If I have an interesting experience? She jumps in to tell my story. Alone together, she'll ask me a question then respond before I can answer.
Can you discern the root cause of this over-talking behavior? Can you recommend some nonconfrontational encouragements toward conversational calm, or will my meaningful conversations always be found outside my marriage?
Seldom Heard: This seems to be an increasingly common frustration.
My theory is that we are currently experiencing a cultural shift away from listening. If garrulous over-talkers can train themselves to be energetic and active listeners, their annoying habit will gradually shift. Active listening will also open their hearts, improve their relationships, and enrich their lives in unexpected ways.
In a healthy marriage, partners can offer respectful feedback and correction. This sort of feedback can be hard to hear, especially if you’re not a listener. But you should offer your wife the opportunity to change.
Tell her, “Honey, this habit of yours makes me feel disrespected. You are silencing me. I’m embarrassed when you interrupt and talk over me in public. At home, I feel more and more alone. It is having a huge impact on my happiness. Are you willing to work on this?”
Expect your wife to react defensively. Press on, lovingly.
Try using a “listening stick.” You two can do this at the dinner table. Take an object in your hand. Agree that only the person holding the object may speak. This will make her conscious of how her mind races to verbally dominate. Don’t hand her the talking stick until you have finished your thought. Has she heard you, or is she simply waiting for you to finish? Ask her if she can repeat or respond to what you’ve just said.
Every single time she interrupts you, tell her, “You’re interrupting me. Please, let me finish my thought.” Make eye contact. Your wife’s bad habit has been a lifetime in the making. Changing this habit will take time, effort and patience.
I highly recommend the book, “The Lost Art of Listening, Second Edition: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships,” by psychologist and professor Michael P. Nichols (2009, The Guilford Press).
Dear Amy: My husband and I have three children. In recent years, online wish lists have become a convenient way for our sons to share their interests in advance of birthdays or holidays with their grandparents, none of whom live close by.
In turn, the grandparents will simply order gift items, have them shipped directly to our house, then ask me to wrap and prepare the presents.
I am sincerely grateful that we have generous family members.
However, my husband and I both have full-time jobs and busy schedules, and preparing everyone else's gifts in addition to our own can become an onerous task.
Also, we have tried to teach our children that the care we take in choosing, wrapping, and decorating presents for our loved ones is part of the expression of love that is represented by gift-giving; we would never think of asking others to prepare our presents for us.
Is it unreasonable of me to wish that our parents would take the time to wrap presents themselves?
All Taped Out
All Taped Out: You can wish for anything you want. But wishing won’t make it so.
I have four ideas: Ask your gift-giving relatives to spring for the additional cost of wrapping when they order online.
Have a supply of gift bags on hand to use for these gifts.
When it’s one son’s birthday, ask another son to wrap the gifts that come in from faraway family members.
Suck it up and realize that this might be an annoyance, but it is not a problem.
Dear Amy: "Sleepless in Chicago" finds herself in a bind because she swore not to reveal her friend's affair. I avoid such situations by refusing to accept others' secrets. Several times when someone has started to tell me something that sounded like they were breaching a confidence, I've stopped them and said that I don't want to know anything I'm not supposed to know.
Topher: Heading secrets off at the pass is an excellent idea.