Image: Flickr/Steven Shorrock
If I’m being honest, I know there are times that I just zone out. These are times when my mind is wandering through a maze of ideas, problems, activities (past and future) and fantasies. That’s really not that big of a deal and not totally unusual, but it becomes problematic when my thought deviations occur when someone is talking to me, particularly when that someone is my wife.
I tell myself that it isn’t intentional; that it just happens. I even try to convince myself that if she would just get to the point, then I could focus. Kim (my wife) has been dealing with my non-listening, zoning out behavior for so long that she can tell when it happens. She has even developed a name for it. She calls it “Changing the Channel.” I think that term is so apropos. You know how when you are watching one television program and a commercial comes on and you change the channel to get a quick peek of what else is on. That’s me! That’s exactly what I do when listening to the one I love most. I hear her, but I also want to entertain some of the other thoughts in my head.
So why don’t I really listen? What’s preventing me from listening to my wife the way she wants me to and even the way that I want to? Well, I think that I have figured out the answer. The reason this cycle continues to manifest itself is because of this…I think I already know what she is going to say. I have convinced myself that with 15 years of marriage, I have her all figured out, including what she is going to say next. This lie – and that is exactly what it is – fuels my behavior. But what am I doing in the process of tuning out? I’m ruining my chances of knowing Kim intimately. I’m not speaking of physical intimacy per se (it’s ruining my chances at that as well), but I’m talking about real, emotional, authentic intimacy.
Curiosity Only Killed the Cat
So how do I move past this? How can I become the type of listener that my marriage deserves? What is it that I want most in this process? To solve this dilemma, let’s answer that last question first. What I want most is to know my wife. To know her on a deep, emotional level. I want to increase our intimate connection so that I understand her ever-changing, dynamic mind. I can’t know her if I don’t listen to her.
I can overcome this struggle and become the type of listener that my marriage deserves by becoming curious about the one I love while letting go of the lie that tells me that I already know her. Socrates said it best when he said, “All I know is that I know nothing.” Each time she shares something is an opportunity for me to get to know her better. This gives me incentive to listen.
I don’t want to make it appear that this is always easy. This is difficult. Incredibly hard. However, I must embrace the difficulty and walk toward it rather than run away. That bit of advice can guide me whatever the reason that causes my “channel to change.” Whether I am shutting down my listening ears because I’m afraid of what she is going to say or if I am trying, in some way to avoid an argument. Embrace the anxiety and walk toward it.
See, listening is the best way I can display my love for her. Unless I learn to listen attentively, I will never really know her. Listening and loving are directly tied together. By becoming a good listener, I in turn become a greater lover.
Where else did you think I was going with that title? Hmm…