“How are you feeling?”
In eight years of marriage, it was the question Sunshine Spoils Milk blogger Kimberly Zapata never thought to ask her husband. The duo had been together since they were high school sweethearts clutching hands in the hallway. Then one day, in their early 30s, they found themselves sitting across from a marriage counselor. Zapata was convinced the marriage was over.
“We were very much two strangers living in the same house, but it really got bad in the last few years towards the end,” Zapata tells NBC News Better.
Zapata says she suffered from anxiety and depression, while her husband had just overcome an alcohol addiction. Neither knew how to talk to the other. Their daughter, just a year old at the time, added to the stress.
“We had no communication between the two of us for probably a good seven to eight years,” says Zapata. But making time for daily heartfelt discussions, or what their therapist called “checking in,” helped them learn to talk to each other.
“It seems so basic, but it’s something that’s so often forgotten, especially when you throw kids in the mix or other struggles in the mix,” Zapata says.
Focus on feelings
When the blogger and her husband check in with each other, they consciously talk about their feelings, Zapata says.
“We both always try to ask ‘How are you feeling?’”says Zapata. She says they focus on asking questions that show regard for their personal struggles.
“Like for example, with my depression, if he knows I’ve been having a tough patch, he’ll make it a point to ask me specifically about something that’s been going on related to that,” Zapata says.
It’s also important to keep on top of unresolved issues, says the mom.
“We try and listen to each other and keep that conversation going if there’s still unresolved issues on it,” she says. “We’ll keep touching base on that every conversation.”
Reserve a time to talk
Between her husband’s job and her own work schedule, going to the gym and taking care of their toddler, life gets hectic, Zapata says. That’s why it’s important to carve out a specific time to check in, she says. For the busy New York City couple, that time is usually right after they tuck their daughter in at night.
“If we don’t have that slot on the calendar, it just kind of gets lost in the shuffle and the next thing you know it’s 11 o’clock at night,” she says. “At that point I’m shut down — I’m not really interested in talking.”