"I can’t really get my husband’s attention,” Carrie complained, her face appearing tired and drawn. “We haven’t been emotionally connected for years and I’m not sure it even bothers him.”
Her husband of 12 years, Frank, had said nearly the same thing to me when we met alone at The Marriage Recovery Center.
“I’m not sure she really cares what I think,” he said bitterly. “She has her way of doing things and expects me to step in line. I hate it.”
Talking alone with Carrie, I shared the idea that both were likely talking over the other. Neither were succeeding at really hearing their mate, engaged in a power struggle—a killer of communication. While they might think they are listening to each other, they were likely failing to fully attending to their mate. Furthermore, they were likely failing to attune to their mate, allowing their mate to influence how they thought and viewed things.
“But, I’m really not sure he cares what I think,” Carrie continued.
“I suspect he does care about what you think, Carrie,” I said. “However, feeling threatened by what you are saying to him, he may shut down emotionally. This is very common.”
In talking to Frank individually, I said much the same thing.
“Carrie can certainly be powerful in how she says things,” I said. “But, if you approach her in a non-threatening way, I suspect she may be more likely to listen to you.”
“I’d like to know more about how to approach her so she will really take in what I’m saying. I don’t want to overpower her. I care about what she thinks.”
“Excellent,” I said. “Let me share with you some ideas I have for both of you.” With that I shared the power of the three-step process involving attending, attaching and attuning to our mate.
First, we must attend to our mate.
As simple as this may sound, we often compete with the television, computer, computer games or even social networking for our mate’s full attention. When having a significant conversation, give your mate or ask for your mate’s full attention.
This can be further enhanced by setting aside time to really connect to your mate. This can be accomplished by having a weekly date night, sitting in your favorite room with a cup of coffee or perhaps going for a walk. Giving your mate your undivided attention is an invaluable connector.
Second, we must attach to our mate.
Not only must we attend to our mate, but we must attach to what they are saying. In other words, what they tell us must be considered important and worthwhile. What they are saying must influence us and change us. We must convey that we care so deeply about what they are saying and are willing to alter our point of view, our behavior and perhaps even our lifestyle to accommodate their concerns.
Third, we must attune ourselves to our mate.
This involves the ongoing practice of carrying our mate around on our frontal lobe—in other words, we think about them and their concerns throughout the week. We care deeply about what they care about. We reflect on their concerns and consider whether we are keeping agreements we have made with them. We respond non-defensively when they remind us of any shortcoming.
Scripture implores us to really listen to each other. In fact, Jesus tells us, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
(Matthew 11:15) The suggestion here is that listening doesn’t come naturally, but takes our full attention and intention.
Finally, when we attend, attach and attune ourselves to our mate, we create a powerful connection. Failure to actively engage in each of these steps will lead to disconnection. This three-step process enhances not only your marriage relationship, but any friendship or work relationship as well. Practice this process and notice your relationships improve.