Learning To Listen

Do you listen when your spouse is talking? There is an ancient Hebrew proverb that says, “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.” So many times we are re-loading our guns while our spouse is talking. We can’t wait until they finish so we can make our points. Are you trying to win an argument or build a marriage? You will never have a healthy marriage until you learn to listen. Listening means that you ask questions to make sure you heard correctly. “What I hear you saying is that you wish we could get a weekend away this month. Am I hearing you correctly?” “Well, it doesn’t have to be this month, but yes, I’d really like for us to get away.” Now you are learning to listen. It’s essential to healthy communication.

Positive Patterns Of Communication

All of us know couples who seem to have a genuine sense of “oneness”. Unfortunately, most of us know couples who seem unable to “get it together.” The major difference between those two types of couples is that one has developed positive patterns of communication while the other has not. One makes time for conversation, while the other, simply ‘lets things happen’. Verbal
conversation is the primary process by which we share life. You will never know what I’m thinking unless I tell you and you choose to listen. What’s so hard about that? The hardest part is making time to talk and listen. Why not schedule a daily conversation time, just as you schedule time for lunch? Typically, we do what we plan to do.

It is Worth Resolving the Issue

Question: My fiancé always checks out girls while he is with me. I feel like I am disappearing and feel very insulted. Should I break up the relationship?

Answer: Perhaps! It all depends on how he responds when you share your feelings with him. I assume you have shared your feelings. If not, you need to do so. He will not know that you feel insulted if you do not tell him. If he responds: “It’s no big deal. It’s just something I do. It doesn’t mean anything to me.” Then tell him that it is a big deal with you. Tell him that you cannot marry a man who has eyes for other women. If he tries to put you down, then tell him that you are not going to marry him without pre-marital counseling. Stick to that decision. Then, make sure this issue is raised in the counseling sessions. A counselor can help both of you discover what is appropriate and inappropriate. It is worth postponing the wedding date to resolve this issue. If you can’t get the problem solved, then my advice is to break off the engagement.

Don’t Ignore the Problem

Question: We haven’t even been married 2 years yet and my husband is telling his friends he wants a divorce after every fight. Do you think he means it? What should I do?

Answer: Yes, the thought of divorce is in his mind. No one likes conflicts that end in ‘fights’ or ‘arguments’. When things don’t get resolved, we begin to think: “Oh no, I married the wrong person.” Then follows the thoughts of divorce. Of course, divorce is not the answer. The answer is in learning how to resolve conflicts. All couples have conflicts. Some couples learn how to listen with a view to understanding each other, then looking for a solution. Other couples approach every conflict as an argument. They focus on winning the argument instead of solving the problem. In my book: Happily Ever After, I have a section on Solving Conflicts Without Arguing. I suggest you read it and discuss it together. If he is unwilling, then make an appointment with a counselor and invite him to go with you. If he refuses, then go alone. Bottom line? Don’t ignore the problem. Seek help.

Establishing A Daily ‘Sharing Time’

The scriptures indicate that in marriage the ‘two become one’. This does not mean that we lose our individuality, but it does mean that we share our lives with each other. The typical husband and wife spend many hours each day geographically separated from each other. Simply coming into the same house at the end of the day does not bring them together. “Becoming one” is the result of
many shared thoughts, feelings, activities, dreams, frustrations, joys, and sorrows. In short, it is the result of sharing life. Establishing a ‘daily sharing time’ is the best way I know to make this happen. It is as vital to the marriage as food is to the body.

Do You Have a Daily Quiet Time with God?

Do you have a daily quiet time with God? How about a daily quiet time with your spouse? Most of us believe that a daily quiet time with God keeps our relationship with God vital and genuine. I believe the same is true in the marital relationship. Couples who have an intimate marriage are those who stay connected. A daily sharing time with your spouse is an easy way to make that connection. So, what do you talk about in this ‘daily sharing time?” Here’s my suggestion: tell each other three things that happened in your life today and how you feel about them. If three seems overwhelming, then start with two or one, but set a time to share. Life is lived one day at a time and must be shared the same way.

Restoring Family Relationships

Question: Our son and daughter-in-law will not allow us to see the grandchildren. It stemmed from something my husband did last summer. He is not willing to apologize. What can I do?

Answer: That question makes me sad. I can hardly imagine having no contact with my grandchildren. I am empathetic with this wife. I don’t know what happened, but if an apology would lift the barrier and he is unwilling to apologize, he needs help. I know he is not likely to go for help. So, I suggest you go for help. Tell him something like this: “I love you too much to do nothing. I know that you do not want to deprive the grandchildren of their grandfather. So, If you are not willing to apologize, then I’m going to see a counselor (or a pastor) and try to find help. I want you to go with me, but if not, then I’m going alone.” Then do it. This kind of tough love, maybe what is needed to awaken him to reality. Life is too short to live with broken relationships. You might also give him my book: The Five Languages of Apology, which gives real-life illustrations of how an apology can restore relationships.

Second Marriages and Finding Answers

Question: I’m engaged to someone who has a child from a former marriage. It bothers me. Will I ever get over the mistakes he made when he was younger?

Answer: Probably not. This is one reason why second marriages are so difficult. I don’t mean you can’t learn to deal with it, but it will always be a factor. Until the child becomes an adult, your fiancé will likely have some contact with the mother of the child. This creates all kinds of emotions in you, him, and the child. It is a reality with which you must live. I’m not saying you should not marry him. I’m just saying you need to be realistic and decide how you are going to deal with this reality. Holidays, recitals, sporting events, graduations, and weddings are always more complicated in a second marriage. I suggest you talk with some of your friends who are in such marriages and ask how they have handled these issues. Also, pre-marital counseling would be a wise investment. Don’t ignore your concerns. They will not go away with time. Finding answers to these issues is one of the purposes of engagement.

What Can I Do to Help You?

Adults and youth alike are attracted to the young man who goes out of his way to serve others. True greatness is found in serving. No parents challenge their children to be like Hitler, while thousands challenge their children to be like Jesus. The hallmark of Jesus was service to others. Peter said of Him, “He went about doing good.” Would you like for that to be said of your children? It all begins at home. If your children hear you ask, “What can I do to help you today?” They will learn to ask the same question. As they see you experience the satisfaction of serving, they will follow your model. Service will become a way of life and your children will bless the world.

Do I Have An Attitude Of Service?

Did you wake up this morning and ask yourself: “How can I serve my spouse today?” If you did, you probably live in a healthy family. Nothing stimulates a positive family atmosphere like an attitude of service. And, if you have it, it is contagious. Your children will pick up on it and your spouse will begin to reciprocate. Everyone takes delight in serving. Jesus said, “Whoever will be great among you, let him be your servant.” Jesus set the example. We are His followers. Tonight, let your family report on ways in which they served others today. It will focus your family on what is important. Your family can impact the world for good, and it all begins with an attitude of service.