Porch time has always been my favorite part of the day with my husband. I used to see it as a time to totally download all my thoughts onto Scott, giving him my expectations for his day. I didn't understand why he would clam up and shut down. Car rides were that way, too, as I invited Scott into my stream of conscientiousness, dragging him through my every thought. And yet, with porch time and car rides, I longed to hear my husband's thoughts but didn't understand why he didn't share them..and I didn't know how to listen when he did. Can you say overwhelmed?
In Laura Doyle's The Surrendered Wife, Chapter 18 Listen for the Heart Message, she describes how to give your husband the time and space to talk to you and how to listen when he does. She, like I, didn't give her husband the opportunity to share his thoughts and heart, and even when she did, he felt his thoughts were worthless because she had already made decisions and acted based on her inclinations. I know there were times when Scott shared with me, and my knee jerk reaction was to defend myself or attack, instead of hearing and pursuing his heart.
How do you listen to your husband better?
#1 Make time. That's right, make time. You make time for the things you value. So determine what best fits your schedule, whether it's coffee together in the morning, porch or couch time after work, or at bedtime. And when you make the time, clear the decks- close laptops, turn off everything with a screen, get the kids occupied with something that will keep them busy.
#2 Hear him. Determine to drink in every word he speaks, making eye contact, expressing genuine concern, appropriate responses, that he may feel like you are the only two people on the planet. Respond in a way that doesn't interrupt, but instead, affirms him, conveys that you hear him, and encourages him to continue sharing. Think about how you feel heard...responses such as "oh" "really?" "I see" "I hear you" and even "tell me more" and "then what" affirm you are listening and encourage him as he shares. In your responses, steer clear of any whiff of the condemnation, criticism or counsel, just listen, and let him know you hear him and his heart.
#3 Listen to understand. Determine NOT to formulate your response as your husband shares. Go back to #2, and truly hear him. So often we don't listen, we wait to talk, latching on to something he said, and preparing our rebuttal in our mind, waiting for him to stop long enough to defend or speak our minds. In Proverbs 18:13 we learn that answering before listening is both stupid and rude. OUCH! Instead, listen, hear your husband's heart beyond the words he's speaking. Don't mistake his passion (or frustration) about something for anger. So often, his anger or frustration is not about you, the kids, or the job, it's about his frustration in being able to provide for or protect you and his family, or not feeling he's got your respect and support.
#4 Slow down. It's so easy to respond off the cuff, from the hip, off the top of your head, isn't it? That's the enemy's plan, you know, to get us moving so quickly that we are quick to speak and slow to hear...when in James 1:19, we're called to be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. Technology makes instant access and instant response too easy to be quick to take offense and speak. What if, instead, before responding, you chose to either count slowly to three, or silently said a quick prayer? Lord Jesus, help me hear my husband through Your ears.
#5 Pursue his heart. Instead of defending yourself or attacking back after a hurtful comment from your husband, pray to know where the comment really came from. In the book, Laura cites this example, where the husband may speak the words "There's no pleasing you, is there?" He may be feeling that way in the moment, but so often, the underlying question is "Do I measure up as a husband? Am I a failure? Am I inadequate?" When I prayed about that one...ouch. I realized I was setting my expectations for him so high, higher than God's expectations...so no, he couldn't measure up. THAT was a painful, yet groundbreaking conversation, fueled by humility as I sought his heart.
Porch time is invaluable in our marriage. It's that time we set aside to be together every morning, coffee in hand, sun peeking over the horizon. Peacefully together, listening, feeling safe, secure, loved and heard.
Communication is one of the top three struggles we hear about from married couples, so in all your getting, get understanding about communication. Three of my favorite posts on communication: No Price Too High, Not a Mind Reader, 10 Questions to Ask Your Husband and Find Your Place. Check 'em out!
NOTE: One thing I want to mention here is that yes, I am disappointed that with all God has to say about the role of wives and submission, the author doesn’t cite any scripture, yet manages to quote Buddha. It’s still a great book, it still lines up with God’s Word, the author’s frankness was a practical wake up call for me…I just wish she’d embrace and share that God is the author of surrender.
In case you've missed it, this post is part of a series following along with The Surrendered Wife. I'd strongly encourage you to pick up the book and read along! Catch up on the blog series now by reading: Control or Intimacy, Did You Marry a Loser?, Chauffeur or VIP, Shhhh!, Crazy Resentful, Your Heart's Desire, You Bought a What?!, Just Say Thank You, Girlfriends, Button Pusher, Expectations, a Wife's Role, It's Okay to Say I Can't, Naked But Not Ashamed, and If You Can't Say Something Nice, and Let Your Husband Be the Dad.
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