Do you ever feel like your spouse is not listening to you? Does he/she always try to “fix” your problems instead of trying to hear you? I am the first to admit that I too have had this tendency. I unfortunately learned this lesson by personal experience.
I recall early in my marriage that I tried too hard to simply “solve” my wife’s problems. My wife is a talented schoolteacher. The incredible effort and time she put into her work has always amazed me. When she would come home after a long day and vent some stresses from the day, I would try to quickly “solve” her problems. I remember thinking that the best way I could help her was to tell her how to fix whatever was inducing the stress. She looked at me one day and said “Jonathan, I am not one of your counseling clients.” I learned more in that moment about marital communication than I had in any book or research study I had ever read. I learned that all my wife wanted from me was to listen to her.
From that time on, I tried to focus on listening to her and validating the stresses she experienced. The conversations became so much more beneficial for both of us. She has told me she no longer felt alone in her stresses and had a healthy forum to get things off her chest. I had the opportunity to better understand her stresses so that I could better appreciate all she does and could better focus on validating her.
How can you avoid this tendency? Remind yourself of the following things:
1. Just listen.
2. Don’t try to give advice unless your spouse specifically asks for it.
3. If you can try to understand what your spouse is going through, helping them not feel alone in those struggles will help solve things more than unsolicited advice.
I am grateful my wife helped me understand how to better help her. I hope you can feel that same gratitude as you and your spouse learn to better listen and validate the other’s struggles. You will be better able to weather the storms of life together because you will understand each other. Only then can anything ever really be “solved.”
Dr. Swinton is a relationship and mental health expert with Utah State University Extension in Sevier County. If you have questions you would like him to confidentially address in this column, email him at email@example.com.