The Art of Listening in Marriage
It may sound shocking to some, but there are no such things as “marriage problems;” there are only choice problems. When people come to me about issues in their marriage, I immediately know before asking any questions that bad choices have been made on the part of at least one person (probably both parties) somewhere back in time. Those choices took the couple on a path they were never meant to travel and they wound up believing the marriage isn’t going to work because at least one party has shifted out of “we” mode back to the “me” mode prior to marriage in order to care for their own needs. Folks, that is not love. I’ve said it for years and I’ll keep saying it: Love is not really an emotion. It isn’t part of the five basic emotions. The feelings of love are really happiness stimulated by someone else’s loving actions. Love is an action that follows up the words and makes them believable. Look at it in biblical terms: No matter what kind of relationship you are in, be it marriage, friendship, work relationship, … If you are not loving others, you are looking to your own needs above others, which at a very basic level, is sin. Love gives of itself; sin takes for itself — get it? So a couple coming to me with marriage issues, somewhere there has been a choice made to take care of one’s own needs instead of seeing to the other’s greater good because they are tired of feeling like the other partner isn’t seeing to their own greater good. At some level, both have made the decision of not loving but taking, since the other isn’t functioning as the biblical partner they vowed to be. It snowballs from there.
“Love gives of itself; sin takes for itself.”
Many times this breakdown is, or at least begins, in the area of communication. I don’t remember who wrote this many years ago but she hit the nail on the head. Listening is crucial in a marriage relationship and as a loving action. So, though author is unknown, I’d like to share this with you regarding marital communication,
“When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked. When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings. When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have jailed me, strange as that may seem. Listen! All I asked was that you listen, not talk or do — just hear me. Advice is cheap; 50 cents will get you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper. And I can do for myself. I’m not helpless. I may be discouraged and faltering, but not helpless. When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy. But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and can get about the business of understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling. And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice. Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them. So listen and just hear me. And, if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn and I’ll listen to you.”
Notice what proper methods of communication are: James 1.19-20 says this, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
More on marital communication next issue! Listen. Love. Love is the power of becoming!