Arguments are inevitable, right? Distractions are unavoidable in this day and age. This is the reasoning we may use after a big disagreement with our spouse.
This is a great way to justify our lack of attention when our spouse was trying to talk to us. Unfortunately, it’s also a the best way to never grow.
These justifications limit our relationship potential.
If anyone tells you they have never had a disagreement they’d be lying.
It’s human nature to disagree when we have differing opinions. To feel frustrated when our spouse asks you the same question for the third time, or disrespected when our spouse stares at their phone or tv screen rather than you when you’re trying to have a conversations.
“You never said that.” Or, “I never agreed to this.” may be frequent sentences you or your spouse may use in defense.
Well, usually, it’s because someone was not paying attention to their spouse, and sometimes it’s both parties.
We’ve both been guilty of this.
What helped us reduce the number of these ‘miscommunications’?
Paying attention…(cue the dramatic music) We know, it’s simple to say, and a matter of common sense, but it’s not always so easy to execute is it? Well, I doubt you’d be still reading this article if it was.
Paying attention to your spouse means that your focus and thoughts are present when they are.
I (Ash) am so guilty of getting so caught up in a book that I tune everything else out. I also have a bad habit of zoning out when I’m in conversations and it takes intentional effort for me to give Marcus my undivided attention. (Especially when he talks about things that are not so stimulating topics of conversation to me)
I (Marcus) have had to learn to not just start talking to Ash, but to ask if she can have a conversation. She usually has to pause her audio book or come back to the present with me—the challenge of being married to a writer she’s ‘in her head’ a lot of the time. I’m also guilty of trying to watch a soccer game while she’s talking to me.
Paying attention to your spouse also means that you remember do the small things.
Put the screens away. Shut the TV off. Close the book.
It is so easy to react to someone who is acting in a manner you don’t like when you feel like you are not being heard, or even worse—ignored!
And when you hear those phrases, “You never said that.” Or, “I never agreed to this.” Remember, to give them grace. We are not perfect human beings, we all have our short comings. Show them the same courtesy, you hope they would grant you.
Pay attention to what they aren’t saying.
When you see your spouse getting stressed out and losing their cool with the kids, we have two options:
A. “Quit yelling at the kids!” You yell at them, adding to the stress and giving in to that fight or flight ’emergency’ response of your own stressed system.
B. “I can see you’re stressed right now. Why don’t you take a break and get some air?” This option comes from sympathizing with your spouse, diffusing the situation and aiding in your spouse’s ability to regulate their emotions and keeps peace in the home.
One is a reaction, and the other is a response. One is abrasive and the other is empathetic.
This example can be applied to any part of your marriage. Pay attention to the person you married. Do they need a hug? Do they seem like they could use a break from something, or a surprise to brighten their day?
We all make mistakes because of stress or frustration or pain or a lack of understanding. The more intentional practice we put in, the more paying attention to our spouse’s needs will become second nature to us.
When our mistakes can be met with understanding from our spouse they are so much easier to correct. Plus it’s easy to be understanding when you are paying attention.
Thanks for reading, we hope this helps.
What’s one tool or technique you and your spouse use to pay attention to each other?