Imagine this…you and your spouse arrive home after a long day and try to make an emotional connection. Soon you hear about frustrations at work or at home, the challenges of the boss and parenting, and all the activities that need to be attended this week. Somewhere in the midst of your whirlwind conversation, you slowly lose concentration and begin to tune out. You look down at your phone. You let your mind wander to what’s on the screen. You might think your spouse doesn’t notice, but he or she does. And when we lose eye contact and stop verbally engaging, our spouses quickly get the feeling that we don’t care, and there’s something more important on our minds.
Being a good listener is something we all struggle with, because generally speaking, husbands like rapid fire bullet points…while wives like to mine the intricate emotional details. This makes communication challenging enough. So when we fail to listen well to our spouses, we set ourselves up to experience some serious consequences. Here are four…
1. Our spouses can become distant when we don’t carefully listen to one another’s thoughts and feelings. Our spouses will begin to feel unimportant and rejected. If this becomes a regular habit, our partners will shut down and stop sharing so they don’t feel the pain of rejection anymore.
2. Our spouses can become indifferent. Another way spouses respond to not being heard is to become indifferent. If your spouse doesn’t expect you to listen, he or she will start believing that you don’t care and will stop expecting anything from you. This is critically dangerous because it amplifies your spouse’s feelings of emotional abandonment from us and their contempt for us.
3. Our spouses can lose their desire for all intimacies. Once our spouses shut down and become indifferent, they quickly lose their desire for all aspect of intimacy with us. When our mates lower their expectations about verbally connecting with us, they will ultimately diminish their expectations regarding all other aspects of your relationship. Our unwillingness or inability to connect emotionally will lead to a lack of physical desire in their relationship as well, which leads to the devastating last consequence.
4. Our spouses can shift their focus to another relationship and run. When spouses don’t feel connected to us, they will ultimately seek out connecting with others who are willing to bond with them when they aren’t receiving affirmation from us. They will turn to others to fill that need. This may mean they share more of what’s going on in their lives with their friends or coworkers instead of you. Or this may mean that they look for reasons to stay away from home and spend time with those who are willing and eager to listen. When we stop listening to our spouses, we’re setting the stage for an emotional affair.
So how do we keep those damaging consequences out of our marriages? Stay engaged. Keep your eyes focused on your spouse. Give him or her some verbal and visual affirmation that you’re paying attention. Say back to them what you hear them say and how you think they’re feeling. Move closer to your spouse physically to help you show them that you do want to hear what they have to say. Work hard to become a better listener. It will make you a better spouse and ultimately give you a better marriage.