The Art of Listening Can Save Your Marriage

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

The reason that so many of us don’t listen is that it’s easier to talk than to shut our mouths and take in what the other person is saying. Listening is an art and a skill, which is good news for those of us who aren’t born listeners. In a marriage or a long-term relationship, listening is so important because it validates the other person’s feelings and it makes the listener feel that you want to spend time with them. One of the first things that that leaves a good marriage is the simple act of listening to the other person speak.

Here are a few quick and dirty listening skills you can start implementing today:

  • Realize that listening is something you want to do well and that you will commit to your daily practice. If you do listen, then the other person will tell you everything you need to do if you just pay attention and stay in the present. The hard part for many people is not thinking about the next appointment, or the football game or what’s for lunch. But if you stop multitasking and focus on your partner, listening will become easier with time.
  • Let the other person do the talking for once. If you are a Chatty Cathy, stick to the 70/30 rule, where you only speak 30% of the time. One trick is to place your hand on your chin and keep it there while the other person speaks.
  • Don’t interrupt. Even if they are speaking about something that reminds you of something very relevant or important. Interrupting invalidates your partner’s feelings, making them think that what they say is trivial. Place your hand on your chin again and refrain from interrupting!
  • Learn active listening. With active listening, you receive your partner’s words and then you mash them up in your head to re-phrase and repeat them. By doing so, you will communicate clearly and settle any misunderstandings or confusions right away.
  • Learn about body language. If the other person has their arms crossed or if they are playing with their hair or clothing, then they are not listening to you. This may be a good time to acknowledge this with this person and tell them they your conversation should happen at a later time when it’s better for them.
  • Asking questions (see next segment) requires some skill, but questions are the best way to stay engaged to the other person and have them open up to you. One thing to remember: ask a question and then shut up. Tips for Asking Questions for Effective Listening
  • Ask open-ended questions. Some examples include, “Tell me about the time you locked your keys in your car.” “What do think about that?” “What was your favorite part?”
  • Don’t Get Defensive. Asking “Why?” puts everyone on the defensive. An alternative is asking “How come?” or “What if?”
  • Ask for their advice. Ask, “What do you think I should do?” Everyone loves to feel that their opinion and their voice matters.
  • Offer alternatives. Giving an alternative makes the other person feel that you care.
  • Ask about their feelings. Ask “How do you feel about this?”

Like any worthy endeavor, listening takes time and practice to get it right, but the rewards are great. If you are become a good or great listener, you will be strengthen your relationship, achieve a deeper connection with your spouse, solve problems and misunderstandings quickly and learn more about your spouse so you can be a better partner to him or her.


Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 2212 Dupont Dr., Suite I, Irvine, Ca. 92612.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.

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