Have you started practicing your new skill of understanding before giving your spouse (or anyone else for that matter) advice? Good for you! Keep going! This is a skill you will be practicing all month.
There is more to listening than simply keeping your mouth closed, looking at the other person and nodding your head. We are practicing understanding. That involves listening of course, but it also involves acceptance. One way to show your spouse you understand is by not trying to change anything.
- Do not help.
- Do not give advice.
- Do not plan what you are going to say as soon as (s)he stops talking.
- Do not start telling your spouse a story from your own life to show that not only do you understand what (s)he is going through, but that your situation was worse and you also handled it better.
- Do not “one-up” your spouse.
- Do not tell your spouse how you would have handled the situation, or how someone else handled the situation.
- Listen to what your spouse is saying , and also to what (s)he may not be saying.
Your spouse is a completely different person. (S)he may process things in a completely different manner. If (s)he is upset, instead of thinking “Why is (s)he upset? That’s ridiculous. There’s nothing to be upset about. What about me? What about my feelings, etc. etc.” Simply acknowledge that your spouse is upset. It is not your job to change your spouse’s feelings or to fix his/her problem. It is not your job to tell your spouse what your perspective is. If you are practicing your new skill of listening and understanding, all you have to do is hear and understand that your spouse is experiencing something which is very real to him/her. Think of yourself as standing beside him/her while this is going on. Think of yourself as just being present, just being there. Let your spouse decide what to do about it. Let your spouse decide when (s)he is ready to let go of something. Listen to your spouse’s story. Don’t try to help your spouse write the story.
Sometimes it is hard to think of our spouses as totally separate people. It can be scary. We may need them to be strong, to be capable, etc. It is such a gift to allow your spouse to be imperfect.