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What to say to your wife other than “What did you do today?”

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So it’s that magical time of the evening when your kids are cranky and whining for dinner, you’ve just managed to burn the rice (WHY DO I ALWAYS BURN RICE), the house looks like four separate mini tornadoes have been winding their way through and then your husband walks in the door and says, “So what did you do today?”

I’m going to admit that this question in and of itself is totally fine, but somehow in that end-of-the-day chaos, it feels like some kind of accusation. I’m wracking my brain to come up with a meaningful answer that explains my contribution to the family and makes me sound like an intelligent adult. I know this isn’t what my husband is asking me to do, but I feel the pressure all the same. So instead of snapping back, “Well, the house is still standing so that’s something, RIGHT?” I want to give my man (and yours) some ideas about questions that might help me open up. (A big thanks to my readers over on the Facebook page that inspired these categories with their feedback.)

Ask about her heart. We may not be able to tell you all the amazing things we accomplished, but we might have had a moment of Big Feelings that we really need to discuss. If you can be on our team and let us vent about whatever that was, we may just feel a huge weight lifted. We know this can sometimes seem risky to you because you don’t like to see us upset or you worry all those feelings will get directed at you, but by asking us what’s on our heart, we know you care about who we are and not just what we do.

Examples:

-Did something make you sad today?

-When were you most excited today?

-Did you have a moment of pride today?

Ask about her mind. I like to make sure I’ve had some time each day to read something that stretches my mind. Maybe it’s my Bible or a scientific article or something about politics or cultural events or a subject I’m passionate about. Whatever it is, I probably haven’t had anyone to discuss it with today and I’ve got thoughts brewing. I’d love to talk about something other than the bathroom habits of the toddler. When I’m asked what I did today, my brain goes to mush thinking about cutting grapes in half or helping with addition homework. I want to talk about all the things I’ve been contemplating while cutting sandwiches into triangles, but haven’t had anyone there to discuss with me. 

Examples:

-Did you read anything interesting today?

-Any good podcasts you listened to?

-What major world problem have you been internally solving today?

Ask about her people. I love my people. My kids, the neighbor kids, my church friends, my parents, ALL MY PEOPLE. During a typical day, I’ve probably been interacting with someone about an issue they’re going through or my heart has been encouraged by someone’s joy. I want to talk about that stuff. It isn’t gossip, it’s just sharing burdens and triumphs with people I love and I want to include my husband in all their happenings. (And while this is nowhere near as noble, sometimes I also want to talk about my “people” and by that I mean the people on TV or someone I follow on social media or the people in a book I’m reading that I’ve been totally engrossed in. Humor me.)

Examples:

-How is your sister doing with that thing she was worried about?

-Did you hear from your friend about that news she’s been waiting on?

-Any major breakthroughs for the kids today? 

Complement her work. Sometimes we are so in the muck and mire of the daily parenting grind that we don’t actually even KNOW what we did today. If you notice something we did, feel free to acknowledge it. That would mean the world.

Examples:

-Hey! That counter got cleared off! Looks great. 

-None of the kids are bleeding right now! Well done.

-That dinner smells amazing. 

Be aware of her introvert or extrovert needs and word count. I have one day a week I spend time with my mom and sisters. On those days my husband has a hard time prying a word out of me when he gets home. Maybe by bedtime I’m ready to discuss the day, but because I have introvert tendencies, I may have used up all my words by 5 p.m. on days I hang out with other women. But there are also days I may have only talked to kids ALL DAY LONG and I’m desperately in need of some adult interaction. Being aware that I may either be too exhausted to talk (don’t take it personally!) or desperately in need of talking (just ask questions! you don’t have to feel pressured to be equally chatty!) may help you know how much effort to put into an evening conversation.

Examples:

-Did you have fun at your MOPS group today? Are you feeling all talked out?

-Did you get to talk to any adults today or was it pretty quiet here? 

-Do you want me to help you in the kitchen so we can chat or would it be more helpful for me to entertain the kids while you finish dinner? 

Healthy conversation is an intimate dance between two people. I want to be asking questions that meet my partner’s needs and let him know I care. I need for him to be engaging me in similar ways so we are on the same page about important life issues. When we can get outside of our “What did you do today?” box (or my “And how did that make you feel?” box that almost always puts him on edge), we are creating something special. We’re creating a really solid friendship.

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6 Comments

  1. I like the compliements first as opposed to asking any kind of questions! Especially if all I had done was keep the kids alive that day!

  2. I’m confused. Is there a part II where you ask her if she knows what’s on ESPN tonight?

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