One of the biggest challenges in marriage is that we don’t listen well enough. We have opinions, ideas, facts and information we need to share. And many times, our points of reference feel so much more important than listening to how our spouse is feeling.
Sometimes, we can pretend we hear the other person, just to get to the part of the conversation where we can talk. But when we want to truly have effective communication, we have to learn to listen.
To do this, sometimes you have to make yourself repeat what the other person said and confirm what you think that means for clarity. Sometimes, this means sitting in silence while you process all your mate has shared with you. Listening is the most important component of communication because it shows a willingness to receive the message and the attentiveness to do so.
Trust me, I know. Listening is often easier said than done (no pun intended). If you’re still not convinced it’s worth it to save your relationship, allow me to expound:
If You Don’t Listen, You Make the Problem Worse
I have a particular married couple as a client. One spouse in that marriage struggles with listening. The biggest problem with that struggle is not that the person is incapable of listening. That person believes their needs are superior to the other person’s needs.
Many times ego factors into why we choose not to listen. That person in the example is essentially saying, he/she might consider the other person’s needs when and if their needs are fully met. That’s the ego talking. This happens a lot in relationships and marriages. We don’t listen because we put ourselves first.
And when you continue to ignore the concerns of your spouse out of preference for your needs, it will create a cycle of disappointment, resentment and frustration. When we don’t listen, we truly exacerbate the problem. What happened in the example I gave is that since one party refused to listen, the other party felt like they were intentionally not being heard, and it made everything worse. We can solve a lot of problems, diffuse many situations and ease tensions when we make a decision to listen attentively.
Step back and put the needs of your spouse first, and this will make it a lot easier to listen.
If You are Interrupting, You’re Not Working on a Solution
People interrupt repeatedly because they want to get their point across. I can be honest and admit that my wife and I have had that problem in our marriage. One person will become so determined to get their point across that they will interrupt the other repeatedly to make sure the point is crystallized in the conversation.
That never worked in our marriage, and it won’t help any marriage. When we interrupt, we aren’t willing to hear another person’s thoughts, feelings or values. We don’t value what the other person has to say. And if you have no desire to understand the other person’s perspective, then you have no desire to solve the problem—your only desire is to prove your point.
You can make your marriage much more successful when you learn to work on the solution as opposed to getting a point across or being right. Listen to each other—with understanding. Confirm for clarity. Analyze the situation together. Determine the pros and cons. Make joint decisions on how to move forward. Rinse and repeat. Make the concerted effort to listen to each other, so you ultimately come up with solutions that benefit your family.
All communication should start with the ability to listen. If you aren’t listening, you aren’t communicating. Listening is the foundation of getting things done. Also, when you listen, your spouse will appreciate the fact you are considering their point of view to work toward common ground, which is healthy for a successful marriage.