[image by ky_olsen]

One of the things that was sort of a wake up call for me when I got married were the number of times that I thought I was really listening to my wife, but she would retort with “you aren’t listening to me.”

Inside, my pride was telling me that she didn’t know what she was talking about. I mean, come on. I was a pastor and listened to people for a living (pastors can sometimes been notoriously bad listeners). And I was training to become a therapist…who listens more than a therapist?  And after all, were all those people wrong who would tell me I was a great listener?  That’s what I was thinking inside my head. And of course those thoughts stayed inside my head, as should many thoughts that came racing across my brain during arguments with my wife.

But as time goes on I am beginning to see that what we often see as listening is not really listening at all. We assume because we hear, that therefore we have truly listened. But hearing and listening are not the same thing as most of you can attest to.

The longer I’m married, the more people I counsel, and the more material I read, I am convicted that we are a society that is not very good at listening to one another.  In fact, we rarely take time to listen to ourselves, instead choosing to fill up the space with noise to keep us from having to truly reflect on what is going on inside of us.  This inability to listen to ourselves doesn’t stop with us, but carries over into our most important relationships.

Nothing feels as great as when you feel like someone has truly listened.  And in all honesty I’m not always very good at it.  Some days are better than others, while some days are horrific.  The worst thing about it is that those we most love often get shortchanged because we think they will understand, therefore we take them for granted.  I get paid to do therapy and to do ministry, therefore I work really hard to listen to those people who come my way.

But often when I go home I equate that to being off the clock, not working.  Failing to realize that the most important job I will ever have takes place at home.  It takes place in the interactions with my daughter and my wife.

So why do I get lazy at home when it comes to listening?  Why do I not work as hard to listen to those who are the most important to me?

Maybe this is just me, and you don’t have this struggle.  But if you do, I would love to hear from you.

Here are a few things that I have been trying and want to get better at when it comes to listening to my wife:

  1. Stop everything I’m doing when we are talking (close computer; turn off TV; put down magazine; turn off cell phone, etc.)
  2. Mentally prepare myself to hear, rather than prepare to respond.  You can’t listen if you are busy formulating a response.
  3. Don’t try and fix anything….unless….and I mean, UNLESS you are asked for a solution.  Even then, proceed with caution.
  4. Picking up on #3; most listening is never about solving anything…it’s just about listening…being present in conversation.

These are some things that I have tried, and will continue to work on….my whole life.

What do you do to be a better listener to your spouse?