Ask Amy: This loving couple must learn to talk

Dear Amy: I have been married to my husband for 10 years. We have a 5-year-old son.

My husband is fantastic; however, he takes zero interest in what is going on in my life. He never asks me how my day is, or wants additional details about anything, even if he knows that something important is going on.

I have expressed this frustration multiple times, and he may ask once, but he’ll never ask again.

I will ask him about his day, and he always says, “the usual.”

How can I get him to care about what is going on in my life?

— Bewildered

Dear Bewildered: Most of us learn our communication styles from our family of origin. Your husband may have learned very early on that staying quiet was the best course for him.

You see this as him not caring about what is going on in your life.

I see this as the two of you not knowing how to engage in intimate spoken communication. It takes practice.

Just because you love and care about each other doesn’t mean that you can read one another’s minds.

Speaking really needs to happen.

If your husband always answers: “… the usual” when you ask him about his day, he’s not providing any information for you two to engage in a conversation.

You might encounter a similar dynamic once your child is a little older.

(“How was school?” “Fine.”)

Asking more “open-ended” questions might draw him out. Instead of “How was your day,” try, “Tell me about your day.”

In addition to not telling his own story, your husband is not being responsive, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t care about what’s going on with you.

One suggestion is for you to “call a meeting.” In my (sometimes very crowded) family, we will occasionally call a meeting when we have something important to discuss. This is giving other family members advance notice that cellphones will be down, eyes will be up, and people are expected to listen and participate.

There is evidence that the presence of a cellphone (even face-down on the table) suppresses communication.

Learning intimate communication is not easy — but it can be done.

“The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships,” by John M. Gottman and Joan DeClaire (2002, Harmony).

Well-known relationship researcher John Gottman has done important work in decoding how people make “bids” for connection.

Once you recognize communication patterns, you can begin to change the way you interact, which will influence others.

Dear Amy: I just got upset at my husband because I found out that he put my mother-in-law (his mom) as his first contact on his driver’s license. He listed me as his second contact.

Am I overreacting or being selfish? I feel hurt because I’m his wife!

— Hurt

Dear Hurt: Depending on where you reside, emergency contacts are registered on a state-run “emergency contact” database/website. This way, these contacts are quickly accessible to law enforcement, and also easily updated.

Listing his mother as his emergency contact might have been your husband’s first instinct, but I’d say it might be a poor choice.

Of the two of you — his mother or you — which person is more likely to be able to react quickly if your husband is in an accident? Most likely — you, assuming that you are healthy and able, and always have your phone nearby and charged.

All the same, I think you might be overreacting.

Depending on how healthy your relationship is, this seems more a curious choice than a deliberately hurtful one.

Dear Amy: “Betrayed” was mad at her cousin for ‘taking advantage’ of Betrayed’s mom when she was providing care for the elder woman!

Just looking at it from a monetary perspective, if the cousin spent only 40 hours a week at minimum wage, she should have been paid $1,160 per month.

But, I assume she took care of the mother 24/7!

The cousin had to completely change her daily life to accommodate her aunt, apparently something the daughter was not willing to do.

Caregivers give up their time, their energy, their autonomy, and sometimes their health to be the lifeline for people who can no longer take care of themselves.

Betrayed needs to ‘forgive’ herself and thank her cousin.

— Took Care of My Mom

Dear Took Care: “Betrayed” made other accusations against her cousin, but I agree that from a monetary point of view, the cousin absolutely should have been compensated for her service.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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