In Individual Work

Does your partner believe you’re listening?

John, from Texas, wrote, after reading last week’s post, “you were on a roll, Frueh, keep going.” I appreciate the feedback because writing from the heart often feels like yelling into a wind tunnel – you can’t really tell if anyone’s listening or if what you say makes any difference.

Thinking about the gifts we bring to marriage, alerts me to this idea of making an impact. I listen to political debates about as long as I can stand to listen. I’m not cynical and I do not believe that these people are fools but it does seem to me that pollsters or advisors or sponsors or somebody who has no idea of who we (the listeners) are is shaping dialogue in a way that they believe is relevant to voter’s lives, but isn’t. They, like Google, might know where we’ve been or what we’ve bought but it’s pretty clear that they don’t know who they’re talking to.

Which raises a question: is the show we watch the reality we want?

If they do know who we are, then we’re all really in trouble. But back to marriage. I bring my intensity, my latest idea, my newest insight to my partner but it just so happens that she has other things on her mind. Imagine that! She has of course, a life of her own, so if I can’t get that reality ‘up on my screen’ I’ll be speaking into that wind tunnel again.

This truth works whether you’re talking politics or marriage. Know who you’re talking to and you have a chance to effectively communicate. Rely on pollsters, advisors, sponsors, or (in the case of marriage, the cliches of friends) and you have talking heads/ no listeners.

Which raises another question (regarding ‘talking heads’) “are the ‘listeners’ really listening?”

Knowing who you’re talking to, knowing something about their priorities, fears, deep desires, wants – is of course, a prerequisite for meaningful communication. And that’s why these debates don’t work for me. It’s also why I tend to be communicationally challenged in marriage. Because I avoid the work it takes to know my partner and most men I know do the same.

When we’re lazy, we do not get the democracy we want. We do not get the marriage we want either. Can you see that? All effective partnerships, all effective communities, all effective democratic nations have this in common: they find a way to embrace diversity, to listen and honor alternative points of view, and to embrace the wisdom that can be embraced in a collaborative climate of healthy community. Now take this principle and apply it to your experience with the current political climate, and it’s potential for influencing how we’ll vote later this year.

And, ask yourself – ‘does my marriage reflect our capacities as grown ups to learn from each other without demeaning or shaming each other, and do we consistently get better at what we do?

The nightlight’s on. Call before dawn.

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