by Sharan Kaur
If there is a silver lining to the MCO, is that it has given us time to spend with our loved ones. Many of us talk to our loved ones everyday – even more so that we are spending so much time together. But are you actually connecting or simply communicating?
Having meaningful conversations with your partner is crucial to maintaining commitment and intimacy. Given that our close relationships play an important part of our mental well-being, it’s important to have meaningful conversations with your significant other that foster deep connection and understanding.
The difference between small talk and meaningful conversations.
In couples therapy, a common question I ask is: how much time do you spend talking?
Most couples will say: Oh we talk a lot.
But when I investigate further, they will tell me that most of their communication is through Whatsapp and their topics of conversation revolve around life administration such as their kids, what’s for dinner, and other errands that need to be done around the house.
When I ask them, when the last time they sat down and discussed their feelings, their dreams and their goals, most couples will admit that it has been a long time since they have sat down and had a meaningful conversation.
What makes a conversation meaningful?
A meaningful conversation is one that creates and strengthens an emotional connection between you and your loved one.
An easy way to gauge whether you and your partner are having a meaningful conversation is to ask yourself: would you have this conversation if others were around? If the answer is yes, then the conversation may not be meaningful or valuable to you as a couple.
How to have a meaningful conversation
Put away your phones for 20 minutes. Turn off the TV. Carve out this time to speak with your partner to find out how are they feeling and how you can strengthen your relationship together.
Before you get started, here are some ground rules:
1. Only one person speaks at a time – no interrupting your partner.
2. Discuss one point at a time.
3. Use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. E.g., instead of ‘you don’t listen to me’ say ‘I feel that you are distracted when you speak to me.’
Template for Meaningful Conversations
You can use this to check-in with your partner
1. What is your love language? Take a quiz and find out how you express your love for each other. Talk about how you show your love for your partner using their love language.
2. Your expectations in the relationship: what your partner can do for you this week to make you feel appreciated.
3. Your partner’s expectations: what you can do for your partner this week to make them feel appreciated.
4. Moments during the week where you felt unsupported: is there a common theme? How do you think your partner can better support you? E.g., you don’t feel like your partner ‘hears’ you when you are feeling overwhelmed. Your partner did not realise that you were upset. You agree to vocalize when you are feeling upset before you get angry, and your partner agrees to put down whatever they are doing and help you.
Make your relationship a priority
During the MCO, aim to do this a few times a week. This can help with cabin fever from setting boundaries with each other to preventing any arguments from brewing and escalating.
After the MCO, this is a great template for a weekly check-in.
Make a habit of checking in with your partner on the health of your relationship. At first, it may seem strange to structure a conversation but once you get a hang of it, you may find yourself more conscious of what you are doing in the relationship and what you could be doing better.
I would love if you and your partner decide to do this. Get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know how it worked for you.
Sharan Kaur is a relationship counsellor at The Mind Faculty, a private mental health therapy clinic in Kuala Lumpur. She helps clients to build more joyful and meaningful relationships. Her areas of focus include relationship counselling, marriage and pre-marital counselling, family therapy and LGBTQ therapy.