Communication in marriage is SO important. But what if your spouse won’t stop talking about work? We’ve got some amazing tips on how to talk to your spouse about work (even when you don’t really understand what they do for a living).
I am a smart girl. That’s just a fact. My school counselor once called the six year old version of me, “severely gifted,” which if I’m being honest, I thought was a little rude. Over the years, the rest of my class caught up with me, and I’m sure I’m mildly gifted at best these days- but I’m just saying, I’m not dumb.
But when I’m talking about work with my husband? Daaaang, but it can sure make me FEEL dumb.
My husband is a Chemical Engineer, and specializes in Process Development. I barely know what that means, let alone when he actually tries to describe one of the processes he’s developing (is that even the right way to say it? I have no idea).
But I do know that he works a lot. I know that his drop is high-pressure. And I wanted to find a way to encourage my husband when work is stressful and when he’s overwhelmed at work. I wanted to be a true partner to him, even in this area that I don’t totally understand.
So I decided to take on the daunting task- to learn how to actually talk to my husband about what he does. (Shudders.) Here’s my tips for how to talk to your spouse about work- even when their job is not the kind of career you understand the ins and outs of.
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1. Learn About Your Spouse’s Job
First and foremost-it’s not beyond you to learn the basics of your spouse’s career path. They don’t make that line of “dummy” books for nothing. Do a little research, and pick up the “Complete Idiots Guide to Aerospace Engineering,” or whatever it is your partner specializes in, and get to reading.
Is your person’s job too obscure for that? Consider picking up an entry level text book- think Biomechanics 101- and see what you can make of it. For bonus points, you can even ask your spouse for a recommendation on what to read to learn the basics.
They’ll likely be touched that you’re trying at all, and you might spend more quality time with them than you expect as they talk you through some of the more confusing concepts.
2. Talk About Work- But Be Vague
When my husband announces that there’s been a shift in the Downturn Spiral #6 (clearly I could have stood to learn more from Step #1 up there, but hey, I do what I can), I typically have no earthly clue what that means. So I gently press at the edges to try to make sense of it.
Ask questions like, “Do you guys have a plan in place for that already?” or “What did your boss have to say about that?” You’ll get some good information from their responses, whether it’s “This has never happened before, we have to try to figure something out” or “I definitely got a pat on the back for that one,” so you can make the appropriate “Oh No” or “Yay” faces, respectively.
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3. Focus on Encouraging Your Partner when They’re Overwhelmed
Similar to “Be Vague” up there, this is your chance to have a meaningful discussion with your husband or wife without having complete understanding of the goings-on at work. Ask about their reaction to something that happened, or if you know a big deadline is approaching, ask how they feel about the deadline- are they ready? Stressed? Nervous?
You’ll get them to open up more often than not, without having to dive into some of the more complex details.
4. Inquire About Their Coworkers
I find it MUCH easier to keep up with the people my husband works with than the tasks he focuses on when he’s there. So sometimes, instead of asking about his assignments, I focus on asking about his coworkers. I like to ask my husband who he is working on the project with, who he went to lunch with, and the like. Follow up with them about their coworkers who are out on leave, or ask how so-and-so is liking the new house.
You can even work them into your “Be Vague” questions by asking how a coworker you know reacted to a certain situation. Even if you’re not sure what’s going on at work, you can find out about the people who make their day meaningful and a little more fun while keeping the focus on your spouse and their workday.
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5. Stick with What You Do Know
You may not understand the laws of thermodynamics, but maybe you DO know interpersonal relationships. Focus on that, and you might just be able to actually help your husband or wife problem solve some conflict in the workplace, since that may not be their strong suit. You know, since they’re a math nerd and all (she said lovingly).
If you’re a writer, focus on helping them with a report. If you’re a fellow math nerd, steer your partner towards those topics. The point is, try to find some common ground between your strengths and your husband’s or wife’s. You just might have more in common than you think.
Sticking with these tips will help you understand your spouse’s job, give you tips on how to talk to your wife or husband about work, and even help you to figure out how to encourage your spouse when they’re stressed about work. At the end of the day, it will help the both of you feel a little more connected, and a little more up-to-date on each other’s day to day lives.