How Active Listening Can Deepen Your Marriage Learning to actively listen to your spouse will open up an entirely new window to love and living in the present. BY WENDY STRGAR
Deeply listening will reveal the emotions behind the words.
“ Active listening is an act of curiosity and requires full attention to the moment you are sharing with someone else.”
Being listened to, is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference. ~David Oxberg
The other day I went to Starbucks for a late afternoon cup of tea. As the door shut behind me, I overheard a young barista telling his co-worker in the back room how tired he was of being told what to do.
He didn’t see me at the counter until I said, "No one can really tell anybody else what to do. Although there are certainly people who think they can. I do it sometimes with my kids."
Telling people what to do never really works though, not nearly as well as listening closely and deeply to what they are saying. Active listening is when you are listening to learn about someone. On the flip side, there is defensive listening, in which you are just waiting for your turn to rebut what you heard.
The ancient poet Rumi described this listening heart as the "deep ear in his chest." It is a profoundly naïve and curious place that affirms the mystery of the people you love. It recognizes that even the people that we think we know best are separate from us and in the process of continuous change. Learning to listen to oneself in this way is equally revelatory. The essence of our deepest selves and the love we long to share with our spouse and others lives in the spaces between what we say and in the silence to which we rarely pay attention.
This is often where married couples and relatives get tripped up. We stop asking real questions or giving real answers. We live together half asleep and stop wondering about the other person’s dreams or our own. In its place, our communications degenerate to a defended listening, filled with fear and uneasy silence. No one feels heard. Healing this place by bringing an open-hearted curiosity to listening by offering your present and unconditional attention is a profoundly loving act. It is the most powerful way in which we can bear witness to our love. When we can stop doing everything else and focus our full attention on the person across from you, then you are truly living in the present.
In part, this requires training our mind to slow down to the speed of sound. This is much slower than the speed of light, which we process through our eyes and is normally how we live our fast-paced lives. Listening not only for who someone is, but what they are feeling behind their words requires the heart’s wisdom as much as the mind’s knowing. You can’t slow down enough to really hear when you are multitasking, texting or even making dinner. Active listening is an act of curiosity and requires full attention to the moment you are sharing with someone else.
The more you practice active listening, the more apparent it becomes that words don’t really describe things nearly as well as they describe our relationship to them. This is where misunderstanding comes from. In our rush to communicate we often hear the words, but not the heart of what is being said. Slowing down and paying full attention to the people you love gives you the chance to heal and connect in a way that mere speaking cannot.
Cultivating this curious listening in your marriage and other close relationships is one of the most powerful ways to transform it and add a place of grace between the both of you—which allows both partners the space to unfold and know themselves. It will surprise you how quickly and completely relationships can heal within the reciprocity that occurs when you step inside another’s experience completely. Judgment is replaced with empathy and the experience unifies the speaker and the listener in such a way that both people walk away somehow enlarged and expanded. Connecting our ears to our hearts is an act of love. Start listening.
Wendy Strgar is the founder of GoodCleanLove.com, which provides products and advice for sustainable love. If you have questions about products or toys send them in and Wendy will be happy to share her knowledge. When visiting the website, use coupon code NEWSITE08, to enjoy a new year 15 percent discount.