Several weeks ago, I started a series on being PROACTIVE, not REACTIVE. I emphasized the importance of not just stopping the Crazy Cycle of conflict in our marriages, but learning how to be proactive by getting on the Energizing Cycle. To do this, I’ve been introducing some specific things husbands and wives can do to proactively stay energized in their marriage.
Before continuing, may I gently encourage each of you to pay attention to what YOU can do rather than what your spouse is NOT doing? We all need to remember that pointing the finger of blame NEVER works. The mature one moves first, right? If you truly want to move your marriage forward, continually ask yourself what you can do, not what your spouse should be doing.
This week let’s focus on something we can all improve on – learning to listen more effectively! Let’s explore how understanding connects with insight when it comes to listening.
If a husband chooses to listen to his wife’s concerns and problems in an understanding way, she will be motivated to appreciate his insights. And as a wife listens to her husband’s insights, views and opinions, he will be motivated to listen to her with understanding instead of immediately trying to fix her problem.
I get many letters that affirm this is really a no-brainer. One husband found himself quickly riding the Crazy Cycle when he responded to his wife’s problems and hurts with solutions and advice. He had the best intentions, but his wife lashed out, asking him not to preach to her or try to fix her. He explains:
I would then be frustrated, thinking, “What did I do? This is the same advice I would give anyone who comes to me for help. Why is she trashing it?” Thus, she did not feel loved and I did not feel respected.
Now I understand the need to listen and literally ask the question: “Do you need solutions or do you need me to just listen?” It has opened up communication and strengthened the bonds between us.
A wife wrote to confess that she had planned their daughter’s wedding and left her husband out of the loop about the expenses, which were considerable. He became angry and started complaining that everyone just ignored what he might think and that, basically, he got no respect. Instead of lashing back about this being their only daughter and she deserved a nice wedding, his wife remembered what she’d recently learned about respect. She chose to look at the situation from his standpoint. She apologized and admitted she was wrong in the way she had been handling the plans. She continues:
We talked over the wedding budget and agreed on how much we would contribute to it. He settled right down and we were able to discuss the expenses clearly and rationally…In the past I would try to get him to settle down by telling him I loved him, and he would say, “I know that! But you take me for granted!” He doesn’t use the respect word, but he does use the taken for granted phrase, which is the same thing. I never understood why telling him of my love wasn’t enough. Now we work together as a team on our problems.
Husbands, do you need to listen with understanding, rather than trying to fix your wife’s problems?
Wives, do you need to solicit and listen to your husband’s insights, views, and opinions before marching ahead with your plans?
Excerpts taken from The Language of Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.