that it helps to have these talks in the dark or on the phone because it helps to bring the emotional walls down. Also, when in doubt, keep the conversations short at first. It's better to look forward to the next conversation than to have to fight any silent spaces. Before you know it, you'll hopefully be talking late into the night again.

Here are some suggestions to get you started. Note that some topics and light and some are heavy. Use your sense of your spouse's mood and receptiveness to pick the right topic at the right time. The questions are open-ended so that you can follow up as appropriate.

What is your favorite song, book, and movie right now? Why does it speak to you at this point in your life?

What has been the best birthday you've had in your adult life? What was special about it? How can we recreate it?

What are your goals for the next three years? How can I help you accomplish them?

What accomplishment in the last five years made you the proudest? Why?

What has been your biggest regret in the past five years? Can I help you to rectify this?

What is the personal attribute that you are most proud of? What would you like to work on?

If you could travel to one place in the next year, where would it be? Why?

What would you like to learn in the next year?

What are you seeking to improve?

What do you think you have done well?

Honestly, when my husband and I were reconnecting, we would play these "table conversation" games.  This added a fun twist to things and took the pressure off.  But it still got us talking.  Things did start a bit awkwardly, but I look back on those times with a kind of longing.  Because the vulnerability felt very sweet.  You can read more about our reconciliation on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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