Getting Your Spouse to Open Up 

Your spouse wants to tell you what they think, but they may not have the communication skills to do it effectively.  They may also be especially wary of opening up to you and committing to something which makes your job twice as challenging.

The answer is to ask questions in response to your spouse’s strong statements. For example, your spouse says “I’m telling you up front, I want $50,000, and I’m not going below that.” A suggested response would be “I respect your trying to negotiate in good faith, and I’m really not differing with you. But, it’s important that I know where you’re coming from, so please help me to understand how you reached this number. What factors did you consider?

Questions effectively encourage communication because they avoid negativity and demonstrate that you are listening to learn their side (and not to judge or challenge it).

You may find the following questions effective in helping your partner open up to you:

  • I would like to talk about this some more. How about you?
  • Do I understand you correctly? You’re saying . . .
  • I hear what you’re saying, but I must ask what I can do to help prove to you that my heart is in the right place?
  • Can you give me some examples that will help me understand your feelings better?
  • Could you elaborate?
  • What do you say we try to come up with something creative – something that we might both be able to live with?
  • Are you willing to help me try to come up with just one more way of settling this? Something we haven’t considered before?
  • What is the main thing that is stopping you from agreeing?
  • What concerns you the most?
  • What do you see as a possible stumbling block to our wrapping this up?
  • Is there a number that would make you feel comfortable?
  • Within reason, what would I have to do to get you to say yes?
  • Can we make a list of the things that we do agree on?
  • Is there any information you need from me that would make your decision easier?

Always try to ask all your questions in the proper tone of voice. Concern and sincerity can be reflected through inflection and pitch – as can lack of concern and insincerity. Tone of voice can move you in the right direction or back you into a corner.

Tones of voice are contagious. Adopt the same pace of speech that your spouse uses. Please keep in mind that the way you ask for something can be just as important as what you are asking for in the first place.

We must always keep in mind that even the best non-reactive questions can hurt us if we use the wrong tone when asking them.

The questions should not sound like you are challenging or confronting what your spouse says. Rather, use a tone of voice that demonstrates you genuinely wish to know more about what they are saying. Show them with your pitch and inflection that you want a clear understanding of their position and that you want to be sure your understanding is correct. Always speak calmly and evenly.

And don’t forget volume. Resist the tendency to speak loudly because it is truly one of the worst things you can do. No one is ever listens to someone who is trying to make their point in a loud voice. Ironically, those who get loud, think the other party won’t listen to them unless they are loud.

We welcome hearing from you and we invite your questions. There is no obligation. No one will ever know that we spoke or what we discussed. Everything you say is privileged, confidential, and completely classified. We do not maintain a mailing list and will not contact you unless you ask us to.

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Kari and Richard are staunch advocates of the non-court approach to divorce, and are also active and seasoned litigators with over 80 years of combined trial experience in the Illinois divorce courts of Cook and DuPage counties.