An elderly husband and wife visit their doctor when they begin forgetting little things. Their doctor tells them it might be useful to write themselves little notes.
When they get home, the wife says, “Dear, will you please go to the kitchen and get me a dish of ice cream? And, maybe write that down so you won’t forget?” “Nonsense,” says the husband, “I can remember a dish of ice cream.” “Well,” says the wife, “I’d also like some strawberries and whipped cream on it.” “My memory’s not all that bad,” says the husband. “No problem, a dish of ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream. I don’t need to write it down.” He goes into the kitchen; his wife hears pots and pans banging around. The husband finally emerges from the kitchen and presents his wife with a plate of bacon and eggs. She looks at the plate and asks, “Hey, where’s the toast I asked for?”
The older I get, the harder I have to work to remember things. As I speak with couples everywhere, I often hear similar stories relating to moments of forgetfulness—forgetting an anniversary, forgetting to stop by the store, forgetting to feed the cat.
One important quality in a marriage that can be easily forgotten—listening.
Listening is a critical attribute for any successful relationship. It is a critical one for marriage. And, let’s face it…this can be easier said than done!
Here are a three ways to listen well in marriage.
1. Listen with Compassion.
Just this week a mom of five called me to share about her work struggles, a prodigal daughter, and a sick mother. She told me how amazing her husband has been at just being present for her and listening through it all.
She said, “We are going through a lot right now, and I know it would be easy for him to get numb to it all. But, he hasn’t!”
When you listen, you say (without even saying a word) that “I’m in it with you, no matter what!” There are times when your spouse doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems. They just need a compassionate ear willing to listen.
2. Listen with your Eyes.
A simple gesture of listening with your eyes—looking at her or him (and not your phone or the TV) while talking says, “I care about what you are saying.”
3. Listen with Love.
Listening doesn’t always mean you agree. Every married person understands this. A divorced dad told me this week:
“Things got really bad and it turned into us just screaming at one another. What is really heartbreaking is that I still love her. I will always love her. How weird it is when I think about it. I love her, but my actions didn’t always show it.”
Learning to listen well with love is really about preparation, about telling yourself:
“I will not respond in a heated way. Instead, I will listen and walk through this in love. Because, I love this person, and I want this to be right, I want to respond right, and I want to listen right!
If you don’t have a date night on the calendar this month, make it happen. Go eat, dance, have coffee, or do what you love to do together. At some point during the night, talk about listening!
Be real and be vulnerable.
Ask the question, “How can I be a better listener for you?”
The more you work to do exactly this, the better the two of you will get at listening well in marriage!