Sometimes as you’re helping a couple through their managed mini-conversations, especially with the easier topics, things go so easily as to make the exercise seem unnecessary. Their written responses to each other’s answers to the CJ are brief and to the point; what one person says is easily and mechanically repeated back; they don’t claim to have any questions or concerns.
But that doesn’t mean that there’s no basis for a deeper and more constructive conversation.
Starting with easier topics isn’t just to avoid the tension. It also makes it safer to explore, to go deeper, to have an experience of connecting with each other. For example, at the start of the first mini-conversation, Michelle might say to Paul, “I really like that you said it was important to you for us to go to church together every week.” As she says it, she leans toward Paul and makes eye contact; her tone of voice is earnest.
Paul could simply say back to her, “You’re glad I want us to go to church together.” But it this part of the conversation done?
Don’t miss the opportunity to be curious in a way that might help them understand each other better, thereby strengthening their connection. Noticing Michelle’s body language, you could say, “This seems really important to you, Michelle. What does it mean to you that Paul wants to go to church together?” In all likelihood, she will then tell a story, perhaps about how this was a continual bone of contention between her parents, leaving Michelle feeling sensitive and sometimes wounded about her own faith. Helping her express that to Paul, and helping Paul to demonstrate that he understands and empathizes, will help build their sense of unity.
The upshot: some mini-conversations will be briefer than others. But don’t settle for the mere mechanics of she-said-this-and-he-repeated-it-accurately. Be curious; look for opportunities to dig deep enough to help them find what makes their relationship tick.