All great relationships have one thing in common – solid communication. It is the pillar that supports marriages over the long-term, as people grow and change, as outside factors affect the relationship, as the relationship itself changes… The one thing that holds it all together is real, genuine communication.
But what, then, does real communication consist of?
Of course we know that talking is big part of it, that we should have the courage to be open and honest with our spouses, to bring up concerns even if it might mean an uncomfortable conversation, to be willing to talk about touchy subjects or share our real feelings…
That, however, is only part of the equation. The other half is the real challenge, and the most important part: listening.
We often think of communicating as sharing our own thoughts and feelings – but true communication also depends on entirely on your ability to listen, understand, and absorb what your spouse has to say. Without an effective listener, what’s the point of sharing all that intimate, personal information?
Being a good listener is what makes any of that talking worthwhile. It’s the act of absorbing each other’s concerns, hopes, worries, and all of that stuff – and putting that information into action – that makes communicating so important.
Even in an argument, until one of you stops and listens to what the other person has to say, you don’t get anywhere. It’s listening that makes any and all communication work. No issue can ever be resolved if you don’t understand the problem. Similarly, no great positive changes can be made if you don’t know what your spouse wants!
Now, it’s important to remember that listening to your spouse with open ears and undivided attention is not the same as agreeing with everything they have to say. You can still hold your opinions, you can still disagree, but in the spirit of real, genuine communication, you should both be listening to each other’s opinions intently, and continuing to listen to the reasoning you each present for disagreeing.
You will both feel like your opinions, memories of a particular scenario, and ideas are “right.” And to you as an individual, they are – but unless you can calmly listen to why each other feels the way they do (and why they feel “in the right”), you won’t be able to understand what aligns with your own opinions and what doesn’t. Stopping that train of “I’m right” long enough to actually absorb your spouse’s position is essential to successfully and productively resolving conflict.
Another similar scenario is when people complain that their spouse consistently dredges up the same story, that ONE time that they felt wronged in some way…
This happens because each time it comes up, they feel like they aren’t being heard – it still hurts, and until they feel like you’ve really listened and understood how they were affected, it will continue to be a sore spot.
Even for things that aren’t problems – just talks about what to have for dinner, how each other’s day went, and so on, listening is still important. In fact, it can help bring you closer together. Just the presence and attention you give your spouse by listening – not necessarily because what they have to say is important, but because the person is important – shows how much you care!
Be patient with one another, no matter what the conversation is about. Listen to what your spouse has to say, and ask that they do the same in return. Simply making the time and effort to open your ears can bring you and your spouse so much closer together. You’ll be more in tune with how each other is feeling, what might be missing from the relationship, and what’s going well!
Make a point to communicate – and make sure you’re doing it effectively. Everything else hangs in the balance.