If a husband and wife are unable to understand each other, they will have significantly greater challenges, conflicts, escalated conversations, and unmet needs in their marriage. In a servant marriage, it is very important that both husband and wife have the skill of really understanding each other. How can you truly serve someone if you cannot understand him or her?
The first thing you need, is a clear definition of the word, “understanding.” I am not going to clutter your mind or heart with numerous dictionary definitions of the word. Instead, I am going to state a very simple definition of understanding.
Understanding: “to stand under”
What I love about this definition over several academic versions of this word is that 100 percent of the focus is on where you are in the process, not where your spouse is in the process.
The next step in developing this skill is to discover how well you stand under your spouse to understand him or her. You have heard the saying, “It is better to understand than to be understood.” There is real truth to that. As I understand Lisa, I get revelations of who she is and her heart, which help me adapt and serve her better. If you and I grow in the skill of understanding, we open up all kinds of opportunities to have a great servant marriage.
The skill of standing under your spouse has six distinct steps.
1. Hearing Their Heart
To hear someone’s heart is to hear who he or she is during the communication as well as what he or she is saying. The person is communicating words, ideas, histories, humor (or lack of it), sarcasm, emotion, or motives, all with various levels of frequency and intensity. To communicate with another human being and genuinely hear his or her heart requires significant intentionality on your part. Remember, when someone desires understanding, you must be fully present until you feel his or her weight.
Emotions or feelings are not thoughts about something or someone, but rather how someone feels. Feelings are not facts or truth. The spouse who desires to be understood will not be understood if the other spouse tries to put that spouse’s feelings into a logical or moral formula.
Rather than avoid the messy, unpredictable world of feelings, go into this world with your spouse and find exactly where your spouse is, emotionally. This world works by asking him or her: “How did that cause you to feel?” or “What were you feeling?” Once you get a feeling word, ask for more.
Validating is when your spouse feels inside that you have actually heard him or her—when your spouse feels you are holding his or her weight. Validating is not agreeing with your spouse that their reality or feelings are truth. You are just validating that what they are feeling is what they are feeling at the moment. Validating says, “You’re valuable,” and “Where you are right now is permissible” without judgment and with some empathy for where he or she is at the moment.
4. Take Responsibility
If you caused all or some of the pain or issue at hand, you will want to take full responsibility for your part. To take responsibility requires some humility. As servants of our spouse, we will absolutely make mistakes. When we make mistakes that harm our spouses, we must take full responsibility for them. By doing so, the situation gets smoother more quickly.
5. Ask Them What They Desire from You
The next step is to stay fully intent on who your spouse is and to ask him or her what he or she desires from you. Some challenges that your spouse faces simply need to be met with understanding. There are some circumstances where they might ask something of you, but simply offering to be of service is meaningful.
6. If Reasonable, Do It
When you ask your spouse if they desire something from you, if his or her request is reasonable, go ahead and follow through. Reasonable is what is important here. You cannot self-soothe your spouse or be able to accomplish the unreasonable in every situation.
Doing a reasonable thing, if needed, can also validate that you heard your spouse. Serving them in this way in a healthy relationship can be positive. In an unhealthy relationship, “You did me wrong, so here’s your punishment,” is not the heart of this tool of understanding each other.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
If you do not practice this skill when your spouse desires to be understood, you will be unable to skillfully be there for them, and you will experience the same old results for years!
Excerpt taken from: Servant Marriage
For more information on this, join Dr. Weiss on his LinkedIn account at: www.linkedin.com/in/douglasweissphd