I couldn’t help but judge them from a few tables away. They were the only other couple in the restaurant. It’s not often that my husband and I get to go out just the two of us, and the constant ding of her tablet, sitting on the table in front of her, was a relentless distraction from our meal.
I glanced over. Her husband stared straight at her as she spoke, but her eyes remained fixed on the device. Once in a while the tablet would beep back at her. She would pause the conversation, retrace a few words, click a button, and begin again. I took another bite of my crab salad, my agitation rising at this blatant display of society’s fixation on devices. But then as I continued watching, I saw her turn the device toward him. He stared down, focused on the screen, the turned his attention back to her as he spoke. She listened intently, then returned to the device.
That is when I realized that she was not ignoring him—she was giving every bit of effort to converse with her husband. It quickly became apparent that he was hearing impaired, and as of quite recently. This screen between them was their means of communication. She spoke, the tablet transcribed, he read and replied. Every time the tablet cut her off with a beep, she patiently began again, slow and clear.
I left humbled, realizing that this couple was working harder than most of us ever will to hold a meaningful conversation with our spouse. I will never forget them or the lesson they taught me.
It has been over eight years since my husband and I exchanged bands of gold under an altar. Since that day, we have had plenty to talk about, but it hasn’t come without effort. We have had to discover creative ways to keep our conversation meaningful and fun. Here are some of the ways we have found to spur on conversation even years into marriage.
Listen To A Podcast Together
This is one of our favorite ways to conjure up a good conversation. I was never very into podcasts, mostly because it’s difficult to focus on one with kids running around and asking for help in the background. But as my husband began listening to more and more podcasts during his drives at work, he would come home with all sorts of ideas to discuss with me. I quickly caught on, even to those podcasts on topics I wasn’t necessarily interested in. Don’t write one off because it doesn’t cover your realm of interests, give it a try and learn something new! Some of our favorites have been running and health podcasts, sermons, personal development, finance and entrepreneur podcasts, and author interviews.
Take a Drive
I realize this one may not be a good answer for those of you with babies who are not quite fond of their car seat. Our third was in that category. It took nearly two years for him to stop crying through entire car rides, but eventually he caught on. Now we often pack a bag of snacks and hit the road for hours on end. This is a great way to have a conversation together without paying a babysitter. With the kids strapped into the backseat, and coffee in our cup holders, it feels (almost) like a date! Sometimes we listen to podcasts and discuss the ideas, other times I will read a book out loud, other times we’ll simply talk about our goals and dreams.
Time in the car has a way of giving a voice to our normally silent thoughts. In fact, it was on one of those drives a few years back that we came up with the list of our family values that led us to move to a new state. These drives and conversations are powerful. (And don’t be afraid to turn on the DVD player in the backseat if it means you can have some uninterrupted chit-chat)
Listen to or Watch a Ted Talk
This one goes along with the idea of podcasts. Find a Ted Talk on Youtube with an interesting story or topic. These speakers have a great way of presenting ideas in a new light that makes you think. You might be surprised by the discussion it inspires between you and your spouse.
Read a Book Together
Last year I picked up the Magnolia Story while browsing the book section at Costco. That evening I relaxed on the couch and cracked the book open. By the first page I was laughing out loud. I read a paragraph to my husband, and he connected with the story right away. Over the next two days we devoured that book, me reading out loud to him. It was a story and a topic we could both connect with, and we had so much fun reading the book together, and discussing the ideas in it and how they apply to our own life. Make it fun by picking a book with a great story and some humor.
Play a Board Game
When we’re not completely exhausted by the time the kids are in bed, we love to pull out Scrabble or Mancala. Often we’ll have a podcast playing in the background. This is a time to relax and chat over a cup of tea or glass of wine. Sometimes we even set up a fancy plate of cheese, meat and crackers—date night in!
My husband came across this meme the other day, and I had to laugh. It’s funny, yes, and also a bit true (especially with three small children running around the house). But I want for my marriage. I’m sure you do, too.
I want deep conversations, full of humor, life, truth, love, and dreams. I don’t want our dialogue to dull with the years, but rather to grow and flourish. I will never forget that couple in the restaurant. I thought they were rude, when actually they were revolutionary to my marriage. Every time I feel too tired to hold a real conversation with my husband, I pray I’ll remember the effort that couple put into their relationship, and that I’ll turn to one of these ideas to strengthen the ties of my marriage through meaningful conversation.