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I’m married to a person who has a lot of wonderful qualities (kind, hardworking, affectionate, wonderful dad), but is extremely limited in his interests (his job, and one particular sport), and they have stayed the same his entire adult life. He thinks and talks about tasks. His questions are about tasks (“what did you do today?”) He is a habit driven repetition machine who is prone to repeating the same bits of conversation day in and day out.

I feel so disconnected and lonely. I have wide-ranging curiosity and passion, particularly about social/political/economic issues. His knowledge base on these subjects is extremely limited. In an article on this site about addressing boring conversations, two bits of advice were to show curiosity and interest in each other. I struggle to feel ongoing curiosity and interest toward the same two topics he’s interested in, as his answers are practically scripted. He doesn’t have much innate curiosity and interest in anything but these two topics. We’ve been to months of therapy and gotten nowhere. I wish I could say about him, “I love to know what’s on his mind, I love to talk with him about all the interesting things going on in our world,” but that’s not the case at all. I dread talking with him because he’s not really able to have an in-depth, well-informed conversation as an equal. Our conversations devolve into my catching him up on basic info.

Would you have any advice for our situation?

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Maybe you can explore new things to do in your date nights and undivided attention time? Maybe that will bring fodder for new discussion? Living well posted a few months back about exploring where they lived and it gave them a lot of new experiences together.


Me 40, OD 18 and YD 13
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And I’d encourage you to download the marriage builders free app and listen to the free radio show together daily. It will give you new things to discuss too.


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Really new here, sounds like you are a news junkie like me. What kind of work does he do? Just seeing if there is anything about his job that be linked to the events of the world.

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Originally Posted by builderjane
I dread talking with him because he’s not really able to have an in-depth, well-informed conversation as an equal. Our conversations devolve into my catching him up on basic info.

Would you have any advice for our situation?

The secret sauce is to have shared recreational activities. That way you will always have something to talk about. If his hobby is (say) football and yours is (say) current affairs, you need to replace those with things you both enjoy. Start brainstorming with him. Remember that you need to find something you both love which might mean trying out a few different things till you find something which will be part of the adventure.

When I was first married it took us an entire summer of (enjoyable) brainstorming to decide on a holiday destination. Now that process is very fast. We also do on-line study courses and a sport that we both enjoy. He gave up a singing group and I gave up volunteer teaching of adult literacy.


3 adult children
Divorced - he was a serial adulterer
Now remarried, thank you MB
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Originally Posted by ben
Really new here, sounds like you are a news junkie like me. What kind of work does he do? Just seeing if there is anything about his job that be linked to the events of the world.

Thanks for your reply! He works in medicine. He might say, he did a difficult case, or he helped a certain patient, but that’s about it.

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Originally Posted by NewEveryDay
Maybe you can explore new things to do in your date nights and undivided attention time? Maybe that will bring fodder for new discussion? Living well posted a few months back about exploring where they lived and it gave them a lot of new experiences together.

What carried us during dating was checking out new things around town and going on trips. But for me, I don’t find it fulfilling anymore to just share experiences. I heard that there are different types of intimacy, and experiential intimacy, or recreational intimacy are among them. But there’s also intellectual intimacy, and for me, I feel most connected to people through having thought provoking conversation.

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Originally Posted by living_well
Originally Posted by builderjane
I dread talking with him because he’s not really able to have an in-depth, well-informed conversation as an equal. Our conversations devolve into my catching him up on basic info.

Would you have any advice for our situation?

The secret sauce is to have shared recreational activities. That way you will always have something to talk about. If his hobby is (say) football and yours is (say) current affairs, you need to replace those with things you both enjoy. Start brainstorming with him. Remember that you need to find something you both love which might mean trying out a few different things till you find something which will be part of the adventure.

When I was first married it took us an entire summer of (enjoyable) brainstorming to decide on a holiday destination. Now that process is very fast. We also do on-line study courses and a sport that we both enjoy. He gave up a singing group and I gave up volunteer teaching of adult literacy.

I have been thinking about maybe taking a course together, thanks for bringing up that idea again. I’ll look into it.

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Originally Posted by builderjane
IWe’ve been to months of therapy and gotten nowhere.
Please tell us about the months of therapy. What was it designed to achieve? By this I mean, did your therapist know that there was a problem with conversation, and how did they set about trying to improve your husband's input? Did you have weekly tasks? What were they?

I'm asking because I don't want to make unhelpful suggestions for you to do things you've already been doing for a long time. I would guess that if you went to a therapist with your complaint as stated here, your husband has had a thorough explanation of what is wrong from your point of view, and after "months of therapy" he has had a chance to learn new skills, so things should have improved by now. Have they improved, and if not, why not?


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Wow I would think in today's COVID world there would be infinite topics relating your passion for politics and society to your husbands role in medicine. It seems you both have desire to serve mankind. How about a volunteer organization or community food bank. I personally find giving back a great way to connect and gain connection especially with your spouse.

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Originally Posted by SugarCane
Originally Posted by builderjane
IWe’ve been to months of therapy and gotten nowhere.
Please tell us about the months of therapy. What was it designed to achieve? By this I mean, did your therapist know that there was a problem with conversation, and how did they set about trying to improve your husband's input? Did you have weekly tasks? What were they?

I'm asking because I don't want to make unhelpful suggestions for you to do things you've already been doing for a long time. I would guess that if you went to a therapist with your complaint as stated here, your husband has had a thorough explanation of what is wrong from your point of view, and after "months of therapy" he has had a chance to learn new skills, so things should have improved by now. Have they improved, and if not, why not?

One counselor mostly listened to us bicker. He didn’t provide suggestions of things to try. The other therapist kept trying to focus on having us develop emotional connection, where we could each accurately describe one another’s emotions, though we did not feel as though we were unaware of each other’s emotions. The therapist did not provide any direct guidance to my husband on how to connect better via conversation. I’ve found a third therapist to try, hopefully starting next month.

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Thank you for clarifying about the therapy. It raises more questions, though: What did you explain the problem to be, when you arranged the sessions? What did the therapists think they were working on? Did your husband willingly agree to go? Did he think you had a problem, or did he go only because he knew you were unhappy? Does he see that there is a problem?

The fact that you were 'bickering" suggests that your husband disagrees with you about something, and was challenging you (or you were challenging each other) in the sessions. What does he disagree about? What were you bickering about?

I'm really trying to find out whether you husband has had a clear explanation of how you see the problem, and if he takes your complaint seriously.

The fact that he has been willing to go to therapy is excellent, even if the therapy itself has not been of much help. I think this means he would work with Dr Harley, the founder of Marriage Builders. Dr Harley would work with you for free, and would give you both specific tasks to work on each week, with a view to having measurable improvements in a short time.


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Originally Posted by SugarCane
Thank you for clarifying about the therapy. It raises more questions, though: What did you explain the problem to be, when you arranged the sessions? What did the therapists think they were working on? Did your husband willingly agree to go? Did he think you had a problem, or did he go only because he knew you were unhappy? Does he see that there is a problem?

The fact that you were 'bickering" suggests that your husband disagrees with you about something, and was challenging you (or you were challenging each other) in the sessions. What does he disagree about? What were you bickering about?

I'm really trying to find out whether you husband has had a clear explanation of how you see the problem, and if he takes your complaint seriously.

The fact that he has been willing to go to therapy is excellent, even if the therapy itself has not been of much help. I think this means he would work with Dr Harley, the founder of Marriage Builders. Dr Harley would work with you for free, and would give you both specific tasks to work on each week, with a view to having measurable improvements in a short time.

Thank you for the thoughtful questions! My unhappiness is due to two reasons. One is that I do all the planning and strategizing for the family, and tasks that require advance planning. My husband doesn’t see things that need to be done, and doesn’t take initiative to address them. Examples include the toilet being broken for 2-3 weeks, the car light being on for weeks, the basement being flooded, anything having to do with our house remodel, the kids needing a school to be selected, and so forth. If I ask him to take something on, it’s partially done or done poorly. An example of his doing something poorly is thinking we should go ahead and hire a contractor charging more than one year’s salary to remodel our house after I’d gotten two bids, instead of looking for more reasonable terms. I put in the time and effort to find a company that charged a bit more than half that amount. In essence, if we’re a company, I’m every role from the CEO to the worker, he’s a worker who clocks in part time and doesn’t do his part to the same standards or goals. I’ve said all this to him and the therapists and wrote out five pages to describe my vision for our family. He’s an “in the moment” kind of person, doesn’t really think about family management.

The second reason for my unhappiness is described in my initial post, and was also something I explained in the clearest terms I could to the therapists and my husband. I crave having someone I feel eager to share thoughts with because they’ll have something interesting to share, they’d be able to challenge me with well-reasoned and well-substantiated perspectives. I’m a conceptual thinker who likes to see common themes and think about possibilities. I’m fairly knowledgeable about a wide range of topics. My husband is a very concrete, task oriented thinker. He’s not particularly introspective about himself or the world. His knowledge is narrow and deep within the two subjects that interest him most, which are a particular kind of surgery, and a particular sport. He takes offense when I try to tell him this is how I experience him, though I don’t mean to denigrate.

People, including my husband and the therapists, don’t seem to believe me on exactly how narrow my husband's interests and knowledge are. They assume that because he’s been successful in a difficult technical field, he must also be a capable conversationalist about other topics. I’ve tried for months to convey what I’m needing, and I still don’t get the sense that he can pinpoint within himself what’s missing, and whether he can fill in the gap. One framework I’ve found somewhat helpful is the Myers Briggs concept of “intuitive” vs “sensing” information processing. I’m intuitive, he’s sensing. It’s like I’m speaking a different language when I try to engage him in more conceptual conversation.

Could you tell me more about how I could work with Dr. Harley? That would be amazing. Thanks!

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Email your questions to Joyce Harley at mbradio@marriagebuilders.com. When your email question is chosen to be answered on the radio show, you will be notified by email directing you to listen to the broadcast. If you would like to consider being a caller, include your telephone number. You will receive a call to explain the procedure.


FWW/BW (me)
WH
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Blended Family with 7 kids between us
Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



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Introducing him to Marriagebuilders would be helpfull, especially for engineering types, because it is so logical.


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Hi builderjane,

It's been a while but in case you jump back on, this may be helpful:

It sounds like you are both relatively task oriented, but he doesn't have the same interests as you, and may not agree with you about things around the house and such. You mentioned he's more "in the moment", but also described him as concrete, logical and task oriented. I gathered here that he may be a surgeon or physician of some type as well, which would entail a high level of organizational skill.

It sounds like you guys are in a rut, and I would encourage you to shake things up with some of the ideas in this system (MB). There's probably many more options to you than the ones that come to mind immediately (divorce and boredom).


For boredom, have both of you fill this out and review:

https://www.marriagebuilders.com/recreational-enjoyment-inventory.htm

Find the areas you both rate highly, you will probably discover some new things. The stuff I really love from this survey are the things my wife and I both have interest in but haven't done yet, because it's more of an adventure. I've got a list of them I keep on my phone so I can work them into our date and vacation planning.


For boring conversation, I would encourage reading this and applying the concepts:

https://www.marriagebuilders.com/conversation-is-boring.htm

I think many (most?) spouses deal with this sort of thing. I run my own technology company....my wife works in K-12 education. "How was your day?" for each of us yields very different answers. Hers most about children and parents (relationships and people), mine most about software and projects (ideas and technology). I am highly interested in politics/economics/history.....she is not. I could spend all day in the garage wrenching on a car...she's a movie lover. When it comes to reading...I like non-fiction, she likes fiction.

The secret has been for both of us to study each other's interests and learn enough to find out what we are curious about in each other's areas. I'm not very interested in the latest events at school, but I'm very interested in discussions about incentives and systems because I deal with that in business, so I ask her about what types of incentives or classroom management she is using for these situations and she loves to tell me about that. She's not very interested in computer protocols or programming languages, but she does like talking about relationships I have in business and our how different events fit into our overall strategy. If you both dig, I'd bet you can find some common threads to tug at.

AND....if you fill you the Rec Activities questionnaire, you'll find a whole bunch of stuff that you might not know your spouse was interested in doing, and that can be a great source of conversation. E.g. "oh, I never knew you were interested in skiing! tell me about that."


For the house work, check this out:

https://www.marriagebuilders.com/the-policy-of-joint-agreement.htm

https://www.marriagebuilders.com/the-policy-of-radical-honesty.htm

Some of the issues you mention (e.g. flooding) are the sort of thing that is an emergency and has to be dealt with. But some of the things you mentioned (like remodeling) are discretionary, and reluctance on his part to participate might just be that he doesn't agree that the project is necessary and is not willing to say that to you. It sounds like he may be more the quiet type and you are more the assertive type. You need to make sure these types of projects are things you both enthusiastically agree to do or he naturally won't feel like participating, and he needs to make sure he is being completely honest with you about how he feels about these things. Once you get dug into a project that both spouses didn't enthusiastically want, resentment about the project is going to build easily.

If he wants to do something less frugally because it won't take as much of his time to do it, that is his prerogative even if it seems foolish to you. And time is money so it even has some merit. I am a gearhead, and will often repair a vehicle myself to save money. But...my wife is not from that background and has zero interest in helping with that. So...when car trouble strikes, we do whatever we both agree to do, and that means sometimes we take something to the shop even if it costs more out of pocket.

Last thought: My father in law is in his mid 70s and is the quiet type. Both my wife and my mother in law have said he's not much of a talker. You wouldn't believe how many hours he and I have spent talking, he's told me all kinds of stuff about his early life my wife says she never knew about him. The secret? I figured out he loves cars, farming and consumer technology. We spend a lot of time together when we visit her family and I don't like dead air, so I've just made it a point to listen and ask, listen and ask.


Happily remarried to wonderful woman who I found using the guidelines in "Buyers, Renters, Freeloaders"
2 baby boys, working on #3 and couldn't ask for anything more.

When my ex's affair happened: BH 28, Ex-WW:29
Married: 7 years
Together: 8 years
D-day: 10/5/2014
D filed: 1/22/2015
D Final: 6/4/2015

My story

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