January 19, 2016

How To Strengthen Your Marriage

How To Strengthen Your Marriage

When I first meet a couple looking for ways to feel better in their relationship or marriage I help them do something that they probably haven’t done for a while; listen to each other.

I know, you’re probably saying to yourself, listening can’t be the answer to your relationship problems, but I disagree… listening is the number one link to feeling better in your marriage.

When couples disagree, it’s usually because neither can hear the other.  Both have something to say, but there isn’t room or space or time to do a very important part of communicating, and that’s the listening part to what the other person is saying.

If you have been living in a difficult relationship or marriage for any length of time you are probably extremely frustrated from telling your partner what is wrong.  You’ve likely spent a lot of time screaming at him or her for so long and you are exhausted and you may be done.

So when I talk about listening you may want to scream at me too because you have tried and tried and tried to be heard and it feels as if no one is listening to you, including me.

I understand, more than you will ever know, because every couple I work with in therapy tells me this, over and over.  They are not listened to by their partner.

They are alone and misunderstood, maybe even angry.  What they all share is not being heard.  No one is listening to them.  No one cares to hear them, or that’s what it feels like.

I understand how lonely this feels and how terrible it is to live with the person you love and not feel better.

So, when I work with a couple I get to do the listening.  I ask each person to tell me how they see the problems.  I listen to the first person talk.

They can take as long as they like.  When they are finished I thank them and then I ask the mate to tell me his or her story.

Sometimes they are similar, sometimes they have different elements.  Usually I can sense some pain from the storyteller.  He or she has felt so unattended that the wound may be obvious from the first words spoken.

Sometimes I watch the mate who has to listen while his or her partner is sharing.  And sometimes I get to witness something pretty great, the partner actually listening to his or her mate, and that could be a first.

We build on this concept, having one person share more about what they felt when they listened to the other.  Sometimes we can learn something right there.

The listener may even get some clues as to where their partner has been living.  This can create a sense of awareness that can lead to some pretty great stuff; compassion and empathy.

Both people begin to feel less burdened and they begin to express more feelings; not at the other person, but to me.  I’m safe, I won’t disagree or fight.

I listen, I help, I care.  Qualities each person in a relationship or marriage can incorporate too; traits that can really make a difference.

And those traits all start with a simple act…listening.

About the author

Linda Nusbaum is a marriage and family therapist in Long Beach, CA.

To know more about Linda, visit www.lindanusbaum.com


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