We were in college when we had on of our first communication problems. Little did we know it would be a picture of what was to come after we would get married, have kids, and try to find time to actually connect with one each other. I had called Ruth after work one night. I was in Indiana, she was in Michigan. I hadn’t yet bought a cell phone, so we were using what seems like an archaic form of communication today–a landline phone.
Midway through our conversation, a summer storm blew in. Like most storms, it started slowly and became more intense and more ominous the longer it lingered. Before long, our conversation became choppy because of static– lots of static. All we could hear of our conversation was a little snippet here and there.
As the lightning and thunder increased, our phone call became nothing but fragments, broken sentences, and interruptions. The interference was too much to carry on a meaningful conversation. So, a little frustrated and disappointed, we resigned ourselves to talking later.
That is a picture of what communication can often look like in marriage. Sometimes communicating with your spouse can be plain difficult. But when it comes to loving each other in marriage, listening to each other is essential. We cannot extend grace and bring life to our spouse if we don’t truly hear our spouse’s needs and concerns. We can hear the needs of our spouse more clearly if we focus on these three things:
Be a humble listener. Pride not only makes us blind, it can make us deaf too. Humility listens long before speaking. It enables us to hear and understand where our spouse is coming from. When we listen humbly, we are putting our spouse, not ourselves, at the center of a conversation.
Be an undistracted listener. While the ability to multitask is often impressive, when it comes to listening to your spouse, multitasking should be avoided. Life with kids in the house is busy and full of distractions. Listening well requires us to stop or slow down. Turn off the email. Put away the phone. Shut down the computer. Wait until the kids are in bed so that your spouse can be the focus of your undivided attention.
Be an inquisitive listener. An inquisitive listener is someone who not only comprehends what is being said but cares about what is being said. This doesn’t mean you love everything your spouse loves. It is unlikely for a wife to love football the way her husband does or for her husband to love Pinterest the way his wife does. It does mean you value what is important to your spouse and actively engage in listening to your spouse. Asking questions as you listen is a great way to show your interest in what your spouse values.
This article originally appeared on For The Family and was republished with permission.
Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, pastor, and author. Along with his, wife, Patrick is the creator of For the Family and the author of For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House.