What’s worse than an ungrateful child? While millions of Millennial twenty-somethings today are most-often accused of being “entitled”, what can we do this week with our little ones to help them avoid becoming similarly spoiled, self-consumed and shallow adults?
“He doesn’t listen to me.” Not only is that one of the most common complaints that my wife, Pamela, has had in our marriage, it is also one we frequently hear about from other couples. But, there is a way to overcome this struggle.
One of the best strategies for learning to listen well in our marriage has come from Dr. John Gottman. He refers to the practice as ATTUNEMENT. The process is not rocket science, but its impact is powerful. Just as it takes a few regular adjustments to tune your favorite radio station in while on a car ride, listening well involves more than just not talking. There is a focusing or tuning of self that is required to engage the type of listening a wife really needs from her husband.
Attunement requires some focus and attention. No, it doesn’t mean that she is always right, but it does mean that you make a decision that more important than dueling over who is right it is more important that you are living in right relationship with one another. Your goal is Oneness. Attuning is a skill and requires practice. However, the more you practice it, the better you become. The key is to keep practicing. Make it a habit. You can start practicing this today. Here are the steps to follow Gottman’s strategy:
5 Ways to A-TT-U-N-E Your Marriage!
(A) ATTEND to the needs of your wife. When you provide focused attention to your wife, it also feels like affection. Remember, to her attention is affection.
(TT) TURN TOWARDS your wife. Women desire face-to-face interactions. Men, on the other hand, tend to focus more on side-by-side relationships, such as playing golf or going fishing together with a friend. The result of such cultural grooming is that most men do not have a close male friend. Men struggle to break beyond having mere acquaintances, beyond only competing as buddies on a battlefield or golf course. So, husband, listening the way your wife needs you to listen is going to be something different than just another few minutes of golf. She needs you to turn towards her physically and emotionally.
(U) UNDERSTAND – It is important to ask questions about how or what she is feeling. Remember, as the Prayer of St. Francis, to seek to “understand”, not just be “understood.” That will require some time and consideration of not only what she thinks, but thinking more about how she must feel. This kind of attention is almost irresistible to her. While you may think of it merely as “extra effort” or “work” to listen so hard, she feels it as love, true love.
(N) NONDEFENSIVELY LISTEN – Remember to respond, don’t react, to what you hear. Even if she is upset, hear her clearly and hear her through. Listen and respond. If her words tap a frustration or negative emotion in you, don’t let it coopt your equilibrium. Breathe and calm yourself down if you feel the urge to react or overreact to what you hear.
(E) EMPATHIZE – When you listen long enough that what you hear from your wife goes beyond a simple auditory processing and turns into an emotional understanding, then your 3rd Ear is fully engaged. That’s what she is looking for from you and sometimes desperately needs. You become the person who will listen to hear as will no one else, her friend and her spouse in those moments becomes her soulmate.
Gottman says that “Neurologists have found that the emotional part of the brain calms down as soon as it feels connected to another person and not alone.” Remember, the most important thing in these moments is not who is right or who is wrong, but more so about the two of you being in Oneness as a couple.
A-TT-U-N-E is such a great tool for marriage that we recommend memorizing it and using it often. Tuning in to each other’s concerns and needs is when marriage is more than just a certificate or agreement; it is a practice and a lifestyle. Give it a try the next time your talk! It is one of the ways “these two shall become one.”
Tim and Susan* walked into our office for their first-ever session of marital counseling. We detected right away the vast emotional disconnectedness between them. It required little expertise to do so. The atmosphere was like ice. They scooted their chairs a few more inches apart as they sat across from us. They both leaned on the outside armrests and looked straight ahead. If body language were audible, theirs would have been shouting: “WE ARE MILES APART!”
Great teams not only share great ideas; they set great goals – together. And, great goals come from great hopes, convictions, aspirations, beliefs and desires that become deeply rooted within the hearts of team members.
I [Pamela here] have now come to realize that “two [really] are better than one” (cf., Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) in so many areas of marriage, including parenting. This showed up a number of years ago clearly when dealing with our one and only son. Rob has been surrounded with women most of his life as child #3. He has two sisters older and one younger. The girls often felt like we were deferring to Rob’s wants more than theirs, but the truth is that raising boys is SO much different than raising girls. The girls, on the other hand, expected a lot of their dad’s time and attention. As a result, he treated them like princesses while leaving Rob to just “man-up”. So at times I endeavored to even the odds for Rob who sometimes felt outnumbered by all these “women” in our home.