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5 Roadblocks to Being an Effective Listener in Your Marriage

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Did you know that there are certain roadblocks to being an effective listener, and, if you bring these roadblocks into your marriage, you may be headed for trouble over time?

It is true.

While engaging conversation is an important part of marriage, do you know what it takes to be a good listener? Rather, do you know what to avoid as a listener? I read all the time, and the things that always resonate with me the most is concepts of what NOT to do. Then, I can easily see if I am falling into places where I don’t belong.

Perhaps a post on listening skills will have a time and place here, but for now, let’s talk about things that can be a hindrance to being a good listener.

I love thinking about the concept that we are given to ears and one mouth for a reason. For someone who is a talker, like me, this is a great reminder!

Being a good listener is a learned skill and it is something that we much be intentional about it order to do well. As much as we have to implement good skills in listening, we also have to leave some unhealthy ones along the wayside.

We will be celebrating 20 years of marriage this fall. Over the years we have been to marriage conferences, in couples’ Bible studies, read books, and even been in marital counseling to learn a few things along the way. Over time, we have found some things that have worked, and some things that have not, too.

Here are five roadblocks to being an effective listener in your marriage.


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1. Looking for winners and losers

Approaching conversation with your spouse from the viewpoint that there needs to be a winner and a loser. There are no winners and losers on a team, and you and your spouse need to approach conversation remembering that you are a team. You are not enemies, and we are called to speak and listen in such a way that understanding is achieved from the viewpoint from you both. Both you and your spouse should walk away feeling as though you have been heard and understood.

2. Being defensive

There will almost always be an element of truth to what your spouse is saying. From their perspective, there always will be truth if they are sharing what they are thinking and feeling. If you immediately start defending yourself when your spouse is sharing their thoughts and feelings, you will NOT be listening since you will only be focused on disproving him.

3. Unhealthy communication habits learned in our family of origin

If you had unhealthy speaking and listening skills modeled for you while growing up, this will give you a warped sense of how to communicate and how to listen. Perhaps you had an authoritative parent, parents who frequently argued in an unhealthy way, or saw one or both parents withdraw as a means of communication, you will want to look for these patterns to continue in your own life and do away with them.

4. Carrying on a conversation when you know your spouse is not able to handle it

Bombarding him when he comes through the door, initiating conversation when you know he is hungry or tired is not being fair to your spouse. I like to tell my husband ahead of time that I have something I would like to talk about and ask him when it would be a good time. This has always worked well for us.

5. Talking about deep things in the midst of distractions

Kids, television, driving in traffic – these are all things that are major distractors for one or both of you. Deep, meaningful, and effective communication and listening needs to occur without distractions.

If you find yourself in this list of habits to avoid, don’t feel bad, I did, too. In fact, I still find myself here at times. We need to cover our past with grace and look forward to the future with new knowledge knowing that we will do our best to implement the things we learn as often as we can. Of course we need to realize that we won’t always get it right, either.

The last thing anyone needs is a list of unrealistic and lofty ideals that will only make us feel like a failure when we don’t live up to them.

Approach new information and goals knowing that you will fail at times, but celebrate the times that you do get it right!

Do you have good listening skills to share?

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