The Art of Listening in Marriage


What happens when you fail to listen to your spouse? You end up ministering to the wrong thing, missing the mark. It’s like misreading the exam question. They feel isolated and rejected resulting in emotional betrayal. The need is so strong that they inevitably find someone else to listen. If that person is of the opposite sex this leads to unhealthy levels of intimacy. Where your words go your emotions soon follow. When they don’t feel heard it results in emotional distance, which has a strong impact on sexual intimacy and trust levels often resulting in suspicion and paranoia.  

When you don’t listen to your spouse it will also affect your growth because a lot of what your spouse says to you is in the form of feedback. Your responsibility with feedback is to understand it NOT to defend. People who don’t listen to their spouses never get to understand them. Ask yourself “How has what she has just said helped me to better understand her? What are they afraid of? What is stressing them?”. If you don’t listen to each other your relationship becomes superficial. I have found that men usually have to work on this. The networks of men tend to be wider but shallower than those of women.  We need to go deeper by opening up a closed spirit through genuine listening.  Some people only open up when they know that someone is fully present listening.

What are some benefits of listening?

Listening builds up your spouse in at least three aspects of their self-esteem. They will feel more significant as a person; that sense of “I matter !”. They will feel a greater sense of worth; “my perspective is worth hearing”. They will feel more secure; “I am loved and prioritized. There is no competition with work, sport, or kids”.

Listening helps to prevent isolation. The other does not feel alone. This feeling of Isolation is one of the biggest marriage killers, hence the importance of addressing emotional intimacy in marriage.  Listening draws out the subconversations.  People operate in layers and often it takes real listening to get someone to unravel those layers. Often your spouse may be protesting. Instead of reacting to the protest rather listen for the subconversation. This is the thing they really want to communicate but can’t find the words or just don’t feel safe.  They may say “You are working too hard and don’t have time for your health and for the children!”    Good Response: “Oh this seems to have affected you. Why do you feel so strongly about this?”  After 10 minutes of listening to her she says “I guess I am just missing you…” That’s the subconversation. She feels safer to communicate her real needs when she knows you are truly listening.  

Listening builds emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is built one conversation at a time and often results in sexual intimacy. Often we make demands for sexual intimacy without taking time to build emotional intimacy. Finally, listening helps you to understand your spouse. The best marriages stem from working hard to study your spouse. Listening is the primary vehicle for truly learning about your spouse.  Who are they and what do they need from me now?