I don’t know how we survived before DVR technology.
For all you youngsters out there, back in the day we actually had to … watch commercials! Shocking and slightly unbelievable I know, but it’s true. And, if we thought we were going to miss our favorite show we had to program our VCR’s ahead of time to record it. This task was fraught with difficulty. And even if we had the technological prowess to figure it out at all, it would rarely catch the whole program.
Then, one glorious day, someone invented the DVR.
Press a couple buttons on the remote and presto, favorite program lodged into the mechanical memory banks forever, or until I delete it.
But the DVR had another unintended consequence. Picture the days before DVR. Husband and wife both come home from long, stressful days at work. Husband wants to plop down in front of the TV to hide in his mental cave, zone out for a bit and de-stress. Wifey wants to … share. Oh yes. Every single detail of every conversation and every emotion she went through during the day. Unending details of the lives of people husband has never met and doesn’t care to know.
Now, this might all seem fine. I mean hey, they’re both just detoxing from their respective days in the way they are wired to do it. All well and good until you realize, wifey is unloading at the exact same time husband is trying to watch TV. Now, oh yes, now we have an issue. Husband gets frustrated because wife talks over the TV and he is missing parts of his favorite TV program. Suddenly he feels his wife doesn’t respect him or doesn’t care that he’s had a long day.
Simultaneously, wife assumes he is selfish because it appears to her that the stupid TV is more important than she is, especially when he doesn’t even turn his head to look in her direction. I’m not sure which is worse, not giving your wife any attention, or only giving her half of your attention. As a result, she feels ignored, uncared for, and unimportant. If this scenario continues on too long it can lead to some serious marital issues.
How does a couple solve this great dilemma? Every man is hard-wired to need a mental break, cave time. But, we are ALL wired to need someone who will listen to us.
Enter …. The DVR!
One of the greatest things that has ever happened in our home was the day that I realized I can simply pause the TV when my wife wants to unload from her day. I can give her my full attention without feeling like I am losing anything. But, the DVR is not even the point.
The truth is that my wife is the most important person in my world.
She is the one I’m committed to spending the rest of my life with. She is far more important than whatever is on the TV. She deserves my undivided attention.
The point is that listening communicates value, comfort, affirmation and understanding. Paul Tillich mused “The first duty of love is to listen.” James put it like this, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19).
Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to really listen.
Les and Leslie Parrott list the six most common barriers to effective listening:
- Distraction: telephone; TV; kids; work.
- Defensiveness: perceiving a comment as a criticism.
- Close-mindedness: Not being open to the other’s opinions or ideas.
- Projection: attributing your own thoughts or feelings to another person (assuming he’s angry when you’re the one upset).
- Assumption: drawing conclusions about the meaning or intention of a statement before you understand it.
- Pride: thinking you have little to learn from the other person.
We’re probably all guilty of some of these faulty means of listening at one time or another. However, our spouses deserve our best. Listening isn’t necessarily about agreeing with the other person. It is about understanding them emotionally. Listening might be the most powerful way to say – I believe in you! Listening is the best way to get your spouse to open their heart and be vulnerable. The opposite is also true. That is, not listening is the quickest way to get your spouse to close themselves off emotionally.
So I challenge you today, pause the TV, maybe even shut it off. Put the kids to bed. Put away the smartphones. And listen. Really listen. Listening communicates value. love and care far more than a few flowers or a box of chocolates. Indeed, taking the time to simply … listen, might be the most important thing you can do for your relationship.