Why listening is so important in marriage

A good listener is a witness, not a judge of your experience

Why listening is so important in marriage

We took a day off to celebrate our ninth anniversary. We had fun all in all but the part I remember most was when we enjoyed a quiet breakfast together at one of our favourite cafes.

The food and coffee was great, but that wasn’t it either. When I drill it down, it was the moments we spent listening intently to each other share our different perspectives and ideas on the struggles that we’ve had managing one of our kids who has been showing anxiety and manifesting difficult behaviour.

Our hearts have been burdened and we’ve had to rely on God and each other for strength.

Seated on a comfy red cushion seat, side by side, I shared my thoughts and observations with him, and he listened quietly and was not in a rush to speak.

Too often, as Stephen Covey put it, we listen to respond, instead of to understand. The reason why we do this habitually is because we seek first to be understood, rather than to understand others. But when we do so, the other person inevitably feels second-rate, judged, or simply not heard.

He gave me a gift that morning – the gift of empathic listening. I didn’t realise it at first; it was all in the subconscious. But then something remarkable happened. Instead of feeling anxious and worried with what was going on at home, I felt secure and calm. We moved forward in the conversation, sharing anecdotes and stories and laughing over some of them.

When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand. It’s an entirely different paradigm. Empathic (from empathy) listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel.

Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you’re dealing with the reality inside another person’s head and heart….You’re listening to understand. You’re focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul.

Empathic listening is, in and of itself, a tremendous deposit in the Emotional Bank Account. It’s deeply therapeutic and healing because it gives a person psychological air…When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.” – Stephen Covey

Therapeutic and healing? Like psychological air? Wow give me some of that already.

In this day and age, we are all talking simultaneously, on different platforms, with viral messages flying everywhere and devices beeping every so often. It is hard to keep quiet, stay focused, and listen to any one person at a time.

But for the sake of your family and marriage, this is a skill that we all urgently need to cultivate.

Because of that unrushed conversation and heart-to-heart exchange, we were able to strategise and come up with a fairly detailed plan on how to help our child and our family.

Because of those quiet moments, I saw how God had meant for us to come together to trust in Him and to work in partnership for His purposes. I also saw how my husband’s ability to look at things systematically complemented my own slightly more haphazard, but ideas-based thinking.

I know we may not have the luxury to do this kind of retreats often…I know I sometimes complain of being ignored and not heard…but I also know this is something we will have to keep working at – listening in an unjudgmental, kind, truly understanding way.

Feeling heard and understood is perhaps one of the most underestimated and overlooked ways of loving in this digital age. But giving each other that space and time to feel heard and understood and valued in a marriage is worth every single effort. It is truly a gift of love.

So the next time your spouse or partner says “I’ve something important to share…can we talk?” Drop your phone, turn off the distractions, get you both comfortably seated, stay eye-to-eye so you can get the meaning of those words through the gestures and body movements, and seek to understand things from his/her perspective.

I leave you with a quote from The Lost Art of Listening:

The feeling of not being understood is one of the most painful in human experience. Not being appreciated and responded to depletes our vitality and makes us feel less alive. When we’re with someone who doesn’t listen, we shut down. When we’re with someone who’s interested and responsive – a good listener – we perk up and come alive. Being listened to is as vital to our enthusiasm for life as love and work. So is being a good listener. Understanding the dynamics of listening enables us to deepen and enrich our relationships. It involves learning how to suspend our own emotional agenda and then realizing the rewards of genuine empathy.

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If you had the chance to do the year all over again…

Do you feel like the year has just taken off like a very angry bull and you’re being dragged along in the sand?

I felt a bit like that in the past week.

So I dug in my heels, and hit “pause” on some of the areas of life that I could. And then I learnt about what Viktor Frankl (renowned neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor) did for his clients. In his famous book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he wrote:

“So live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”

And I asked myself this question: If you could do the year 2016 all over again, what would you do?

If I could do the year all over again, I would:

  • yell less (practise compassion)
  • connect with my husband more
  • listen to friends with my whole being
  • fret about my imperfections less
  • enjoy my loved ones more
  • declutter our lives (keep our things and schedules simpler)

This method of thinking back, and allowing hindsight to teach us, is actually a therapeutic method used by Viktor Frankl in helping his clients find meaning in life, and create a more meaningful life.

It is about not letting life take you by the reins or allowing busy-ness to overwhelm your days; it is about living the most meaningful and productive life possible. It is also about letting go of trivial and energy-draining matters, because you keep your eye on the bigger picture – the goals and theme for your life.

Because of this, I’m not doing any resolutions this year. Instead, I’m letting this list of what I would have done differently last year, guide my actions and choices this year.

To yell less, I’m going to recognise that there are several degrees of yelling, and the worst should only be used in times of serious danger. I’m going to be conscious to minimise the degrees each time, and work on recovering quickly. I’m going to recognise my anger triggers too.

To connect with my hubby more, I’m going to use this list to help myself: 30 ways to love your husband.

I will share more on the blog in the coming weeks, as I work out more strategies to live well and spend my time fruitfully this year.

Let’s also adopt a growth mindset and be kinder to ourselves this year. I think this is crucial if we hope for our kids to cultivate same growth mindset for themselves.

Now tell me…If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

if you could do the year all over again, what would you do? #goals #newyear

Print this out and pin it over your desk as a daily reminder of the important things!

 

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Counting down to 2017 with 7 blessings

2016 has been an eventful year for me personally, as well as for the whole family. Here are 7 things that I’m particularly grateful for.

#1 I reinvented myself as an educator.

It all started when I heard mummywee was starting an enrichment centre with a difference, a.k.a. The Little Executive. It focuses not on teaching content, but on teaching skills, growth mindset, and positive learning habits. I got employed on a part-time basis, and I’ve been on an exciting learning journey there for about half a year. Not too long after, I also embarked on an educational therapy course, harbouring hopes of helping kids with special needs find a stronger footing in this world, emotionally, socially, and cognitively.

It’s been…scary. I’m thankful for the people who believe in me, and who continue to push and encourage me. But it still is scary. Many times, I start to doubt myself, and my choices. But I remind myself that any change will take time, and that it’s okay to start from ground zero.

I read this article about finding that intersection between what you’re good at, what makes you feel appreciated, and the belief that your work is improving people’s lives for the better. It spoke to me, and if you’re in a similar position, I hope it helps you find courage too!

#2  I registered my first company and grew my freelance writing business.

I remember starting out 2016 worrying about how and where to kickstart my writing gig. The work came alright, but in dribs and drabs. It was rather demoralising. But I’m thankful to the hubby who was patient and supportive. By the time we reached the halfway mark of 2016, things were looking more positive. My writing gigs got more regular and the projects I had were also more diverse – ranging from corporate storytelling to travel writing to social media management. All without much hustling on my part, so I am very grateful.

It’s taken me a while to embrace this WAHM thing – the most difficult part was in carving out a workable routine amidst caring for the kids, playing with them, and helping them through various learning stages and challenges. I also realised that I needed me-time more than over, just to stay sane and keep all the balls up in the air. The flexibility has been good, but the downside is the uncertain paycheck at the end of the month. That is something we have chosen to live with for now, so it’s back to simplicity – less holidays (maybe short getaways), less buying, less hoarding – but we are at peace with this choice.

#3  We went on our first church camp to Malaysia as a family of five.

villas on water at sunset

The bus ride to /from the camp site was a tad long and challenging with 3 young kids, but we made it, and was able to enjoy the beautiful and comfortable resort, and listen to and learn from God’s word. The kids made a really good friend along the way, and she turned out to be our villa-neighbour for the next few days – what can I say, God’s grace works in awesome ways…The kids even managed to have a sleepover together, making a long-time dream of theirs come true.

#4  We moved house and settled in quite seamlessly.

room

brothers playing together

kids on bicycles at the park

Things happened really quickly, everything worked out like perfectly fitting pieces of a puzzle, and we moved in a matter of weeks after settling on our home of choice. It almost feels like we’ve been living here for ages. The boys will be starting school soon at the kindy nearby, so I really hope they’ll settle in just as well as they have to our new home.

#5  Vera adjusted well to primary school.

I’ve shared a little about our primary school journey here and here. By and large, Vera has settled well, made a bunch of good friends, and learnt to take charge of her own learning and responsibilities. This has made such a difference to our journey as first-time primary school parents. I found that I could keep my nagging to a minimal and just provide the support she needed at various junctures. There are still gaps, that’s for sure, and I wrote about that too, but I tell myself she’s growing at her own pace too – for me, I just need to watch out and remind her when it’s really needed. Sometimes when we step back, the child seems to take on more and learn more in the process – do you see this too?

#6  JJ found an awesome sports coach.

jj-sports-class

Now this one gets me really excited. JJ has always shown an affinity for sports, not least because he’s quite a movement junkie and has sooo much energy to release. When my friend recommended me this sports class (that is also affordable), we jumped at it. He learns so much from this awesome coach, and is constantly stretched – not just physically but mentally as well, because this coach doesn’t let things go without prompting and challenging the kids to think and strategise and plan. Now that I’m an educator myself, it is just AMAZING to watch. I learn even just by sitting through the 1.5 hour class.

#7  Josh turned Terrific Three!

mum_josh

Ahh, my dear Josh. You turned three and I know all that newfound independence is getting to you and sometimes makes you really cranky. But you know we love you, even if you’re screaming the roof down at the moment. You bring so much joy to our lives…more than you’ll ever know or realise. May the Lord continue to bless and keep you, and grow in you a heart of wisdom, love, and obedience.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Come 2017, and I am still learning. To leap, not blindly but knowingly, into the arms of a very real and invisible God. To embrace uncertainty with a child-like faith. He is a loving God, a God who is ever-generous with His people, a God who always provides…

Every morning, God’s generosity greets us in at least a dozen ways, but we barely recognize it as we frenetically prepare for our day. When we lay our exhausted heads down at night, we often fail to look back on the many gifts that dripped from God’s hands into our little lives…This Thanksgiving season, will you remember to remember the generosity of God? Remembrance produces upward worship, inward humility, and outward generosity. – Paul Tripp

Blessed 2017, friends. May His love and peace shine brightly in your lives always…

happy boy in sports class

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Fun holiday activities with the whole family

The December holidays have been jam packed with activities from the get-go.

We kicked it off with a fun day out with SingTel Cast x Nickelodeon Play app launch at Kidzania. The kids love getting reacquainted with their favourite characters, namely SpongeBob and the Ninja Turtles. From time to time we let them watch an episode from the NickPlay app. Occasionally we also have fun with the recipe videos where they teach you how to remake some of the characters using food and veggies! Get ready for loads of play; download the app for Android and Apple.

Fun day out with Sponge Bob

kidzania fun

We also went to play with “snow” at Plaza Singapura’s snow-play hut. Even though each entry is capped at 20 minutes, and the hut is quite a small space, the kids loved it, especially since they get to toboggan down the ice slide.

ps_snowman plaza singapura snow hut

JJ must have gone at least 5 times during the allowed 20 min snow play time! Just spend $30 in a single receipt for entry for 2 pax! Adults need to accompany kids who are under 7 yo, so be sure to accumulate receipts for yourself. And do note that $60 receipt doesn’t get you entry for 4, you will need two separate receipts of $30 each. Be sure to dress in long pants and bring along your socks! Jackets and boots will be provided for free. The snow play will be on till 25 Dec, from 11am – 9pm daily!

ice-bucket-2

Finally, the kids got to meet their all-time favourite cartoon character, Dora and friends, at City Square Mall!  Josh was extra thrilled to sit in his beloved Paw Patrol car. If you’re in the neighbourhood, do note that the Wonderland games and activities will continue till 1 Jan 2017!
chase-paw-patrol2

Finally the kids had a roaring good time at Dinosaur Discovery Camp at The Little Executive, where I was also helping to facilitate. They learnt so much about dinosaurs and the jurassic ages, that they haven’t stopped discussing the topic and asking more questions ever since!

Dino discovery camp at The Little Executive!

Looking back, it does feel like we’ve been rushing around quite a bit…and like, 2 more weeks to 2017?! But I am glad that we’ve managed to enjoy the holidays as a family and also got to spend time with good friends, both old and new.

2 more weeks and we hope to make the best of it. Vera and I set goals to help her revise her Chinese and build a stronger foundation. We didn’t really get down to that, so I hope we make up for it by reading more and revising difficult words.

I also set out to help JJ progress in his reading. He’s able to read more sight words now, and is attempting to sound out words by himself, so I hope to keep this up with him!

Next week, the hubs and I are taking some time off to do our annual reflection and planning for the new year. Will let you know how that goes. Amidst the craziness of the season, it helps to carve out some space to think and reflect.

Stay well, and have a blessed Christmas! 🙂

Every mom needs me-time

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Cultivating the habit of saying “thank you” in my marriage

We celebrated the hubby’s birthday this week. It was nice spending time together, shopping, having coffee, and rounding it off with a yummy sashimi dinner. Especially after the busy period of moving and settling into our new home.

We’ve gotten into a habit of not buying each other gifts but instead would let the other choose their own gifts. I guess you could call it the lazy way out but I’ve realised that he also likes the process of browsing and choosing something.

So I decided to just write down a list of things to thank him for. I pulled out a simple card from my stash, and starting writing…

I thanked him for being a wonderful listener. I thanked him for tolerating my nonsense. For being understanding (and not judging) even when I feel upset or down. The list went on, and I found it was quite easy to fill the entire card with ‘thank yous’! Almost like turning on a gratitude engine…it just kept flowing.

I realise that after writing down the things that he does that makes me feel valued and loved, I started to see him even more positively. A sense of gratitude welled up, and I also thanked God for him.

As fallible and as flawed as he may be (and I, too) I saw that I had a lot to be grateful for.

Gratitude changed my perspective. I think it also helped him to recognise the things he does that really mean a lot to me.

Simple things like listening to me when I’m feeling down or lost.

Simple things like laughing with me, or making me see the funny side of a situation.

Small things like caring for the kids, and playing with them.

(Never underestimate these small things, guys. They can mean a lot to your tired spouse.)

Although I wrote the card for him, I actually felt quite good after writing it, as if expressing it somehow made me pay more attention to the good, and feel happy as a result.

I think I need to put up a little note on my workstation, to remind myself to say “thank you” to him every day. (And not wait till his next birthday!!)

And maybe also sneak little surprises / notes into his work-bag from time to time.

Never underestimate the power of these humble words “thank you”. They can enhance your marriage relationship, and even counter existing negativity…Most of all, I think it keeps our hearts soft towards each other, and trains us to focus on the good aspects and encourages the other to do the same.

What’s your favourite way of expressing thanks to your partner?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

Make saying thank you a habit in your marriage

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