To say you’re juggling a million things right now is a massive understatement. But the trade-off of multi-tasking is that you sometimes find yourself hanging with your partner...and not hearing a word they’re saying. (Oops.)
Maybe you’re on your phone. Maybe you’re making eye contact and saying “sure” or “right” or “uh huh,” but your brain is a million miles away on thoughts like dinner or childcare logistics or the fact that you need to text your mom back. Bottom line: You’re not being present, which—let’s be honest—is the root problem of so many communication issues in a marriage.
The solution? In every conversation, challenge yourself to repeat back something that your spouse says. For example: “I understand that you want to spend Christmas at your dad’s. I’ll see what I can do to get off work,” or “Wow, that sounds like a pretty intense tantrum you had to endure. I can’t believe he threw himself on the ground at the park.”
The practice of parroting back (kindly) the main points of what your partner has to say automatically grounds you in the moment since you need to listen to every word to get it right.
But the reward is even greater. You’re proving to your spouse that what they say matters to you and validating that you care enough about them to pause, listen and tune in to the things on their mind. (It’s also A-OK to be up front about a time limit. Try, “Let’s chat now for about 15 minutes, but then I have to quickly handle a couple of other things.”)
My, my—what a good listener you are!