One of the great needs in marriage is to understand one’s spouse. Because we are so different from each other it’s sometimes a challenging process. “Why can’t she see how important this is to me?” he may be thinking. Or she may think, “Why can’t he see how hurtful his comment was?”
Would you treat your spouse differently if you really knew what he or she was thinking and what really mattered to her or him? Since we can’t step inside each other’s mind we still can take steps that will help us be a little more in touch with what matters to the one we love the most.
Here are four steps to help you understand your spouse
1. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes
There’s an old Native American proverb that says, “Don’t judge any man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” It’s so easy to misunderstand someone, including your spouse, when you haven’t experienced what your spouse is going through. We may think we know, but we don’t. Think for a moment on a day when your spouse is behaving out of sorts and you’re needing less of that and a little more cooperation. Ask yourself, what was his day like? What did she go through today that must have been really tough? Put yourself in his or her shoes and see the difference it will make. Try to see life through your spouse’s eyes, which leads to the next step.
2. Ask questions and listen
If you don’t understand something your spouse said or is going through, let him or her know you don’t. You can calmly ask, “Could you help me understand that better?” Then listen. You may be quite surprised at what you find out. Give your whole heart to trying to see it from your spouse’s perspective. It will make all the difference.
3. Be willing to share your thoughts and concerns with your spouse
When you open up your hearts to each other there is a far greater chance of understanding what each other is going through. Too often a spouse will hold back and not communicate true feelings and concerns. That may be happening because she doesn't feel safe talking about it, or she's afraid her spouse will ridicule her opinions. Make sure that never happens. Share your concerns, hopes and dreams with each other and be understanding, even when your spouse’s concerns or dreams don’t match yours. Still, you can listen and try your best to understand how important this is to him or her.
4. Believe in the good intentions of your spouse
Have you ever done something that didn’t work out the way you hoped it would? That’s probably something nearly everyone has experienced. It’s a terrible feeling, and the only thing that makes it worse is when someone, especially your spouse, says, “I knew that wasn’t a good idea. You should have known it wouldn’t work.” That’s like getting punched in the stomach twice for the same thing. You already feel bad enough.
A husband told a story of how he began a business with the hope that it would flourish and grow. He discussed it with his wife and she told him to do what he thought best. After a few years the business failed and they lost their entire investment. Did he mean for it to fail? Of course not. Was he devastated by it? Yes. Can you imagine his hesitancy in telling this news to his wife? Can you imagine his relief when, after hearing what happened, she said, “Oh, honey. I’m so sorry. I know you did everything you could to make this work out for us. Thank you for all your hard work. Things will work out somehow.” Then she hugged him. Believing in the good intentions of your mate shows a great understanding and love on the part of a spouse. Be willing to do that for each other.
As you work at understanding your spouse your love for each other will increase. A wise teacher, Marvin J. Ashton, said, “If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance and care.”
Examine your relationship with your spouse and see how you can work at understanding him or her a little bit better. It takes a conscious effort, but will have a big payoff.