In our “How Strong Is Your Marriage Quiz” couples frequently report that they spend a lot of time angry with each other. Often the husband reports that he is hurt and angry because his wife has been lashing out at him and he is not always certain why this is. Just as often the wife reports that she is hurt and angry because “he just doesn’t get it!” One of the first things I recommend to couples struggling with anger issues is that they need to work on improving their communication.
The most critical component of communication is actually to listen.
Most of us do fairly well when it comes to talking. Some people can even come up with charts, graphs and long lists of why they’re “right,” but they don’t listen worth a darn. Listening is, in fact, the most important part of communication in any relationship.
When a couple does learn to listen to each other, they can finally understand what is really going on with each other. From the above example, she may point out that he is working longer and longer hours at work and they don’t spend any time together alone anymore; that she has taken on more and more of the family chores by herself (despite her full-time job) and he hasn’t even noticed, and that when he finally does come home and she wants to talk about some of this, he brushes her off and either wants sex or just wants to sleep.
After thinking about this and really hearing her, he may explain that there have been multiple projects at work that have put him under a great deal of stress and he has been preoccupied with work a lot lately. At the same time, he might acknowledge that it is important for them to spend more time together and that he will carry his share of the family chores. Initially, he might be unsure what to do. His wife may believe she wants him to find another job. He disagrees. For the most part, he likes the position he has. He ultimately agrees to speak to his boss about taking on fewer big projects.
The ultimate resolution for them after listening and understanding each other is that they work out a schedule to spend some time together and work out ways in which they can get things done. His wife might even agree to carry a bit more than her share for a little longer while he wraps up his projects at work – now that she knows what is going on (and that it won’t go on forever ) and now that he is acknowledging her extra efforts!
The point here is until they stop to listen to each other, nothing will ever be understood and therefore resolved. The best way to remember and be motivated to listen is to ask ourselves with each interaction, with each disagreement, even with each silence, “Is this bringing me closer or further away from the person I love?” Truly listening and making an effort to understand, (even if you agree to disagree), will always bring you closer. It helps you and your partner feel safe, understood and connected.
Stop Anger: Have you and your spouse been arguing a lot lately? Have you taken the time to truly listen? Please comment below.
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart,