As a Marriage Counselor having practiced for 40 years, I’ve seen thousands of couples wrestle with skill of listening. Many have read good books explaining the skill, and gone to good counseling to learn about listening, but still come up short.
Let’s face it. Most of us listen half-heartedly. Our mate may be talking to us while we watch television, work on our laptop, or read a magazine. We look up occasionally to suggest we are listening, but in truth we are only half-listening. We hear the words they are saying but are not listening to their heart behind the words.
More often than I would like to admit, I listen to my wife for only the surface meaning. I don’t put everything aside so that I can listen to her heart, the deeper meaning behind her words. I sometimes feel impatient, anxious to get back to what I was doing before she began talking to me. Can you relate?
While there are many reasons couples struggle with the art of listening, I want to discuss one aspect rarely talked about: listening with your heart! Actually, I want to take this notion one step further—listening with the eyes of your heart. How is it even possible to “listen with the eyes of your heart?” Actually, we can’t actually listen with our heart, of course, but Scripture offers something for us to consider. The Apostle Paul declares these words:
“I pray that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” (Ephesians 1:18)
What if we could use that same power—to have the eyes of our hearts be enlightened—to really tune into our mate? Would you like to be able to really know your mate’s deepest needs and then to meet them? “The eyes of your heart” refers to the total person—mind, will and emotions—and thus the ability to know Christ better. With this same process we can have a deeper understanding of our mate.
What is the practical application of listening with the eyes of our hearts?
First, we should seek deeper understanding of our mate. We will never seek deeper understanding unless we have some conviction that this deeper understanding is what we are called to do. We must find a reason we can believe in for doing this. Do you really want a deeper connection to your mate? Do you want to know them on a deeper level, where you are listening to their heart behind their words? This is a deeper level of their being that they won’t naturally reveal unless they feel safe and cared for.
Second, deeper understanding in marriage mirrors our relationship to Christ. Marriage can be a reflection of our relationship to the Lord. As we long to know the Lord on a deeper level, with greater intimacy, we can choose to know our mate on a deeper level as well. Our love for our mate, and the deepest parts of them, can reflect our desire to know and love the Lord deeper as well.
Third, deeper understanding takes effort. Just as we must pursue a deeper relationship with the Lord, we must diligently pursue our mate. We must set aside distractions and listen for the yearnings of our mate’s heart. If we listen carefully, singly seeking to know them, we can discover them in new ways.
Fourth, deeper understanding brings connection and intimacy. Our mate then, knowing we are pursuing them, will reveal their deeper emotions and thoughts. They will feel safety in knowing we long to know them. They will feel honored that we want to know them and meet their deepest needs. In this exchange the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened.
Finally, deeper understanding brings healing. Just as intimacy with the Lord brings healing and joy, intimacy with our mate naturally leads to healing of wounds in the relationship and much great connection. As we come to really know our mate, they will reveal to us their deepest longings to which we can respond favorably. Active listening brings healing and also leads to knowing about our mate’s desires so that we can support and love them.
Do you long to know your mate better? Do you long to have the eyes of your heart be enlightened? Pursue your mate today and listen like you never have before to their words behind their words and notice the intimacy that unfolds.
We’d love to hear from you. What has helped you live a life of integrity? What has worked in your marriage to restore balance and healthy connection? Please send responses to at firstname.lastname@example.org and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
Publication date: July 19, 2016