Couple Talk: Are You Really Listening to Your Partner?
A common piece of advice you’ll hear when it comes to keeping love alive is encapsulated in one word: communication. Good communication follows a good relationship. The problem, however, is that couples tend to focus on only one side of communication. That is, the talking part. What they leave out, which is equally important, is the listening aspect. Such imbalance opens up the Pandora’s box of all relationship evils, from misunderstanding and feelings of disrespect to nasty fights, angry outbursts, and ultimately, possibly, separation or divorce.
The tricky thing about listening is that people often think that they’re doing it, but in reality, they’re not. If you’re indeed actively listening to your spouse, you’re carrying these in your conversations:
You know the definition of this so well. It’s putting oneself in another’s shoes. You’re looking at things through your partner’s eyes. When you’re in the middle of a heated argument or in the rush to get decisions made, it’s a hassle to take your spouse’s perspective and you’ll brush off listening altogether. But these are quick, defining moments in which you need to listen all the more. When you just hear them out, you’ll find that behind the anger in your fight is someone who was hurt by the words you said.
When you listen, you discern the rationale behind postponing buying a home. In other words, when you exercise empathy when listening, you reach a point of mutual understanding, which brings greater connection and intimacy, the virtues that make for a happy marriage.
How do you become more empathetic? Do this: Rephrase the things your spouse has told you. Repeating the words they say will help in better understanding what they’re feeling.
In what way? For one, give them the time they need. Listening requires your complete attention. You turn off the TV, put down your phone, or pause from writing that business e-mail. What this communicates is respect. You’re acknowledging your spouse’s presence and their voice in the conversation.
Another aspect that you’re exercising generosity is in the aspect of non-verbals, according to therapists offering marriage counseling. Salt Lake City, Utah-based psychologists explain that your facial expressions and body language reveal so much at how much you’re intently listening. Active listeners usually hold the gaze, maintaining eye contact throughout the conversation. They lean in, sometimes closing off the space. They nod, smile, and open their arms to make the other person comfortable.
You need the virtue of love in every aspect of listening — in fact, for you to show empathy and generosity, you go back to that sense of affection towards your spouse. But the love being mentioned here is that kind demanded in instances of disagreements. In this regard, you reflect love by suspending judgment.
When you’re in the middle of an argument, it’s easy to think of the worst things in your spouse. For instance, when they refuse to take out the trash, you think they’re lazy. When they decline your mom’s invitation for dinner, they’re being ungrateful. When they discipline your children, they’re overly dramatic.
Before they even explain why they’re doing such, you skip the listening and go on with the litany of their wrongs, which turns into a full-blown argument eventually. Suspend judgment. Set aside your bias. Hear out your spouse. In the name of love.
Listening is as important as talking in communication. The next time you find yourself in an argument with your spouse or just the casual checking on each other, ask yourself: “Am I really listening to my partner?”