The Magic Phrase to Get Your Husband Talking
I am currently a homeschooling mom to four awesome kids.
Which is exactly what I wanted for seven years and is totally great most days.
But there are some days that I am desperate for adult interaction and a break from my kids’ hypothetical space/body function/talking animal questions.
Related Post: Why I Hate Homeschooling But I’m Doing it Anyway
When my husband gets home, I am like a drowning person clinging desperately to a life raft.
“How was your day?!?!” I ask too loudly.
“It was fine/good/okay,” he replies.
And then that’s it.
The kids quickly find the closet I’ve cornered my husband in, he changes out of his work clothes, and we go about our evening.
And usually, it’s totally fine.
Over the course of the next several hours, I hear about all the things that happened during his day and fill him in on all the third-grade math I taught and the clothes I folded.
But there are some days that I can tell something isn’t right with my husband.
In the past, I’ve badgered and pestered and begged him to just tell me what’s wrong.
Tell me what’s wrong.
Please tell me what’s wrong.
Why won’t you just tell me what’s wrong!?!
Because most people don’t like being pestered/badgered, this action on my part usually led to him playing a corresponding part.
He pushes back and insists that nothing is wrong and to please just drop it.
And then one evening, I remembered a phrase my Mimi has said to me my whole life, so I said it to my husband.
And it worked.
After I said one simple phrase, he began answering it and slowly got around to explaining what was wrong.
Then all I had to do was listen.
I’m not going to lie.
I’m not a good listener so the “just listen” part is actually kind of hard for me, but I’m working on it.
If you struggle with listening as much as I do, check out this post from Mike + Carlie Kercheval at Christian Marriage Adventures on how to be a better active listener.
And as I sat listening to him work through what had gone wrong in his day, I realized that in times past when I was begging him to tell me what was wrong and he was insisting everything was fine while talking like Eeyore and sighing heavily, he wasn’t just being stubborn or obtuse in not telling me his struggle.
He really hadn’t taken the time to process it himself.
So what’s the magic phrase to get your husband talking?
Yep, that’s it.
By simply saying, “convince me,” after he says something that doesn’t seem quite right, he opens up and tells me about his problems.
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How does it work?
By asking this question, you are asking your husband to convince you of what he’s already said.
In my experience, all men love presenting their case and arguing it. Which is not to say that they are looking to fight, but, like most people, they are ready to justify themselves especially when they are kindly confronted.
So you are giving him the opportunity to present the case of how everything in his day was fine/great/good/okay.
As he starts to explain himself, he’ll slowly start to see all the things (or just the single thing) that went wrong. He’ll get down to the nitty-gritty of what’s really bothering him while you just sit there and listen to him defend his own argument.
What do I do while he’s talking?
Shut. Your. Mouth.
Just put on your best pleasantly interested face and LISTEN.
Don’t try to fill in the blanks when he pauses for breath.
Don’t lovingly encourage him to keep talking when he breaks to think.
Just sit still and listen.
It’s hard for me, y’all.
I spend most of my day with my own kids who take an extremely long time to tell a story.
There comes a point in almost every single one of their stories that I have to say, “wrap this up in the next sixty seconds.” If I don’t, I’ll be listening to that story when I’m 94 years old.
It’s not their fault.
Kids just aren’t great storytellers.
They haven’t learned the fine art of summarizing or telling the highlights or staying on track. We’re working on that.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me.
My husband is a great storyteller. He literally tells stories from the Bible every Sunday morning as his job.
The problem isn’t him.
I struggle to transition out of mom mode into wife mode.
Related Post: How To Balance Marriage and Kids
So a lot of the time when he’s trying to talk to me, I’m not giving him my full attention.
The phrase is only magical if you actually sit and listen to him try to convince you that his day wasn’t awful.
If you say, “Convince me,” and then go to load the dishwasher/clear the table/bathe the kids/sweep the floor/fold the laundry, he’s going to feel like his explanation isn’t important and by extension he’s not important.
And while you may be the master of multitasking, it really doesn’t matter.
You’ve got to show your husband that you want to be convinced of his day’s goodness by dropping everything to listen to his argument.
This is a fundamental difference between men and women.
Because if I were to tell my husband that my day was fine and then he said, “Convince me while I load these dirty dishes in the dishwasher,” I would be ecstatic.
But that is likely not how your husband will see your multitasking.
So before you tell him to convince you, make sure you have the time to sit and be convinced.
Why does it take this?
There are essentially three reasons your husband is satisfied by saying his day was okay without going into detail.
1. He is protective.
if you were to ask your husband to make a list of desirable and undesirable character traits in a man his desirable traits would likely include things like strong, brave, courageous, tough, independent, protective, etc.
His undesirable traits would likely include things like scared, weak, whiney, needy, complainer.
So, when your husband is guarded it may be that he is trying to protect you.
If hearing that makes you angry, then join the club.
I am completely capable and uniquely designed by God to help bear all of my husband’s burdens, yet within him is a desire to shield me.
It’s noble and annoying all at the same time.
Saying “convince me” gives him permission to complain because you asked for it. You pushed past “it was okay.” You have asked for the details.
A key thing to remember here is that when he convinces you, make sure to affirm his self image.
If you don’t, then saying, “convince me” will only work well one time.
None of us would ever listen to our husbands complain about his boss and say, “you really are a delicate flower of a man aren’t you?”
But are you careful to say things like “I understand why you’d feel that way” or “That’s a totally normal reaction” or “Thanks for trusting me with this?”
2. He hasn’t processed his day yet.
It may be that your husband is trying to shield you, or it may be that your husband just hasn’t processed the things that are bothering him.
Part of why we need friends is to have a lens through which we view our experiences.
If I had a dollar for every text I have sent and received from friends that start, “You will not believe what this woman just said to me…”
Related Post: Three Steps to Make Mom Friends
Your husband has probably never sent a text like this to his best friend.
Of course he hasn’t.
Remember how he wants to see himself?
That’s how he wants his friends to see him, too.
Sometimes my husband will have an interaction with a person and walk away not knowing exactly how he feels.
This has never happened to me. I always know how I’m feeling in a moment.
Sometimes he just turns his emotions off.
He will often recount a story from his day and get angry or sad in retrospect. He was stoic in the moment, but responsive in the retelling.
Saying “convince me” gives your husband a chance to work those things out with someone who unflinchingly sees him as a brave protector not a whiney wimp.
3. Your husband is curating his perspective.
Several years ago, a church member cussed at my husband and threatened to shoot him if he didn’t get off his property.
At the end of the day my husband said his day was “fine.”
When pressed, he said that the man likely has dementia, wouldn’t actually shoot him, and that he had a great lunch at his favorite barbecue place in town.
Sure there were nightmarish moments during the course of his day, but the hot sauce at Big Jake’s was divine.
I tend to dwell on the negatives.
Related Post: 9 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Mood
My husband dwells on the positives.
When he considers his day, he picks and chooses the way he will see his day.
Generally, that sort of positivity is a good thing, but in the context of a marriage relationship it can be devastating.
If we are going to guard each other’s hearts then there must be vulnerability.
Vulnerability comes through sharing a complete view of life, not a curated one.
It can’t be all rainbows–we have to look into the storms together.
We need to have a level of transparency with our spouse to be able to feel safe saying: I was scared, it really hurt my feelings, I was so angry, I thought I might punch him, I thought he might shoot me, I don’t like the way he makes me feel, I don’t feel good about myself, I’m having trouble feeling happy, I don’t know what’s wrong with me…
“Convince me” isn’t actually magic.
It’s a tool.
Like all tools, it can be used well or it can be used badly.
How you use it largely depends on your motivation.
If you genuinely want to help your husband carry his burdens, connect with him on a deeper level, and grow your relationship, then “convince me” can open a channel for clear communication.
And that is a little magical.
Do you have a magic phrase to get your husband talking? Tell us in the comments!
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