What Does It Mean if You and Your Girlfriend Have Problems Starting Conversations?

Couples who have trouble starting conversations might just need to lighten up.
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You and your girlfriend have been dating for several months, and getting along famously, but whenever you are alone together both of you become tongue-tied. It isn't that you don't want to talk to one another -- sometimes you can chat for hours -- but it is always awkward trying to begin a conversation. The skills needed to begin a conversation with a relationship partner are the same as those needed to make small talk with strangers. Be willing to explore new topics, practice active listening skills and watch the nonverbal signals displayed by your girlfriend. With time, you should find that the two of you move more easily into conversation, and that there are less awkward silences to break.

1 Maybe You're Shy

You might be having trouble starting conversations with your girlfriend because one or both of you are shy. Those who are shy have trouble living in the present moment, says Indiana University Southeast psychology professor Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D., in the "Psychology Today" article, "The Cost of Shyness." For example, when sitting with your girlfriend during a lunch date, you might be worrying about how the afternoon will go, thinking about past times you have embarrassed yourself, or simply worried that whatever you say will be boring -- stop. Carducci suggests that the key to overcoming shyness is to halt the ping pong pattern between the past and the future and land squarely in the present. Make this easier by choosing activities that you can do together that force you to live in the moment, such as dancing, and then strike up a conversation about what you are doing.

2 Try Small Talk

A conversation can't start without someone making the first move. If you and your girlfriend are at a loss for words, it could be that neither of you is good at making small talk. Though the goal in a relationship is to eventually move beyond surface banter to talking about deeper topics, all conversations begin with some form of small talk. In the "Psychology Today" article, "10 Tips to Talk About Anything with Anyone," psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne advises staying on top of current events and popular culture, as a way of having something to talk about with anyone. Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project," concurs in the "Psychology Today" article, "A Menu of Options for Making Small Talk," and adds that small talk can begin with comment about your surroundings or a somewhat prying, but interesting, question for your partner. For example, you might say to your girlfriend, "This is the best burger I've had in years," or "When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?" You don't have to be brilliant to start a conversation -- you just have to say something.

3 Discuss Even the Hot Topics

Conversations might be difficult to start for another reason entirely -- perhaps you and your girlfriend have a "hot-button" issue or topic that neither of you feels comfortable discussing. Though it might be tempting to avoid talking about those issues that are uncomfortable, they need to be brought out in the open, says psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, in the "Psychology Today" article, "10 Ways to Make Difficult Conversations Easier." If there is something difficult that you need to talk about with your girlfriend start out by saying something such as, "I would really like to have your input on this problem I am having." For example, if the two of you disagree about how to spend time on the weekends, tell her that this is something you wish to resolve. Think ahead about questions that you might want to ask, and be careful not to let your emotions lead the discussion. Thank her for agreeing to talk about a difficult topic and plan to move forward once a resolution has been reached.

4 Humor Always Works

Sometimes awkwardness can be made to work in your favor. If you and your girlfriend often find yourselves staring at each other in uncomfortable silence, try changing things up with a bit of humor and playfulness. As psychologist John Grohol notes in the "Psych Central" article, "9 Steps to Better Communication Today," you don't have to be funny to take things less seriously. Use your natural sense of humor to find the lighter side of every situation. If the situation with your girlfriend is awkward, point it out in a playful way. Put on a big smile, laugh a little and say, "Are we having a staring contest to see who blinks first?" Humor helps to put problems into perspective and can be a welcome break from the seriousness of everyday life. Use it to your advantage, and both you and your girlfriend will be more relaxed and able to open up.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.