Be a Good Listener with Your Spouse

Because listening is the language of love, an affirming marriage relationship has a lot more listening than lecturing. I think God made two ears and one tongue for a reason. I find with Cathy that it is harder for me to suspend judgment and simply listen to her the way I would listen to a friend. Too often I want to interrupt her and try to fix her problem, or preach at her or lecture her. Yet for most of us, we don’t have that same tendency when dealing with a friend. James, the Lord’s brother, gave some very good advice: “Everyone should be quick to listen [and] slow to speak” (James 1:19). Pure and simple, that’s good communication counsel.

I remember a time when Cathy was telling me about a problem she was having with one of our kids. I could see it was going to be a long, drawn-out conversation, and in my mind, I had a simple solution to the problem. So I kept interrupting her.

Not one to hold things back, Cathy finally blurted out, “Do you realize that interrupting me is rude? I know you wouldn’t do it in a counseling session, so take a few minutes and listen to my whole story. I want your comments… but not before I give you the story!” She was right. She needed me to validate her by taking the time to listen.

Usually, after I watch a couple interacting with each other for only a short time I can tell what kind of a listener each person is and how they communicate. Think about when you last were with a friend who sat and really listened to you as you poured out your story. How did you feel? You probably felt loved and cared for. One of my good friends is one of the best listeners I have ever known. I am always so drawn to being with him. Because he is a good listener, the attitude that comes across to me is “I care about you.” Can your spouse say the same about you?

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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