Jul 312018 4 Responses

The First Step to Destroy a Good Marriage

Before we were dating, I could hear Jenny’s voice from across a crowded room. Even as I was in conversation with others, I was so attuned to her that I could single her voice out among all others. As we began to date, our nights together were defined by conversation. I would seek her thoughts, opinions, experiences, and stories. With each word, I would learn more about her and become more attracted to her.

Dating is often characterized by listening. While there are exceptions, individuals likely never listen as well to another person as much as when they are dating. We listen to show interest. It’s an attractive quality. Few things communicate availability like a listening ear. When we are interested in someone we are dating, we listen well. (See: How to Make Your Wife Feel Heard)

But marriage has a way of eroding our ears.

Marriage Erodes Our Ears

In part, it’s expected. Some of the good listening habits seen in dating are fake. We are putting on a front in order to get the outcome we desire. Once the outcome is achieved, we revert back to who we actually are–not very capable listeners. Other aspects of it are simply a novelty. It’s easier to listen to someone new where the conversation isn’t predictable compared to hearing from someone we know well where many answers are anticipated. However, our ears often become lazy in marriage. We foolishly stop putting in the effort to listen, assuming that we already know what is going to be said.

This isn’t just wrong. It’s dangerous.

If I wanted to sabotage a good marriage, the first subtle attack I would make would be on a couple’s communication. I would attempt to frustrate their ability to truly understand the thoughts, intentions, and hopes of one another. I would create doubt and uncertainty between them. I would thwart their ability to rationally discuss issues in a productive way. I would cripple their ability to communicate.

At first, this would have nearly no noticeable impact on a husband and wife. They would continue to operate as normal. But over time, their relationship would erode. It would eventually have a negative impact on every aspect of their lives. (See: How to Get Your Man to Listen)

Sadly, if I wanted to destroy a happy marriage with this tactic, I wouldn’t haven’t to take any intentional action toward many couples. Far too many husbands and wives allow their communication to erode simply out of apathy. Like a pin-hole leak on a deeply buried pipe, they might occasionally recognize that something is off, but likely won’t see the real damage for many years. But damage is occurring.

Consider:

If we can zero in on the voice of someone we are hoping to date in order to be highly attuned to any possible need where we might be of service to them, how many opportunities do we miss to serve our spouse when their voice gets drowned out by the crowd?

If we intentionally listen to a boyfriend/girlfriend in order to show romantic interest, what message do we send our spouse when we do not listen well?

If we pay close attention during a date in order to get to know the other person, what happens to our knowledge of our spouse when we stop listening?

If our affections are often expressed through our ears, what does it say about our love for our spouses if we are not listening to them?

The First Step

If communication would be the first thing I would attack if I sought to hurt a marriage, then communication should be the first thing we should strengthen if we desire to protect our marriages. Often, when we think about improving communication, our initial thought is about how to better communicate what we think, feel, and believe. While this would be useful for nearly everyone, communication doesn’t begin with the mouth, it begins with the ear. We don’t primarily need to talk better, we need to listen better.

There may be no better Biblical passage for the average marriage than the command of James to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

This defines our dating relationships. We make every effort to create a climate in which the person we are interested in can easily communicate with us. We are measured and restrained in our words showing the utmost respect. We don’t rashly respond with an outburst of negative emotions, but meekly attempt to understand the other and react appropriately.

In these areas, as we date, so we should marry. A maturing marriage should be defined by two people who understand the value of listening, who know that it’s even better to give a listening ear than to receive one, and who believe that anger never truly produces the outcome they desire. Couples who did this, thrive. Those who unknowingly stop listening to one another, suffer.

4 Responses to The First Step to Destroy a Good Marriage
  1. Erin Reply

    Thank you for the time you took to put this together and for sharing your insight. Seems very true and easy to forget, but so simple and meaniginful.

  2. Birna Avila Reply

    We are marriage counselors and you material help us to have new topics to explore, and new ways to do it. We can’t use your blog or books because we live in Colombia, so everybody speaks Spanish. Thanks

  3. Dan Reply

    Exactly. The foundation of any relationship is communication and trust.

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