5 Ways to Be a Good Listener for Your Spouse

By October 25, 2017 February 22nd, 2018 Communication

Opening your heart to your spouse—and nurturing theirs—requires listening well. With so many different issues, obligations, devices, and people pulling at us from every direction, it can be difficult to slow down and truly listen to one another. Listening can be pleasant, but sometimes it’s downright hard. Sometimes, you might want to tune out and lose yourself in your favorite pastime instead—or dive into the list of to-do items you still need to cross off before the day is over.

But to have a healthy, thriving marriage, it’s critical to truly listen to your spouse with empathy and generosity. Today, we’re sharing five ways you can be a good listener for your spouse.

1. Listen with empathy

When you practice empathy, you’re putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes and seeing things through their eyes. Whether you’re trying to resolve a conflict or just simply listening to your spouse talk about their day, it’s beneficial to both of you to listen with empathy when your spouse speaks to you. For you, it gives you a window into their world and their perspective. For your spouse, knowing that you’re listening from an empathic vantage point helps them feel secure.

Maybe your spouse needs to vent about work, and normally, you tune out when they start talking about their tough day or their challenging project. Instead of switching your mind off while they talk, try to see the events of the day through their eyes, and in the context of your life. Have you been dealing with problems at home, like financial issues, trouble with the kids, or taking care of an ailing parent? Contextualizing your whole life along with what’s happening at your spouse’s job will help you understand the level of pile-on they’re dealing with.

2. Listen for emotion

When your spouse needs to talk to you about something—especially if it’s something hard—it’s easy to get wrapped up and carried away by your own emotions on the topic. In that case, you might respond to your spouse in a totally inappropriate way in your attempt to alleviate the difficult emotions that come up for you. Instead, take a minute to listen for what your spouse might be feeling. This type of intentional listening goes hand-in-hand with empathy.

Once you’ve identified what your spouse is feeling—whether it’s anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, or excitement—you can adjust your responses based on their emotional state. It gives you an extra chance to check yourself before you say or do something that might exacerbate the emotional state they’re in. When our emotions go into a tailspin, it can be difficult to keep communication healthy.

3. Listen without bias

You’ve both got your opinions, and it’s hard to let those opinions go in favor of simply listening to one another. Listening without bias is helpful when you have opposite stances on certain issues, or when you’re locked in a stalemate during a fight. Set your opinions aside for long enough to hear what your spouse is saying, then practice your empathy skills to try to understand why.

This doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion to match your spouse’s. What it does mean is that your spouse deserves to be heard, and you can’t truly hear if you’re filtering everything they say through your own bias.

4. Listen lovingly

When you’re communicating with your spouse, it can be helpful to use loving gestures and body language to let them know you care about what they have to say. It can be as simple as holding eye contact and nodding to affirm what they’re telling you. You could also reach out to touch them or hold hands. Turn your body toward them, or even stop what you’re doing and just sit with them if that’s what they need.

While you may be able to go about your business and have a conversation at the same time (and that can be okay sometimes), there are going to be times where you need to just put everything down and focus all your attention on your spouse. Turn off the TV, put down your phone or other devices, forget the to-do list for a little while, and give your spouse loving affirmation through eye contact and touch.

5. Listen generously

Your spouse needs the gift of your time and attention. It’s hard to take time out of our busy lives to generously give our energy to listening when we have so much to do every day, but communicating openly is key to a healthy marriage. When you listen generously, your spouse will feel secure in coming to you with their concerns, hopes, and fears.

How well do you listen to your spouse? Is your spouse a good listener? What have you done to strengthen your listening skills over the years? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

36 Comments

  • John Moore says:

    All of this is Great Advice , but it falls into the “Easier said than done” category.

    I love the fact that reading this makes me remember what I SHOULD DO…. and make me try to be better.

    John

  • Chris says:

    Kaf, if you can, go to one of their seminars or talks, it is full of great stories and improvisational humor, Les and Leslie are both incredibly gifted storytellers in person and on stage, they open up generously in their life talks and I found this extremely helpful to make my wife and I feel like we were not alone in our unique struggles…

    Chris

  • Kit says:

    Hey Kaf — there are some very practical suggestions under 4. Listen Lovingly. For example:
    — hold eye contact
    — nod to affirm you’re listening to points they’re making
    — reach out / hold hands
    — turn your body towards them
    — turn off distractions, like the TV
    — put down the phone.
    I think these are a good start to tangible actions in listening to the other person … ones for me to put into practice!!

  • David says:

    Easier said than done. I get “your not listening to me” a lot. Many times we are driving down the road and my wife starts talking and expects me to listen and comprehend exactly how she spoke. Other times, we are talking on the phone and it can be a bad connection; the challenge is to actually hear the words, much less follow along with the twists and turns on the topic. Asking her to repeat gets her irritated.

    • dj duff says:

      One trick we use after long and twisting talks, is to ask – ‘what’s the most important part of what you just shared?’ This invites the speaker to reflect and summarize their story, and gives the listener a place to connect. (It’s a suggestion from Harville Hendrix, and you discuss trying this together before doing so.) It’s helped cut down on, are you still listening questions.

  • dj duff says:

    Good reminders on how to love by really listening. And Kit, thanks for the modeling of how to repeat info in a kind but specific way. (I’m working on that when having to repeat info already given.)

  • Dear Les & Leslie,
    I am blessed to be trained by you as a facilitator of SYMBIS. What a great tool, I started to use it with one couple whom I will be marrying on November 4th. The Five ways to be a good listener for your spouse, is very much what I needed in my marriage. I will be sharing these helpful steps in our Couples Date night this weekend. All this is to say, “you are such a blessing.” Keep up the Great Work you both are doing.
    Rev. Francis Balla
    Hope Church Sharon, MA

  • BillyZ says:

    If i speak instead of listen, it is usually for validation, to prove i’m right, “fix it”, or try to change another’s opinion, and all of that is both weak and insecure. People want to be pursued, not fixed. Strength comes in listening. Instead of speaking for ME, King Solomon encourages “counsel in the heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” Ask questions to clarify, which causes the other to be blessed by speaking it out of their heart until complete. This can take up to an hour or more, but is so worth it. Love suffers long and is kind.

  • Sudea Romo says:

    These bits of advice are helpful and made me analyze how I spoke or listened to my husband today. Key to aiming to listen well.. he said, “This might not interest you… ” But I worked hard at listening and asked questions.

  • Shellie says:

    This one is tough but I feel God calling me to work on silence and listen more. Not just with my spouse but even my children.
    I tend to chime in so much and I feel my family becoming a bit frustrated with me. 🙁
    I will reread these tips and focus on them.
    Thanks!

    • Cyndee says:

      Cyndee says:
      Interesting and enlightening information. I have offered a listening ear when my husband shares frustrations about work, employees, etc. I seldom reach out to do the same, because of past experiences that left me frustrated and disappointed with the exchange of sharing. I am a school teacher and the first few months are often difficult and trying with getting the momentum going. I tried sharing with my husband the pressing week and trials on campus. In return my husband closed his eyes and showed no interest in me sharing my heart. Great, I thought that was disappointing. So I got up and walked away. I was asked if I was mad and I said, I was sharing about my week. I was told I have to give victory reports instead! A 💔 broken heart needing new wiring!

  • Margarita says:

    Wow wow this is like a bell making lots of noice in my ears. I started reading your articles and blogs about a year ago and they have been very helpful. I fail a couple of times on listening to my husband but I am working better at it and I can tell a big difference with our communication. Thank you for your wonderful advice, God really illuminates you with his Holy Spirit to help others. My prayers for you and your family.

    Margarita Ibarra
    A devoted Catholic

  • Amy Koehn says:

    Practical Components of the listening process to keep in mind for our spouses and anyone else we are listening to! Thank you for the summary!

  • John Little says:

    Jesus spoke to every different class of people….the way he delivered or his posture during his words made it easier for that particular audience to listen. So you see delivery and listening go hand and hand……everything done through love is the key.

  • […] together. Focus on understanding what they share with you, and avoid making judgments or imposing your own views onto their personal feelings. To make sure that both you and your partner are heard in your […]

  • Twinkle Mk says:

    Thank you, I have been hurting my man a lot and I really want to change myself into a better listener, to understand him more. And am sure I need to listen to him to understand him.

  • Rex Nseobong says:

    Wow, really informative and helpful.

  • 9jamyschool says:

    lovely… bravo to the writer

  • marabaonline says:

    nice one… i love the write up

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  • Flexyhype says:

    This really help me a lot.. Thanks for sharing

  • Anil says:

    A good read.
    My wife has directly told me that I don’t listen or I listen selectively. I know this about myself and I’ve been trying to improve but still she feels the same way.

    How do I get good enough for her to notice I’ve been trying?

  • Quopedia says:

    Best solutions ever.

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