a man and woman talking on a bench

Why Can't We Talk? Lesson 2 - In Order To Listen, You Must Listen!

Looking for a marriage that works? Money is great. Sex is awesome. But a marriage that really works requires a husband and wife who can communicate! It's a topic we hear all the time. Research that's being conducted by The Joy of Marriage in collaboration with The Heart of Marriage Retreat shows that a staggering 62% of respondents cited communication as the primary source of conflict in their marriage when conflict arises. That's why started this series of blogs "Why Can't We Talk?". In our previous blog, we introduced the concept of Assuming Good Intent as a foundational principle for improving communication. Now, we turn our attention to another critical element: the act of truly listening.

How often have you found yourself nodding along to your spouse's words while your mind wanders and you completely missed what they said? Or how many "passionate conversations" have you and your spouse engaged in when you find yourself already formulating your response before they've finished speaking. This kind of half-listening is all too common and is a major barrier to effective communication.

To genuinely communicate, we must first listen—really listen. This means giving our full attention to our spouse when they are speaking, not just hearing their words but understanding their message. In other words, listen for understanding, don't listen waiting for your chance to respond. It sounds simple, but in practice, it requires mindfulness and effort.

So, how do we listen better?

Be Present

Being present means putting away distractions. Imagine the difference it could make if you paused the TV, stopped scrolling, put down your phone, and made genuine eye contact with your spouse. By doing so, you're showing them that you truly value what they have to say and that their words matter deeply to you. This simple yet powerful act of giving your undivided attention can truly transform the dynamics of your conversations, fostering a deeper connection and understanding between you both. It's a small step with a big impact, and it's a beautiful way to nurture the love and respect in your marriage.

Reflect and Clarify

Reflecting what your spouse says is a fantastic way to show them that you are truly listening and genuinely care about understanding their message. When you use phrases like, "What I'm hearing you say is…" or "It sounds like you're feeling…", you're not just repeating their words, but you're also validating their emotions and thoughts. This small but powerful practice can significantly reduce misunderstandings and demonstrates a deep sense of empathy and respect. By doing this, you create a safe space for open and honest communication, which is the cornerstone of any strong and loving marriage. Remember, it's all about making your partner feel heard and valued, and these simple reflections can make a world of difference in your relationship. Keep it up, you're doing great!

Avoid Interrupting

It's completely natural to feel the urge to jump in with your thoughts, especially when you're feeling defensive or eager to share your perspective. But remember, when we interrupt, it can unintentionally send the message that our words are more important than our spouse's. This can create feelings of resentment and distance between you. It might make your spouse completely shut down. Instead, practice patience and show your partner the respect they deserve by waiting until they have finished speaking before you respond. This small act of patience can make a world of difference in building trust and deepening your connection. By truly listening, you show that you value their feelings and thoughts, which is a cornerstone of a loving and supportive marriage.

Show Empathy

Empathy in a marriage is like a bridge that connects the hearts of a wife and husband. It's about truly understanding and sharing the feelings of your partner. When we listen with empathy, we create a safe space where our spouse feels heard and valued, fostering a deeper emotional connection and allowing them to be vulnerable. Imagine the warmth and trust that grows when you acknowledge their feelings with statements like, "That sounds really tough," or "I can see why you feel that way." These simple yet powerful words can transform your relationship, building a foundation of trust and intimacy. So, let's practice empathy and watch your marriage blossom into a beautiful partnership filled with love and understanding.

Listen Without Judgement

When you approach conversations with your spouse, try to do so with an open mind and a warm heart. It's so important to avoid jumping to conclusions or making snap judgments about what they're saying. Remember, your goal here is to truly understand their perspective, even if you don't necessarily agree with it. By doing this, you're creating a safe and loving space where honest and open dialogue can flourish. This kind of communication can really strengthen your bond and help you both feel more connected and valued. Keep at it, and you'll see positive changes in your relationship!

As we work to improve our listening skills, we create a foundation for better communication. When we have better communication, we reduce and resolve conflicts and foster a deeper connection with our spouse. Listening is not just about hearing words; it's about understanding and valuing the person behind those words.

In our journey to improve communication, let's remember the wisdom from James 1:19: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." By prioritizing listening, we pave the way for harmony, understanding, fewer conflicts, and hopefully stronger marriages.

In the next installment of our "Why Can't We Talk?" series, we'll ask the question "Can You Hear Me Now?" For now, let's remember that in order to listen, you must listen!