Using Active Listening for a Better Marriage

Improve Your Marriage by Using Active Listening

The goal of this communication exercise, “Using Active Listening,” is to develop a new and improved understanding of each other. You can use active listening to improve your marriage.

Have paper and pen handy for each of you to keep track of what you hear and of your own thoughts while your partner is talking. Memory and attention are likely to be limited when dealing with emotionally-charged materials, so while this is not necessary, it is a good idea.

Read through these instructions before you attempt to do it yourself.

Marriage Communication Exercise: Using Active Listening

This relationship counseling exercise is to learn how to talk to each other using active listening. This communication exercise has the potential to create an intimate moment for you as a couple.

Deepen Your Emotional Connection

You begin with your intention to deepen your emotional connection. Sharing meaningful information with your partner offers the opportunity for a much deeper understanding of you. Verbal intimacy brings you closer together and helps you keep freshness in your relationship. This is part of how you can keep that “in-love” feeling over time.

For the Speaker: Communicate One Thought

  • Start by sharing just one meaningful thought with your partner. The thought has to be important to you, one that you genuinely care about and it must pertain to your relationship, or be revealing about you as a person, including your history!
  • While you are speaking, help your partner to understand what it is that you are trying to share.
  • You do this with patience and love.
  • Allow your partner time to absorb the message that you are trying to convey.
  • Share one thing at a time rather than a series of thoughts and feelings. If you want, you may build more of a structure of thoughts over time.

For the Listener: Try to Understand and Relate

For the spouse doing the listening, try to understand where your partner is coming from and relate to his or her perspective. Set your own perspective aside for the moment.

Each of you sees and experiences the world through your own video camera. As the listener, your job is to understand what it would be like to experience the world through your partner’s video camera. Imagine being your spouse for just a moment. This is likely not what you are used to but it is a way to gain a deeper understanding of your partner.

While listening, be mindful of your partner and what he or she is saying. Specifically, these suggestions can help:

  • Don’t try to change his or her experience to your experience or understanding.
  • Don’t jump to the defense or to the attack.
  • Don’t turn the conversation into one about yourself, your experience, or your understandings.
  • Do listen actively to what your partner is saying and try to figure out the meaning.
  • Do allow your spouse to change his or her mind while talking.
  • Do allow your spouse to develop what he or she started telling you.

It is important to remember that the person who will know if your understanding is correct or not will be your partner and only your partner. Go back and forth in your conversation, and encourage your partner to correct your understanding and to correct his or her own understanding in the process.

Purpose of Learning to Actively Listen

The point of this exercise is to deepen your own intimate knowledge of your spouse by actively listening to what is being said and trying to experience the world through your partner’s experience. In this way you can understand your partner on a deeper level.

This exercise is covered in more detail in each of my self-help programs, Survive An Affair and in Saving Your Marriage, along with other exercises to enhance intimate and accurate communication.

Wishing you all the best in your marriage,