Have you ever witnessed a couple who is clearly just not listening to each other? They’re in the same room but they’re clearly—emotionally—a million miles apart. They are talking parallel to one another, but they aren’t having a conversation. They’re having side-by-side monologues, but this sure isn’t a dialogue. You almost feel like they’d be saying exactly what they were saying, even if the other one wasn’t in the room. It’s sad, really, but you see it all of the time, especially in couples who have been together for a long time.
Listening is one of the main ingredients to a solid connection. We feel close to our partner by hearing what they’re saying, picking up on the underlying emotion, and empathizing with that emotion. And we need to simply listen to our partner’s updates to know what’s going on with them, and to know how we should behave, how we can help, and how we fit into the picture of their individual lives. But so many couples just stop listening to each other eventually. Listening is actually pretty hard—like really listening. It’s not just about taking off your headphones, or turning down the volume on the TV. It’s about being fully present when the other person talks, and clearing space in your mind to take in the information he or she is providing.
Listening in the beginning of a relationship—when you’re just giddy and want so badly to fall in love—is easy. But nobody has the energy to be a great listener for decades or a lifetime. So don’t be hard on yourself if you find yourself slacking off in the listening department. Everybody does it. It is important, however, to understand why it happens. Either one of you could be the culprit (and it’s probably both of you).
“Do you think it’s a good idea to not run the garbage disposal for several days and let the place stink up?” “What did you think the gas bill would look like after you left the heat on all night for two weeks?” “Would you say that this, right here, in front of the front door, is a good place to leave this pile of bags?” Ah yes, the rhetorical questions we start to ask our partners when we get frustrated.