When your husband came to you with a complaint, what if you responded (very genuinely), "Tell me more."
Then after he shared, you asked, "Is there anything else?"
And then, you said (again with sincerity), "Thank you."
What if you didn't take it personally, but thought, "Hmm. This is what he is really experiencing and thinking."
And then you actively listened.
I remember a hard time in our marriage when I had to be very intentional to bite my tongue, breath deeply and just listen. That was hard! My pride wanted to lash out. But I had done that before and it got us nowhere.
So I shut my mouth. Took my breaths. And I channeled curiosity.
I did not agree with everything said, but I did not argue. I listened as though it were not about me. And when I did that, I finally understood his point of view. I didn't make myself wrong, but I did not have to be right.
The funny thing is, this place where I felt vulnerable and resistant, it was a vortex in our relationship where I would learn to love more deeply. Following this encounter where I was very intentional to swallow my pride is the place we started coming out of a valley we had been in for quite a while.
What if I had stayed stuck in my pride?
When I quit taking the bait, I could see my husband was hurting.
By listening to him and not taking it personally, Rich was able to hear himself and all his pent up emotion. Underneath his complaints about me, was an abyss of grief and sadness.
Over the years he had lost his dad, his mom, and 42-year-old sister. But he always kept going, never indulging in his grief. And yet, working full time as a psychologist serving chronic and traumatic cases, his own pain was left unattended, spilling over into aggression that was very uncharacteristic of him.
In everyday life, all his loss was not on the forefront. Yet it was sitting there like rocks in his shoe.
I am so grateful that day I stopped defending myself and getting caught up in stupid arguments.
We don't have to be right.
When we remove negative emotion from feedback and simply listen, we can ask, "How can this help me?" or "What is he feeling or needing?"
In my own marriage and working with couples for nearly 20 years, I have always found that it is in unwanted and broken places that there exists the potential for the greatest emotional intimacy. When we quit defending our-self and start loving, we can see what is right before us.
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Where we are in life proves what we are thinking. When we change our perspective, we can change our lives and our relationships.