Within all of us, there is an innate need to feel heard. When we feel heard, we feel valued. When we do not feel heard, we feel ignored, discounted, and disrespected. This is true of all relationships, and especially true in marriage.
The problem for most, however, is the false belief that if someone does not agree with me, they have not heard me. When someone cultivates that erroneous thinking, he/she will go to one of two extremes. On the one side, you will repeat the same thing over and over, believing your mate is simply choosing to ignore you. Or you might attempt to present your beliefs from various angles (though usually it is just rehashing the exact same thing). Some immediately divert to yelling. (I’ve never understood why anyone would believe their spouse would say, “You know, when you were speaking quietly and respectfully I thought you were wrong, but not that your screaming at me, I can see how right you are.”) Whatever the method, it becomes an endless tirade of sameness as communication degrades into questioning the other person’s love, or his/her intelligence (after all wouldn’t an intelligent person agree with me?), or his/her spiritual nature.
On the other extreme, a person may shut down communication if his/her spouse disagrees. “Why continue talking if my mate refuses to listen,” is a common thought process. Once communication is shut down, isolation grows deeper and deeper, and animosity and hard-heartedness toward one’s mate increases.
Regardless of the response, communication is destroyed. Blame, anger, disappointment, and other negative feelings quickly surfaces. If you’re goal in communication is to make sure that your spouse believes and understands everything exactly as you do, then you are not participating in a marriage relationship—you are simply seeking to control another individual.
So what do we do? Even in disagreement, lovingly, gently, and respectfully acknowledge that you really, truly have heard your mate and you are aware of his/her feelings and emotions. Accept that you are not always right, and even if you are right, your mate may need to come to the same place in a different way or at a different time. Recognize that you have changed over time—you have not always believed everything you now believe or thought about everything exactly like you think now. And most significantly, reaffirm that your love for your spouse and your commitment to the marriage. Pray together and seek Christ’s will and especially Christ’s peace in your life. Remember, you are one flesh, so listen and respond to your mate in the same way you would want someone to listen to and respond to you—EVEN IN DISAGREEMENT.
Everybody wants to be heard. Actively listening to and hearing your mate is critical to a healthy marriage. But don’t shut your mate out just because he/she doesn’t always see everything exactly like you do. God made us unique for a reason. Use you and your mate’s uniqueness to help each other grow and mature. You might not agree with me, but I’m thankful that you listened.
What does God want from my marriage?
A Weekend Marriage Enrichment Retreat
Friday-Sunday, March 7-9, 2014
Edgewater at the Aquarium Hotel and Conference Center
Limited to 30 couples
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info
Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_7512695_young-couple-having-a-domestic-fight-isolated-on-white-background.html'>xalanx / 123RF Stock Photo</a>