A common theme in marital conflict is the idea that one or both spouses don’t feel heard. Has your spouse ever told you that you’re not hearing them? If so, there are some things you can do to help them know that you’re listening–or that you’re working to understand where they’re coming from.
It’s frustrating to hear that your spouse feels unheard or misunderstood, especially if you’re doing your best from one day to the next. However, it’s possible for effective communication to break down before either of you realize what has happened. The good news is, it’s possible to repair these issues and restore intimacy at the same time.
In this post, we’ll break down some tips to help you show your spouse that you’re listening and understanding what they have to say. If that sounds good, read on.
1. Make a Concerted Effort to Listen Actively
Listening well can be challenging, particularly if we’re feeling defensive or offended. It hurts when your spouse says something like, “You never listen!” or, “You’re just not hearing me!” Often, our first instinct is to defend ourselves, and then we might miss the point of the conflict entirely.
If your spouse has complained about feeling unheard more than once, there may be several reasons why. Rather than immediately going on the defensive, you need to uncover why your spouse is feeling that way. Then, you’ll need to learn what you can do to reassure them that you’re listening.
2. Use Body Language to Indicate You’re Listening
Your body language can tell your spouse a lot about whether or not you’re listening to them. What you’re doing with your body during a conversation–like posturing or lack of eye contact–can reveal where your attention is going. Pay extra attention to your body language next time you and your spouse engage in a serious conversation to see what your tendencies might be.
Here are some tips for better listening through body language:
- When possible, face each other and make eye contact
- Make physical contact when appropriate, such as holding hands
- Set aside what you’re doing during serious conversations
- Turn off the TV, put your phone away, and minimize distractions
3. Reflect Your Understanding and Ask Clarifying Questions
Reflecting your understanding of your spouse’s message can help you demonstrate that you’re following them. Repeat what you understand, then let them clarify where needed. Afterward, if you have clarifying questions, ask those. Let your spouse know you want to understand their position. When you ask questions, that tells your spouse that you’re here for them and you’re interested in what they have to say.
4. Don’t Rush Your Spouse Through a Conversation
If you want your spouse to feel heard, don’t rush them through a conversation. Avoid completing their sentences, urging them to “spit it out,” or pushing them to hurry up. When you rush your spouse, that tells them you’d rather be doing something other than listening to them. Give your communication plenty of breathing room and you’ll start seeing more positive change.
5. Be Patient With Yourselves
If you have a long history of miscommunication, misunderstanding, or pain in your relationship, then your spouse may ask to see lasting change for a period of time before the trust between you is restored. You might not be anticipating how long it could take to rectify the situation. But making incremental changes and consistent efforts over time will go a long way.
Be prepared and exercise patience and empathy, both with yourself and your spouse, as you heal this part of your relationship. If you need a little extra help understanding your spouse’s point of view, check out our book, Trading Places. It’s a great resource for spouses who need to course-correct in the communications department. Pick up your copy here.
Have you and your spouse ever struggled with communication issues? How did you become a better listener? Leave us a comment and let us know.
I will take notes when we are conversing over an area of disagreement, both to help me understand, to document what was said for future conversations and to remind myself as I often cannot remember the beginning from the end (meno-brain) I find it helpful to see it as I’m a visual, outward processor.
I don’t see anything about a spouse having a long term affair (2 years). Married 40 years. I’m totally lost when I hear him, several times a day, tell her he loves her. Where do I begin repairs when he refuses to admit his guilt?