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Unlock a Flourishing Marriage: The Power of Listening (2 of 2)

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“One of the most basic things we can do to show others love is to listen to them. But listening requires more than just keeping quiet. It means focusing our attention on the person who is speaking and trying to understand their perspective, even if we don’t agree with it.” Rick Warren

Read part one of Unlock a Flourishing Marriage: The Power of Listening 

The tension had been building for a while as they had trouble finding common ground. James and Sophia were arguing about how to discipline their children. James believed in using strict punishments, while Sophia preferred a gentler approach.

On this particular evening, Sophia had been trying to explain her approach, but James felt like she wasn’t taking his concerns seriously. He believed their children needed clear boundaries and consequences for their actions, and he didn’t feel like Sophia’s approach was effective. On the other hand, Sophia felt that James’ approach was too harsh and didn’t consider their children’s emotional needs. She wanted to discipline their children in a firm but also compassionate and nurturing way.

As their argument intensified, frustration knotted up inside James. He wanted Sophia to see things his way and didn’t understand why she couldn’t agree with him.

Sophia blinked rapidly, fighting back tears as she wrapped her arms around herself. ‘You don’t trust me to make good decisions for our kids, do you?’ she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.”

Feeling like the conversation was going nowhere, James asserted his need for a break and bolted through the back door. With frustration escalating and anger simmering beneath his skin, he needed to find something to do to calm down physically.

So, James grabbed hedge clippers and gave his already well-pruned bushes an unnecessary trim. Joshua, James’ neighbor, was outside when he heard James come out and observed that he was visibly upset as he attacked the bushes before him. “Good evening, neighbor,” Joshua said with a calm, friendly smile. “Seems like you’re having a rough day. Anything I can do to help?”

James responded, “You can say that again; you know how frustrating women can be. I just got into a huge argument with my wife about how we should handle our son’s behavior issues. She thinks I’m too tough on him, and I think she’s too soft.”

Joshua listened and only replied with an “Ah, I see.”

“We just can’t seem to agree on anything,” said James as he continued to assault his bushes viciously.

“Parenting can be challenging, especially when it comes to discipline.” Joshua calmly responds, looking over the fence, “But from observation, it usually goes a bit smoother when we maintain a calm and open-minded attitude when discussing these matters with your spouse.”

Shaking his head, James declares, “I know, I know.” “But it’s just so frustrating, and it’s hard to stay calm when I feel like she’s undermining my authority as a father. We both have ideas about discipline and can’t find any common ground.”

“James, you see that bush you’re trimming there?” Joshua points to the bush that James was decimating, “If you keep going at it the way you are now, you’re not going to have much of a bush left by the end of the day. Here, Think of it like this. When you plant a tree, you must give it room to grow. You can’t constantly prune it, or you will stifle its growth, which will never flourish. The same can be said for your relationship with Sophia. If you both keep cutting each other down without really listening to one another, you won’t be able to grow together.”

“Hmm,” James thinks aloud, “I never thought of it like that.”

Joshua stepped away momentarily and picked up a hammer from his workbench. “Let me show you something, James.” He held the hammer and said, “This is like your words. When used constructively, it can build something strong and lasting. But when used destructively, it can cause a lot of damage. It’s up to you on how you decide to use it.”

James observed as Joshua delivered a forceful swing to a block of wood with the hammer. “You see how the wood breaks when I hit it too hard?” Joshua asked.

“I do. I see your point,” James acknowledged.

“That’s what can happen when we use our words as weapons. We can damage our relationships and hurt the people we care about. But if we use our words constructively, like this,” Joshua said as he gently tapped the wood block with the hammer, “we can build something strong and lasting. It just takes patience, understanding, and a willingness to listen to each other.”

James looked at Joshua and then down at the hedge clippers. He realized he had been using them as a weapon, just like he had used his words with Sophia. He put the clippers down and took a deep breath. “So, what should I do?”

Joshua put the hammer down and said, “First, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you and Sophia are on the same team. You both want what’s best for your son. Second, listen to her perspective without interrupting or becoming defensive. And third, respond calmly and thoughtfully. Building a strong and lasting relationship with your spouse is like building a house. It takes time, effort, and the right tools. But you can create something beautiful and enduring with patience and perseverance.”

James gave a quiet hum of agreement. As he looked back at the house, he told himself, “Okay, first things first. I’ve got to make this right.” He knew that he needed to ask for forgiveness before they could even begin to find common ground on the issue of discipline. But this time, the conversation is going to be different. This time he’s going to be different.

James found Sophia in the living room with her gaze still watery. He joined her on the couch and reached for her hands as he apologized, “I was wrong. I blew it and lost control…” With Joshua’s wisdom ringing in his ears, James made every effort to listen, not just to hear his wife, but to listen to her. It was a long night, but it ended on a much better note than it had begun. The hedge clippers, now untouched in the backyard, were a stark reminder of how destructive anger could be and the importance of using the right tools to build rather than destroy.

Exploring Effective Listening: Enhancing Communication in Relationships

Have you ever found yourself in a situation similar to James and Sophia’s? Do you struggle to understand your partner’s viewpoint or find common ground? It’s common in relationships to have disagreements, especially on topics as important as child discipline. It becomes crucial to listen effectively and empathetically, turning towards each other rather than away.

Now, let’s focus on developing better listening skills and ask ourselves, “How do I become a better listener?” Let’s dive deeper into this subject and discover practical ways to enhance your listening skills, ultimately improving your relationship.

Harnessing Active and Reflective Listening: Key to Effective Communication

Active and reflective listening are two critical components of effective communication, particularly in marriage. They involve more than just hearing your partner’s words; they require a conscious effort to understand your partner’s thoughts, feelings, and perspectives.

Active Listening

Active listening involves entirely focusing on your partner, avoiding distractions, and showing that you’re engaged in the conversation. It’s about being present and demonstrating through your body language and responses that you’re genuinely interested in what your partner is saying.

Active listening requires patience, open-mindedness, and empathy. It’s about allowing your partner to express themselves without interruption, even if you don’t necessarily agree with what they’re saying. It’s about setting aside your thoughts and feelings to immerse yourself in your partner’s world fully.

Here are some tips for practicing active listening:

  • Maintain eye contact: This shows your partner that you’re focused on them and interested in what they say.
  • Avoid distractions: Put away your phone, turn off the TV, and create a quiet, comfortable environment for conversation.
  • Show empathy: Try to understand your partner’s feelings and perspectives, even if they differ from yours.
  • Use affirming body language: Nodding, leaning in, and using open body language can show your partner you’re engaged in the conversation.

Reflective Listening: Echoing and Understanding

On the other hand, reflective listening involves echoing back what your partner has said to ensure you’ve understood them correctly. This can include paraphrasing their words, asking clarifying questions, or summarizing the main points of the conversation.

Reflective listening is a powerful tool for validating your partner’s feelings and experiences. It shows your partner that you’re not just hearing their words but genuinely understanding their thoughts and feelings.

Here are some strategies for practicing reflective listening:

  • Paraphrase: After your partner has finished speaking, try paraphrasing what they’ve said in your own words. This shows that you’ve understood their message and allows them to clarify if you’ve misunderstood anything.
  • Ask clarifying questions: If you’re unsure about what your partner means, don’t hesitate to ask them to clarify. This shows that you’re actively trying to understand their perspective.
  • Summarize: At the end of the conversation, summarize the main points that your partner has made. This helps to consolidate your understanding and shows your partner that you’ve been paying attention.

The Silent Communicator: Decoding Body Language

Body language plays a significant role in communication. It’s said that over 70% of our communication is non-verbal, which means that our body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice often convey more information than our words.

In listening, body language can show your partner you’re engaged and interested in their words. Maintaining eye contact, leaning in, and using open body language can all signal to your partner that you’re fully present in the conversation.

However, body language can also betray our true feelings. If you’re distracted, disinterested, or closed off, your body language will likely reflect this. That’s why it’s essential to be mindful of your body language when listening to your partner.

Listening Boundaries: Knowing When to Draw the Line

While listening is crucial in a marriage relationship, there are times when it’s appropriate to stop listening. Setting boundaries and protecting your emotional well-being is vital if the conversation becomes abusive or disrespectful.

Listening doesn’t mean tolerating harmful or toxic behavior. If your partner is consistently disrespectful, aggressive, or abusive, it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation and seek help.

Effective communication should be respectful and considerate of both parties’ feelings and perspectives. If this isn’t the case, it may be time to seek professional help, such as a marriage counselor or therapist.

Navigating Through Listening Challenges: Overcoming Obstacles

Despite its importance, listening can sometimes be a challenge. Distractions, preconceived notions, and personal biases can hinder effective listening. It’s essential to be aware of these obstacles and strive to overcome them. Remember, the goal is to understand your partner, not to prepare your rebuttal or prove a point.

Improving your listening prowess is an ongoing journey, not a one-time accomplishment. It requires regular practice and conscious effort. Here are some strategies that can support your journey:


In our digital age, distractions are everywhere. Phones beep, emails ping, and social media notifications constantly await our attention. These distractions can make it incredibly difficult to focus on your partner and truly listen to what they’re saying. To overcome this challenge, create a distraction-free environment when having meaningful conversations. Turn off your phone, close your laptop, and give your partner your undivided attention.

Preconceived Notions

We all have preconceived notions and biases that can cloud our judgment and affect our ability to listen effectively. These biases can cause us to dismiss or invalidate our partner’s feelings and perspectives. To overcome this challenge, strive to keep an open mind. Remember that your partner’s experiences and perspectives are valid, even if they differ from your own.

Personal Biases

Personal biases can also affect our ability to listen. We may be more inclined to listen to things that align with our beliefs and dismiss things that challenge them. This can create a barrier to effective communication and understanding. To overcome this challenge, strive to be aware of your biases and consciously set them aside when listening to your partner.

Mastering the Art of Listening: Practical Steps to Transform Your Marriage

Improving your listening prowess is an ongoing journey, not a one-time accomplishment. It requires regular practice and conscious effort. Here are some strategies that can support your journey:

  • Be Present: Dedicate your attention to your partner when speaking. Tuck away your phone, switch off the TV, and concentrate on the conversation.
  • Demonstrate Empathy: Strive to step into your partner’s shoes and understand their perspective. Show them that you comprehend their feelings and validate their experiences.
  • Resist Judgment: Practice listening without passing judgment or criticizing. Remember, everyone has their own set of experiences and viewpoints.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: This tactic encourages your partner to delve deeper into their thoughts and feelings, fostering a more profound conversation.
  • Reach Out for Help: If you struggle with listening, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapists or marriage counselors can provide valuable insights and equip you with practical tools to enhance your listening skills.

Fostering Connection: Active Listening for Stronger Relationships

In the spirit of interaction and better understanding, let’s take a moment to reflect on our listening skills. Consider these questions:

  1. How often do you find yourself fully present in a conversation with your spouse?
  2. Can you recall when you showed empathy towards your partner’s viewpoints?
  3. When did you last ask an open-ended question to stimulate deeper conversation?

Active and reflective listening are essential tools; they’re the lifeblood of a thriving and resilient marriage. The more we practice this art, the deeper the understanding and connection we can cultivate with our partner. As we wrap up this exploration into the art of listening, we invite you to reflect on your habits. Have an open conversation with your spouse about your discoveries and consider the steps you might take to improve this fundamental skill in your relationship. Remember to share your experience or challenges with listening in the comments section below.


Paul Luna

Paul Luna is a pastor, husband & father of four in Oregon. He's passionate about faith, family, & community, he enjoys painting, hiking, & tech.

All stories by: Paul Luna