Five Ways To Become A Better Listener In Your Marriage
Ask any married person for a list of what makes a healthy marriage, and communication will always be in the top five. Ask that same person about a time when their marriage has broken down and high atop their list of reasons will be lack of communication. The importance of communication can almost seem overstated, but nonetheless, it’s an issue that arises in every marriage, including ours.
We can often forget that healthy communication is not just about talking, but about listening, a trait that seems to be rapidly declining in our increasingly busy lives. Without continually practicing the art of listening we are sacrificing deeper intimacy, understanding, and the makings of a great marriage.
It is no secret that becoming a better listener takes work. Here are five ways to become a better listener in your marriage.
1. Eliminate distractions
Set yourself up for success. Put the phone down, turn off the TV, look your spouse in the eye–maybe even make physical contact. So much of listening is simply slowing down. This isn’t natural for most of us, but it creates a sense of value and confidence that you are nowhere else except in that moment. This practice alone will set you up for great success as a listener.
2. Create space for vulnerability
For most of us, vulnerability isn’t a natural process. Furthermore, it is not a given just because you are married. Marriage is the joining of two very different people and a relationship that is an ongoing pursuit of intimacy. Great marriages don’t just happen, they are built and strengthened when we trust that we can be vulnerable. It is a muscle that has to be strengthened, and an environment that is created intentionally. If you can create a safe place for your spouse to be vulnerable, it will open up the door to being a better listener and create great intimacy in your marriage.
3. Take time to pause, reflect, and process
We have often heard that men are fixers. See a problem, solve a problem, move on. And this can largely be true, but it is not a problem unique to men. Often when we are having a conversation, our minds can drift to our response–or, in the case of an argument, our rebuttal. We show such value to our spouse by simply allowing them to be heard. James lays it out with great clarity in these verses: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
What James is doing here is giving us permission to take some time before we craft a response. It’s OK to pause, give it some thought and even to not have an answer. It can be in those times that we develop a greater understanding and allow for greater wisdom in our responses. It shows our spouse that we value what they are saying more that we value our response being heard. In the end, it makes us a better listener.
4. Learn to empathize
Empathy comes more naturally to some people. It is very important to any relationship and especially important in the context of a marriage. There no human relationship that matches the intimacy and closeness of a marriage, which means we must learn to empathize with each other.
It’s no surprise that men and women are cut from different cloths, and thank goodness for that! In any marriage two people come together from different backgrounds and experiences carrying different baggage. This means you are often not going to understand each other! Empathy is less about understanding your spouse’s exact situation, and more about allowing space for vulnerability for your spouse and allowing room in your heart to feel what they are feeling. Allowing room for empathy will create space to become a better listener.
5. Thank and encourage your spouse for sharing
“Thank you” can often be an empty phrase, but when you thank your spouse for opening up, it can provide a great deal of positive reinforcement. It tells them they have not only been heard, but valued! It shows that you listened with your whole heart. It’s another way to say, “I love and value you.” It is a way to become a better listener and partner for your spouse.
There’s a good chance this information isn’t earth-shattering. Deep down, we know that better communication involves better listening, but the question is, are we continually putting it into practice? If you are, you are likely reaping the rewards of a more intimate marriage. If you aren’t, great news! You can always start now.