Listening is an art.
Unfortunately, it is an art that most people haven’t perfected. In this article we list our top 14 tips on how to listen to your spouse.
This topic is one of the searched, questioned, and talk about subjects on relationship issues.
I hear it a lot:
My husband doesn’t listen to my needs!
My husband refuses to talk about problems.
Why doesn’t my husband listen to me.
My husband never hears what I have to say
But it doesn’t just fall on one side of the coin. Husband
My wife never apologizes for anything.
My wife is never happy about anything I do.
My wife never compliments me.
This list goes on and on.
My Wife Doesn’t Listen To My Needs
Not long ago I got a call from a man I hadn’t seen in several years.
His call was alarming. After sharing several heart-breaking stories of conflict and disconnection with his wife, he sighed and said, ‘she just doesn’t listen to my needs.’
The sword cuts both ways in marriage. It’s not a male or female problem. It’s a human problem.
So what can we do to reconnect. It begins with listening.
Here’s 14 tips on how to listen better.
Tip #1: Stop Trying To Fix Your Spouse
We all do it. Regardless of gender.
Men are accused of this more than women.
Perhaps it’s the drive to make sure everything is okay. Whatever the reason, trying to fix our spouse is usually the wrong move. More times than not people just want to be heard.
Tip #2: Ask, “Is There Something I Can Do To Help?”
Just the offer is often enough.
Remember, we are not trying to fix. So we wait until THEY tell us what they want us to do.
It may be nothing.
Or it may be something specific you would have never guessed.
Either way. We are allowing them to dictate the conversation and what is done next. After all, it is their situation. So, let them lead on this.
Tip #3: Offer To Pray For Them
Praying with our spouse should be high priority.
Mark Merrill says praying together not only encourages us to be vulnerable, it increases trust which affects our level of intimacy with our spouse.
“Praying together helps you show and receive trust that strengthens the bonds of intimacy in your relationship.”
Mahlet Endale is a psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator at Emory University. After studying faith for some time she concludes:
While everyone’s faith journey is different, [she] came away convinced that religious and meditative practices have a positive impact on one’s sense of well being. She notes that regardless of religion, faith or beliefs, researchers have noted countless benefits.
According to Endale, studies show that religious faith fosters social connections and helps give people a sense of purpose in the world. Studies also show that a sense of hope that is created through faith improves one’s mental well being, which is correlated with better physical health as well.
Praying with our spouse increases on connection and builds bridges instead of walls in our relationship.
Tip #4: Touch Them Gently and Validate Their Feelings
There is tremendous power in physical touch. LINK TO ARTICLE
I’ve talked about disconnecting in order to connect before. LINK
We live in a culture that is ‘touch deprived.’
Tiffany Field has studied touch for more than 40 years. Her team has discovered some incredible information about what physical touch does for us.
The interesting thing she notes is that we are losing that connection because we don’t touch. We are a culture obsessed with social media.
“I think social media has been really detrimental to touch. Being on your phone is distancing people physically from each other. It used to be in airports, you’d see people hugging and napping on each other. Now they’re just not touching.”
Tip #5: Pay Attention
Maybe this should have been first.
Paying attention means we turn off all distractions and focus on what is being communicated. LINK TO MR ROGERS ARTICLE
Don’t multitask. Stop what you are doing and give your undivided attention.
There are few things more irritating (and hurtful) than multitasking while someone is pouring out their heart to you.
Because my wife and I both work from home, we try to schedule connection times when we turn off everything else (television, social media, chores, etc) and talk about what’s happening in our world.
As you can imagine, working from home can make you feel like you are always on the job. This can interfere with the way we connect. I tend to work a lot. I enjoy what I do, so I can easily get consumed in a project.If you have two things going on in your head, neither one of them is getting the attention they deserve. Click To Tweet
It’s important that I turn my projects off, so I can tune in to my wife.
If you have two things going on in your head, neither one of them is getting the attention they deserve.
So learn how to disconnect from one thing and connect to the right thing.
Tip #6: See If You Detect A ‘Bid’ For Attention, Affirmation or Connection.
This is a concept coined by John Gottman.
Bids are signals – small, non-verbal ques – we send our spouse in an attempt for attention. Not selfish, ego-driven attention. Rather the attention that says ‘I matter to you.’
This video explains the idea very well.
Learn how to pay attention to the bids your spouse makes.
I believe that this one factor alone can help you create the marriage you’ve always longed for.
Tip #7: Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is vital for connection. We bond when we look deep into one another’s eyes.
Looking into our partners eyes does four main things (according to study by Matias BAltazar Baltazar)
1) It triggers more self-awareness in us.
In other words, we become more ‘present’ with our own feelings and emotions.
2) It uses an incredible amount of brain power.
It’s hard to concentrate on something else when we stare into someone’s eyes.
It impairs our ability to concentrate on ‘other things’ which helps us concentrate on our spouse.
3) It increases the intensity of emotions when we gaze into someone’s eyes.
4) It is a measure of sincerity.
We believe people are less sincere if they fail to make eye contact.When we make eye contact with our spouse as they share with us, we validate THEIR feelings, beliefs and perspective, and we demonstrate OUR genuine interest. Click To Tweet
When we make eye contact with our spouse as they share with us, we validate THEIR feelings, beliefs and perspective, and we demonstrate OUR genuine interest.
Tip #8: Stop Talking
This should be a given, right? After all, you can’t talk and listen at the same time.
Some may argue. But at best you are half listening.
One of the biggest challenges we must overcome to be a better listener is stop thinking about what YOU want to say, and focus on what they ARE saying.
Bottom line: Don’t interrupt. Let them speak what is on their heart.
You will have your turn.
Problems arise when we speak before we know what the real issue or problem is. We assume we already know so we formulate our response before our spouse has time to tell us their perspective.Communication problems arise when we speak before we know what the real issue or problem is. Click To Tweet
This creates a vicious cycle of misunderstanding.
Tip #9: Repeat Back What You Have Heard
This is not just a psychological ‘mirroring technique’ to disarm your opponent (although it does have that affect).
Don’t use this as a manipulation tool.
The goal to is repeat back to your spouse what you understand them to say so they can either confirm or correct what you understand.
When we say it back to them, we can clarify in our own mind what we understand as well as let them know we are truly listening.
Reality is, what we hear (understand) is often light years away from is actually being said.
Repeat things back to our spouse is a way to get it straight in our own mind, AND get clarification from our spouse.
Tip #10: Ask If You Understood Correctly
A follow up to repeating back to your spouse what you understood is to simply ask if you ‘got it’ right?
Sometimes we complicate things too much. We try to guess what each other needs, but this seldom works. To better communicate ask if what you ‘heard’ is what they meant to ‘say.’
It really isn’t more complicated than that.
If you heard wrong, ask for clarification.
This back and forth dialog will eventually lead to connection if we keep at it. And as long as it is done in the spirit of love.
Tip #11: Practice Empathy
Empathy is the ability (practice) of truly looking at the situation from the other persons perspective.
So, how to actually do this?
1) Watch your body language.
Are you sending a signal that you think what your spouse is saying is dumb, stupid or irrelevant?
Non-verbal signals are often more significant than what is actually said.
2) Think: How would I feel if this happened to me?
Really put yourself in their shoes.
3) Care. Really care what’s going on in your partners life.
Empathy can connect us on a deep emotional level. It is the natural by-product of caring about our spouse.
Tip #12: Find Common Ground
Unfortunately, many couples seek places of disagreement during an argument or discussion. Thins only increases the distance between them.
Instead, try finding places of agreement. Seek to discover what you have in common.Instead, try finding places of agreement. Seek to discover what you have in common. Click To Tweet
Unity begins when we seek out the common ground rather than focus on the differences.
Remember, a marriage is made up of two uniquely different people. Our uniqueness, the thing that makes us different, shouldn’t be something despised. It should be something honored.
Tip #13: Be Quick to Apologize
If you have misunderstood, be the first to apologize so you can move forward.
It is adolescent to hold a grudge and wait for them to make a move.
Remember, we are adults.
Too often I talk with couples who are stonewalling over silly things. They are waiting for the other person to ‘make the move’ and apologize.
Not only is this silly; it will build a longer bridge to cross.
Your marriage matters. Treat it with respect and commit to move the relationship forward.
Tip #14: Get Help
If you find yourself at a standoff and can’t seem to get past an issue, get help.
If you are struggling in your relationship and you’ve tried all the above but just aren’t getting anywhere, maybe it’s time to get professional help.
We’ve vetted several programs we believe are truly helpful. For couples in serious marital conflict I suggest Dr. Lee Baucom’s program called ‘Save the Marriage System.’
He says there are eight levels of marriage conflict. What works on one level doesn’t work on another. It’s vital to know where you are (what level of conflict you are in) so you can know what to do at the right time.
Full disclosure: I am a partner and affiliate of Dr. Baucom’s program. I promote it because I believe in it. You can find out more about our partnerships here LINK.
Wrapping It Up
Learning how to listen to your spouse is important if we want to connect and cultivate a great marriage.
Here’s our Top 14 Tips again:
- Stop Trying to Fix Your Spouse
- Ask, ‘Is There Something I Can Do To Help?’
- Offer To Pray For Them
- Touch Them Gently and Validate Their Feelings
- Pay Attention
- See If You Detect A Bid For Attention, Affirmation or Connection
- Make Eye Contact
- Stop Talking
- Repeat Back What You Have Heard
- Ask If You Understood Correctly
- Practice Empathy
- Find Common Ground
- Be Quick To Apologize
- Get Help
Now, it’s your turn.
Which one of these do you struggle with the most?
What other tips help you be a better listener for your spouse?
Leave a comment below.