I admit sometimes all the nagging runs together into a blur. Oftentimes I try to tune out, but most times I will be thinking about how I am going to react to what she is saying.
Wait a minute, I wasn’t even listening?
See here’s the deal: this is my wife of ten years. It has always been a point of pride in our relationship that we are honest with one another. But, this is the woman I love, telling me why she is angry and the only reason I am listening is because I want to have a good comeback to continue the argument?
So, I tried something different. I shut my mouth, looked her in the eyes to let her know I was paying attention, and I listened. Without me interrupting, she paused slightly and then continued talking.
In fact she continued talking for a full 15 minutes!
I had been wondering for so long what the hell was wrong with her, why she was angry, why she nagged about every little thing that I did, and why I couldn’t seem to do anything right by her.
All I had to do was shut up and listen and she told me.
It almost seemed like when I used to do the same things to the people I worked with back in the day. I was the boss, and when my bosses came to me with projects, I would listen, but my mind was already thinking 10 steps ahead and I was formulating what I was going to reply and what I had to do.
It didn’t help at work then, and worse, it was ruining my marriage now
What is happening with my wife, is what happens to a lot of us when we get to a certain age. We have spent so much of ourselves, of our lives, doing for others. We sacrifice and give of ourselves until there is nothing left for us. Then we are left with wondering what happened to the things we wanted in life. What happened to the goals and dreams and plans of a future where we were a better version of ourselves, where we were not the same old person day after day giving pieces of ourselves to satisfy others?
Didn’t she want to travel, or go back to college for that degree? Wasn’t there a job offer, a dream job in another country? What happened to all those big plans and schemes that kept her going when she was young?
In the case of my wife, she wanted kids. She wanted a happy marriage. What she got was a mentally ill partner and a full-time job picking up after us. She is the heart of this house, and no matter how much I do to help, it still wouldn’t equal the sacrifices she makes to esure everyone is fed, clothed, and happy.
Now as she feels herself slipping away and more and more anxiety takes its place, she is left wondering if there is anything worth living for. Sure, she has kids, and a husband, but living a complete life means you set goals for yourself and succeed at things that make you feel fulfilled other than just living a life.
It’s not selfish, it’s wanting your existence to have some meaning beyond how well you can wash dishes or press a shirt. It’s success at something that enriches your life instead of giving everything away to someone else.
And all I had to do was listen.
At Work, Are You Listening?
Think of the last conversation you had with a workmate. Maybe they were telling you about a date they had last weekend, or maybe it was work-related and they were trying to stress to you the importance of finishing your project on time.
As they were talking, were you really listening, or were you trying to formulate your response? Were you giving them undivided attention or were you skimming the conversation and using most of your brain power to think of something else?
That was my main fault as a manager — details. I got the overall, but when it came to the fine print, I had not read it. When we were in meetings, instead of listening to the sales managers describe the functionality they needed, I was already designing the next iteration.
Of course, I got better, but during those early days there were a few dropped balls and losses of revenue because I just couldn’t be bothered to listen.
Now, as a writer, details are supremely important, no matter if I am interviewing someone for a political piece or I am listening to a YouTube video of an event, because if I get the facts wrong I will either lose my reader, or worse, get sued for false statements.
I have to listen to understand, and listen so I know what the hell I am writing about and whether it’s the truth or not.
So we had somewhat of a breakthrough standing in front of the ham sizzling in a pan for breakfast. I learned that I need to stop skimming and start listening to what my wife has to say.
Now Flora knows that I am ready to listen, she is talking about the important stuff more. When she comes in the room, I turn down the music, look her in the eye, and let her know that I am ready and willing to listen to whatever she wants to tell me.
How could I have messed up something so simple?
I guess we get caught up in our own importance, and forget that other people have feelings, wants, and needs as well, but we cannot have a relationship if we aren’t listening when the other talks.
I’m excited to see how this little breakthrough helps our marriage and if I can find out more about the things that has been troubling my wife for so long, I want her to know that I care for her, and want her to have a fulfilling life, and I can’t do that until I give her 100% of my attention every day.
I’m just sorry it took me so long to figure that out.