Not feeling heard — genuinely, deeply heard — is one of the primary reasons couples stop talking, carry resentment, and eventually drift apart.
It should come as no surprise that therapists teach and model active listening. It’s foundational to a client’s safety and progress. And in a marriage retreat led by a husband-and-wife team, couples have the unique opportunity to learn this skill while observing it in use. When therapists are actively listening to their clients and one another, effective communication techniques are both taught and learned in an immersion-based way.
Listen without being defensive.
Defensiveness is the go-to reaction for many couples. Most people feel defensive when they feel under attack, whether real or perceived.
Your commitment to listening is to step into your spouse’s heart and hear it — not only in words spoken but also in the feeling content evoked — and unmask the emotion that lies beneath the words.
Try to inhale and exhale gently to relieve any rising tension. Remember that you are listening to your partner’s experience of an event or situation and it will likely differ from yours. Listen like a “detective,” and seek to love your partner more deeply by learning things that might be difficult or painful for them to share. (Hopefully, your spouse will be using ‘I’ statements and doing his/her part, too.)
6. Share little experiences.
Learning how to communicate more with your spouse can be as simple as sharing more seemingly insignificant experiences. In the same way that small talk builds a conversation pattern, small experiences create a communication pattern. And you don’t always need words to make them happen.
Make it a habit to touch as you pass in a room. Wink at one another when together in a group. Make fun rituals of daily routines. Save enough snow after shoveling to have a snowball fight on your way into the house. Dance to your favorite playlist from your dating days while you cook dinner together.
Make it up as you go along and enjoy one another. You are building a community of two, history, and goodwill. The soul of your relationship is taking notes.
Like anything worthwhile in life, healthy communication takes practice. By focusing on how to communicate more with your spouse, you inevitably learn how to communicate more effectively in a way that deepens your connection, too.
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