Let's be honest with ourselves. How many times have we heard our spouse say the words, "You're not listening to me," "You don't understand me," or "If you listened to me more, we wouldn't be having this problem."
Early on in my marriage, I have to admit that I experienced this communication problem a lot. No matter how convinced I was at that time that I was listening, I really wasn't—at least not the way I was supposed to be.
Some married couples (or even single people) who are reading this might be surprised to know how bad of a listener they are as well.
Listening is more than just letting our ear hear what another person has to say. It has more to do with valuing the position, opinion, and the very person of our spouse. Stephen Covey once said, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." That is not listening with the hopes to value others.
Why is listening such a challenge? It's because many of us do not know how to truly listen. Listening has very little to do with the natural and actual process of receiving information from another. It actually has more to do with the spiritual practice of choosing humility and rejecting selfishness to be able to put value on the opinion of your spouse, friends, children or even colleagues.
If we want to listen better, we need to start listening not just with our ears, but with our hearts and spirits as well. Listening is not just a natural process. It is a spiritual discipline of laying down our selfish flesh to value God's command to love others. Building a spiritual discipline of listening in marriage challenges us to listen to three people—God, our spouse, and ourselves.
Listen to God
To grow in the spiritual discipline of listening, we must first learn to listen more intently to God. John 8:47 tells us, "Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."
When we intently listen to God, we will consequently learn to love, serve, and listen to others more.
Listen to our spouse
Second to listening to God, we must learn to listen to our spouse. This entails not just hearing their opinion, but loving them as God has loved us, and understanding God's design and work in their life just as we understand God's work in us.
Listen to ourselves
It almost sounds too simple to learn to listen to ourselves. But you'll be surprised to know how many people (even Christians) don't do this. When we say something to our spouse, sometimes we say things without actually understanding what we're saying and how it will affect them. As we speak, we must ask the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and heart and allow us to speak only life and encouragement to our spouse. This entails that we actually listen to what we say as well.