Listening in Marriage & Relationships
Listen First - Talk Second
A Skill to Make Difficult Conversations Less Difficult
How Not to Become Polarized in Conversation with Your Partner
Fighting & Making Peace are Both Learned Activities
Good communication provides the basis of all meaningful relationships. Aside from your children, no relationship matters more than the one with your life partner.
Learning how to communicate with your partner is likely to be one of the most satisfying and at the same time one of the most challenging tasks you will take on in life.
"It is commonly thought that listening is very simple and straight forward"
To ensure a marriage is enjoyable and durable, all couples need to learn the skills to deal with their differences and the difficult conversations encountered throughout life together.
Few couples however, take the time to learn the skills and knowledge required to make difficult conversations and points of difference between them work.
Co-operation between a married couple is a complex and sometimes an emotionally demanding process. Understanding that the competing and sometimes overlapping needs of two people are involved in the relationship rather than just the needs of one is critical to building a strong sense of togetherness.
Using tactics like threatening or coercion to get the outcome wanted has a long term negative impact on the marriage. Using an approach that does consider the needs of the other however, has a greater chance of leading to positive outcomes for the marriage.
"The kind of listening a marriage demands is from the heart"
Learning good and effective communication skills requires a great deal of effort and commitment from couples. The fundamental skill in good communication that most couples struggle to get right is the ability to listen effectively to each other, particularly when having difficult conversations.
Put simply, we cannot make peace or connect with another person when we refuse to listen or use poor listening skills. See managing conflict
It is commonly thought that listening is very simple and straight forward. On the one hand it is, but the act of true listening is not simple at all. The essence of listening between a couple is the ability to put aside our judgments and truly honour the other person without feeling the need to change them.
In order to develop good communication, effective listening skills should be the primary skill learned by all people in an intimate relationship. The type of listening that a marriage demands is one from the heart.
Listening from the heart requires more than listening with your ears alone. This form of listening is 'discerning', where you are trying to perceive something hidden and obscure or deeper.
We must listen with our 'open heart'. This is very different from 'judging' or deciding who is right and who is wrong followed by rectifying the problem - the typical action and mistake, ultimately, that many people make.
"We have to be willing to know our truth and experience is not necessarily a shared truth"
A deeper listening between couples is a dynamic process with a specific purpose - to authentically draw closer together.
Here the listener acknowledges and respects the speakers experience, as the speaker would have experienced it, rather than as the 'listener' had experienced. Importantly, this does not mean that the listener actually agrees with the speaker.
We also have to be willing to know our truth and experience is not necessarily a shared truth. Your partner will have their own 'truth', experience and memory of the event or dispute.
Often it is hard to listen to such a different memory of the same event, but in doing so the process of listening substantiates your partners right to their own perception and experience...leaving them feeling a respected and valued partner in the marriage.
Conflict itself may not necessarily cause loss or damage to the marriage. Information about the 'how and why' of conflict can be used as a vehicle to increase knowledge and understanding of themselves and each other, while at the same time being drawn closer to your partner.
What we learn depends greatly on the reactions each person has to the conflict.
- A person's understanding of the complexities of the issues addressed are broadened and deepened;
- A person's ability to fully listen and be present are challenged and expanded;
- A person will endeavour to find a new understanding of the issue, of themselves, of their partner, and of their marriage.
"It is hard to listen to different memories of the same event"
The goal of listening is not to directly resolve points of conflict, but rather to awaken and inspire the hearts of each other. If each person can see the other not as an opponent, but as their life partner and care for the other's pain and emotional upset or concern, then they will be much more able to resolve their conflicts and differences.
Without such deep, mutual empathy and respect between partners, attempts to resolve the conflict will result in temporary truces that are unlikely to bring about enduring love and continued growth in the marriage.
Copyright Humaneed 2013-15