“What happened in your day?” was once a ripe question that could carry the early part of an evening conversation. Now, for many of us, it’s a dry well that is only an echoing reminder that the kids didn’t go to school, our job is still delayed or we’re unemployed, there is not enough certainty about the upcoming months to plan anything, and we couldn’t get together with friends to learn about anything new that’s not happening in their lives.
Husbands and wives, parents and children, roommates and friends are all asking the same question, “What do we talk about when nothing is changing, and little is certain?” It is not an easy question, because reviewing interesting events and preparing for upcoming plans usually carry conversations.
We can start by acknowledging that, “This is hard.” Old conversational habits do not serve us as well as they once did. That doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with our previous habits. We hope they will serve us well again… soon. But in the current rhythms of life, they do not. So, we need new conversational habits and prompts.
Reframing the Question
So, let’s re-frame the question in light of these first few paragraphs, “What do we talk about when events and plans won’t carry a conversation? What other options are there?”
In a previous article, I have provided 270 conversational topics divided into 10 types of conversations. A couple of these are less available than usual, so we will need to become more proficient in the other eight. Below I will offer a few COVID reflections on each. You can click the link for a more complete description and list of prompts for each.
- Daily Review Conversations – There is likely less “new material” to carry a conversation from this area.
- Reflective Conversations – Take time to reminisce over your history together as a couple. You have a history together to celebrate and enjoy. Also, the removal of mindless life rhythms can cause us ask: why were we doing the things we were doing and are those reasons still what we want to be investing our life in?
- Romantic Topics – Even during a pandemic, you should still flirt with your spouse and remind them of the qualities you find most endearing. With more time together, you will need to dig a little deeper than your “go to” compliments and affirmations.
- Planning Topics – This is another category that may be less available right now.
- Evaluative Topics – You can take the major areas of life and ask, “How are we doing with [blank]?” or areas of personal character and ask, “How am I doing with [blank]?” When life is moving at a faster pace, it can be harder to find the time to engage these conversations well.
- Confessional Topics – Honestly, removing our schedules, routines, and preferences reveals many areas of selfishness, discontentment, and weakness for us to acknowledge and confess. If we don’t acknowledge and confess these things, they begin to accumulate and harm our marriage.
- Personal Interest Topics – Use this time to engage and learn about the things that your spouse enjoys.
- Spiritual Growth Topics – How are you growing and where are you challenged in your walk with Christ? What are you learning from your time of Bible study? These conversations are not pandemic-dependent.
- Social Topics – Be intentional about keeping up with family and friends. This time is as hard for them as it is for you. Share with your spouse how these people are doing and how the two of you can be praying for them.
- Popcorn Topics – There is more time than usual to chase rabbits. Use the time to engage in more playful or exploratory conversations than you normally would.
But Its Hard for Me to “Just Talk”
Another way to cultivate conversation during this time is by writing a letter to your spouse. Writing allows for more reflection and intentionality to go into what you say. If you are someone who does not naturally and quickly put yourself into words during an impromptu conversation, letter writing can be a way to capture the things you mean to say but never quite find the moment to express. Most of the topics above can serve as a letter writing prompt.
Once the letter is written, the letter serves as its own conversation prompt. Again, for the person who is not as natural at impromptu conversation, a letter allows for the things that you never seem to find a way to say to become the springboard for meaningful conversations.
Is meaningful conversation harder than usual right now? Yes. Is it impossible? No. But it will require greater intentionality because our pre-existing conversational habits do not fit the current climate well. So, as you consider the possibilities discussed above, take a look at your weekly and monthly calendar. “Awareness” of these possibilities alone will not create better conversation. It will require intentionality to create new habits. Block out a couple of nights of the week to engage in a new area of conversation, block a time to write a letter to your spouse, or plan a COVID date where you’re intentional in cultivating one of these areas of conversation.