We know that listening is important in marriage, so why don’t we practise it as much as we would like? When we understand how our behaviour was learned it becomes easier to unlearn it.
There are many reasons why we don’t listen to our spouses. Sometimes we think we already know or we think we have a solution and assume that is all they want. At times it’s because we think we have figured out the other person completely and we assume that today’s narrative will be the same today as it was yesterday. This is a myth.
Another reason for not listening is impatience. The reality is that relationships are not efficient. Relationships require time. Listening requires time. Maybe we are not used to listening. We can change though, as listening is actually a habit that can be built if we are willing to take the time to develop it in our lives.
As a leadership coach I am paid to listen; but for people who come from a background of only telling, listening can be very difficult. It’s important to switch roles. Just because you are always telling at work does not mean telling will work at home.
Poor listening is sometimes because we struggle with emotional intimacy. When you start to really listen it brings people closer and is extremely powerful. As a result we may become uncomfortable with the vulnerability or awkwardness it produces.
People stop listening sometimes because they are task oriented problem solvers. That’s not always what your spouse needs. Sometimes they want to talk just to process their thoughts. Sometimes they are talking for their own benefit and not yours. Be there for them and it will improve your connection with them.
Sometimes we don’t listen because no one ever listens to us. This is can be a form of revenge. We have made an inner vow, “Why should I listen if no one ever listens to me?” Learn to forgive. It’s not tit for tat, marriage is a covenant. On the contrary, if you are the better listener, be a role model.
In some instances we don’t listen because we practise counterfeits to true listening like selective hearing; only listening when it is to do with something that interests you.
Other examples of such counterfeits are, tuning out when you don’t like the content, pretending to listen and listening only to the highlights or headlines. Many people listen only enough to reply instead of listening to understand.
True listening is an art anyone can master and it leads to a lasting and more fulfilling marriage.
If you have struggled with listening to your spouse, here are some listening tips:
Look them in the eyes and also watch their body language;
actively demonstrate interest in their subject matter as this will encourage them to share more deeply;
get rid of the internal noise in your head;
choose a place where you are not easily distracted;
ask them creative questions that they have never been asked before;
position yourself as an equal not a superior.
Finally, understand their goals for talking to you, are they just missing you and wanting your attention, picking your brain, needing a solution or just need to be heard.