Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts. John Gottman, Eight Dates: A Plan for Making Love Last Forever[i]
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19 (The New Living Translation)
What Action would you take if you knew harm was coming towards your marriage? In this blog, I will show you how to dramatically lower damaging relationship stress with one Action. Once you grasp this simple process, you will begin to see dramatic, positive results in your marriage.
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We are emerging from an insane season as we begin to move away from the covid captivity cautiously! Yet, even now, we are facing the potential of the “Delta Variant.” This latest Covid alarm is causing even more anxiety and frustration.
Relationships are transitioning through a significant testing period right now. After being confined by the quarantine, many feel the stress of telework and space restrictions. The tension of togetherness, not to mention the fear of surviving financially, is having a cumulative impact on couples across the country.
How are you and your honey dealing with the accumulated stress from our collective covid captivity?
I’m serious! In the past several weeks, I’ve noticed a significant increase in couples seeking counseling, ultimately because of the craziness of the past 16 months.
The article is the first part of a two-part series, 5 Ways to Keep Covid Stress from Destroying Your Marriage.
The first and most important way to push back the stress of the past several months is to listen!
Listen – Conversation is all about intentionally engaging each other. There are two roles, one as a listener and one as a speaker. The speaker’s job is to communicate as clearly as possible. The other must listen or ask questions to understand better how their partner is feeling. The listener’s job is not to fix the other person’s problem or bring up their issues.
The key to making a dramatic improvement in your relationship is to engage!
Here is my quick guide to listening
L – Lean forward and look into your partner’s eyes. Don’t do a staredown. It is usual for people to look away from time to time while talking.
I – Use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements. For example, sometimes I don’t understand what my wife is trying to say, so I say something like this, “I could be wrong, and Lord knows I have been wrong before, but what I think I hear you saying is XYZ. Am I in the ballpark?” This lets your partner know that you are trying to understand but might need some help.
S – Shared Responsibility. Most of us work hard to find ways to blame our spouse, our family of origin, in-laws, or others for the problems in our relationships. However, the truth is that most people in relationships share the responsibility for when things go good or bad. A friend of mine used to say, “If you make a mess, take ownership of it, confess it, then clean your mess up.”
T – Tenacious. Don’t get stuck being wimpy or whiny. Lean into the relationship, unless it is abusive, and do what you can to make it better.
E – Encourage. The word means to give courage, hope, and confidence. Several years ago, Angie and I were going through a rough patch and went in for counseling. I will never forget what our counselor said during one of our sessions. “Angie, you and John, despite this rough time you are going through, still have a sense of humor and manage to encourage each other despite the challenges. That is part of what is going to get you through this season of your life.”
N – Negate the Negative. Some reports suggest that couples feel a negative vibe about their relationship 50% of the time. To combat this, make sure that you, [ii]Don’t’ dwell on or overthink about the negatives in your relationship. A negative mindset will ultimately destroy a relationship. Instead, be intentional about looking for positive things. Look for the good.
Going Deeper: How to Listen More Effectively
Going Deeper: How to Listen More Effectively in this dizzying digital age.[iii]
- Be interested, not interesting. In 1937 Dale Carnegie penned the classic book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” was spot on “You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get others to interested in you.” When you choose to give others time and attention by listening to them, you make them feel valued and appreciated.
- Begin by asking questions. Instead of “How’s it going?” Try something like, “What were some of the challenges you faced today?”
- Inquire about the other person’s dreams, goals, challenges, and vision of the future.
- Be intentional about finding common ground. People are drawn to others with whom they have things in common, so be focused on linking up with the similarities.
- Turn off all digital devices when talking to someone else.
- Be sure to give off verbal cues that you are tracking with the other person. Things like brief nods and short statements like “mmm-hmm” or “yeah’ let them know that you follow what they are saying.
- Occasionally, be sure you paraphrase the words of the person who is speaking.
- Maintain good eye contact.
- DO NOT be formulating a response while the other person is speaking.
- This final one is the most difficult. Release your agenda, let them speak until you feel like you know where they are coming from.
Additional Scriptural Resources on Listening
The fool is always right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. Proverbs 18:13
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32
Call to Action:
If you need help, give me a ring at 505-323-2011. Leave a message, and I will get back to you within 24 hours. In addition to being a Licensed Therapist, I am also a Relationship Coach who can work with you face to face or virtually. www.johnthurman.info
Be sure check our my Resilient Solutions Shortcast, How to Dramatically Lower Stress in Your Relationships.
[i] https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-digital-age-the-first-duty-of-love-is-to-listen/ Accessed 7 July 2021
[iii] https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-digital-age-the-first-duty-of-love-is-to-listen/. Accessed 24 July 2021