We want to connect with our spouse! So many marriages struggle because one or both spouses feel they aren’t known, heard or understood. In our marriage, we believe that if we had just taken the time to really listen through the years, so many disagreements (read: arguments) would have been avoided. But instead, we reversed James 1:19 and were quick to speak and slow to listen. In any relationship that’s a recipe for disaster. If only we had heard (and heeded) the wise words of James and read quotes like these:
- St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “Grant that I may not so much seek to be understood, as to understand.”
- German theologian Paul Tillich wisely pointed out that “The first duty of love is to listen.”
- Greek Philosopher Diogenes humorously pointed out that “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.”
If you and your spouse want to connect at a deeper level and avoid costly misunderstandings, an important first step is to take a look at yourself.
We found that sometimes we simply need to grow in self-awareness. There are thought processes and actions that we habitually or unintentionally fall into which can actually create the disconnect that we loathe. Here are five things to consider…
1) Am I really listening?
When your spouse is talking, ask yourself, “Am I really listening to understand, or simply formulating my response until he/she is done?
2) What’s my body language?
When you are engaged in conversation, imagine sitting across from yourself. What does your body language project? What expression is on your face? What kind of verbal/physical feedback are you giving as your spouse talks? (Hint: sighing, looking around them at the TV, checking your watch or phone are NOT advisable!)
3) Do I fully understand the issue?
Before you state your response, ask questions to be sure you fully grasp what your spouse has said. (See our Building Block on this here: http://bit.ly/16bqqlz)
4) Is my tongue under God’s control?
We know this can be difficult, but if you have trouble controlling your tongue or your tone, develop the practice of shooting up a prayer to God for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct your response. A simple prayer like, “God, please give me self-control and gentleness in what I say” can go a long way in bringing connection or resolution. When we’ve practiced that simple act of prayer before speaking we have seen God transform our conversation so that it is clear, receivable, and honoring.
5) Does my spouse need time to process?
Some people are processors—they need time to think mull over, and consider various options. Give the grace in your marriage to allow your spouse to step away from the topic for a while (whatever you agree on). This allows them the opportunity to think through all of the variables and bring their truest self to you in how they respond.
What can you think of to become a better listener as you Build Your Marriage?