There’s a word that can transform your marriage. It’s the word: LISTEN. What type of people are we drawn to? Good listeners. Why? Because good listeners express interest in us. They ask good questions. Their conversations revolve around others, not themselves.
In most marriages, when there’s a problem, it starts with one or both spouses no longer showing interest and listening well. The marriage drift to selfishness is real. Here’s how to fix the most common communication issue in marriage.
My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger… —James 1:9
How to Fix The Most Common Communication Issue in Marriage
Scripture has a lot to say about listening. Be quick to listen. Be slow to speak. Let your words be few. One Proverb reads, “Where words are many, sin is not absent.” Another says, “Even a fool is thought wise if he remains silent.”
People enjoy being around good listeners. The connection to marriage is if we want our spouse to be drawn to and enjoy being around us, we need to be good listeners.
As a naturally opinionated talker, this is an area I always have to watch myself. Yes, there are people who need to talk more. Those people are not me. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never talk too little.
Early in our marriage, my lack of listening skills combined with my affinity for arguing shut Marilyn down. She said, “I’d rather not share than talk to you about it.” Ouch!
But there is hope for opinionated talkers like me. Change is possible! I still relapse at times, but for the most part, Marilyn and I can and do talk about anything and everything. I am now the first person with whom she shares both excitement and struggles. As a result, we feel closer to one another than we have ever felt before.
Communication is almost uniformly listed as one of the top problems in marriage. A failure to listen and understand is at the root of many of the communication issues in marriage.
Why is it so hard for us to listen?
First, we always think we are right. Scripture tells us, “All a man’s ways seem right to him.” It wouldn’t be our opinion if we didn’t think it was right.
Second, good listening is not modeled in our culture. Just watch a Presidential debate or what is now called “the news.” Interruption and sarcasm are modeled more than listening and understanding.
We can’t expect our spouses to fully listen to us if we refuse to listen to them. Our spouse will not be interested in our viewpoint unless we are truly interested in hearing theirs.
The true test is when your spouse says something that you feel is wrong or incorrect. It could be about spending, kids, politics, or religion, but the test is how you respond.
- Do you seek to understand their perspective and ask good questions?
- Or do you quickly interject your viewpoint?
- Are you better at interrupting and sharing opinions or listening and understanding?
It can be hard, but we can fight against our “opinion/share trigger.” It takes self-control and an effort to understand the other side of things.
I got to practice asking myself these questions while writing this post. I had Marilyn read the first draft. I’ll spare the details, but she wasn’t impressed. I started to do exactly what this post discourages. Then, I stopped myself and listened to her input. As I’m sure you can guess, she was right, and I had to rewrite it.
The point is to simply take time and try to understand. Before you try to come to a solution or agreement, just listen to one another and make sure there is a full understanding.
Grace Marriage Mission
Now, apply this to your marriage in a practical way. Think of an issue that you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye on. Have one spouse share for fifteen straight minutes. The other spouse can’t interject or share. Open-ended questions can be asked, but opinions have to be withheld. Then, switch and have the other spouse share for fifteen minutes.
Take solutions and agreements off the table. Just take thirty minutes to talk and to listen. If a solution is required, come back to it another day after you have taken the time to fully understand one another. Never forget, true character and heart change doesn’t come from mere self-will, it only comes from Jesus. The more you abide and rest in Christ, the more loving and caring you will become. The more you care, the more interested you will be in others. The more interested you are in others, the better listener you will become.
Brad Rhoads is co-founder of Grace Marriage.