This year, my wife and I will celebrate 14 years of being married. In that span of time, we’ve learned a lot together. We’ve also made lots of mistakes. And yet, we’ve been able to take the good, the bad, and the ugly and turn them into growth.

Marriage takes work, doesn’t it? It’s one of the most self-sacrificial callings a person could ever undertake. And yet, if we’re teachable and can learn a little bit of humility, the potential for success within marriage is limitless.

In this post, I want to share a principle I believe is probably one of the hardest for husbands and wives to learn as it relates to their recovery:

Seeking to understand their spouse over being understood by their spouse. 

Of all of the things a person can learn in recovery, this is truly one of the most powerful lessons because it can help restore trust that was broken and intimacy that was taken for granted.

Learning to listen to your spouse’s deepest hurts, fears, questions, and doubts doesn’t make you weak or spineless! It tells the other person that you care more about their heart than defending your case.

Let me illustrate this very simply: There’s a very practical reason why we as human beings were given two ears and one mouth, right? Hopefully, the reason is very obvious to you!

Fourteen years ago, when I started my journey into recovery, I initially felt a deep need to justify and minimize my behavior. I was more concerned about my feelings, my wants, my desires than I was for my wife Tracey.

I remember many arguments because of my incessant need to defend myself. I felt like she needed to understand me before I could ever understand what my addiction had done to her.

I hadn’t allowed the power of Philippians 2:3 to change my life. This is what it says:

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than  yourselves.” (Amplified) 

Wow, that’s powerful language!

I had to look up what the word factional meant: “A small, organized dissenting group within a larger one.” Couple that with the word motives and it’s almost as if this Scripture is telling us to do nothing from opposition or resistance. Instead, we’re called to UNDERSTAND (my emphasis) others instead of trying to persuade them that we’re right and they’re wrong.

I remember many times making my wife feel guilty for expressing her true feelings to me.

If I didn’t like the way she said something or how it landed with me, my walls would go up and I would refuse to receive her heart. This only prolonged my healing, my wife’s healing, and the healing of our marriage.

Additionally, I love what Ryan & Selena Frederick, founders of Fierce Marriage, have to say on this subject:

“Healthy communication hinges on mutual understanding. Seek to  understand not just what your spouse is saying but also why they’re  saying it.” 

Two things to note here:

MUTUAL understanding is the goal. Not one-sided understanding. Not one spouse demanding the other listen to them. Only when there is a humility of truly listening to the other person can healthy communication take place. Understanding the WHAT isn’t as great as understanding the

WHY. I can hear what my wife is saying to me when she’s feeling hurt, but do I care enough to go deeper to understand the “why” behind that pain? That’s next-level love right there. There’s just something about a couple whose number one interest is solely about tending to the needs of the other person in the relationship.

We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? We’re out in public somewhere and we see an elderly couple who’ve clearly given themselves to each other in marriage. The looks, the conversation, the gestures, and the service they offer each other is truly beautiful.

There just seems to be respect given towards the other person as if to say: “Nothing else in my world matters but you.” 

This week, try taking another step toward your spouse in the way of listening and doing less talking. When you feel that need inside of you to really give it to the other person, pause for a moment to consider what’s really going on underneath the surface of their heart first.

Remember: There’s a reason you have two ears and only one mouth.