How well are you communicating with your spouse? 

According to Mark and Susan Merrill, one of the top mistakes that husbands and wives make is that they don’t always listen well to each other. This often leads to communication barriers and hurt feelings. Rather than assuming your spouse can read your mind, Mark says it’s important to verbally express your need to be heard.

“The spouse who doesn’t feel heard, who doesn’t feel like they’re being listened to, they can say to their spouse, ‘This is very important and I want you to hear me. I need you to listen.’

Susan adds that the busyness of life often requires more of our attention, which hinders our ability to listen well. She shares a helpful tool that her and Mark use to convey the importance of a conversation.

“When all of our kids were home, and we actually had five teenagers at one time, you can imagine how busy life was. Mark came up with a great system for me because I was always listening to someone. How much attention I could give them was always at risk, based on how many people were trying to buy some attention.”

“He would say, ‘Okay, on a scale of 1-10, what I’m about to talk to you about, is a 9.’ That would mean to me, ‘Kids, everybody, step away to your rooms I have to talk to daddy.’ Now if he says, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you and it’s a 3 so just know I need to talk to you, but I’m going away because I can see you’re busy.’ That meant I just needed to check up with him later, but it helped me really cut through, how important is this? Because my time was divided.”

Mark says that timing is everything when trying to bring up important conversations with your spouse.

“It’s important not to have those 8, 9 or 10 conversations other times as well. For example, if it’s late at night and both of you are tired from a long day, or when someone is rushing to get to the airport. Timing is very important when we talk to our spouse about deep topics.”

Listening well is one of the hardest things to do as a busy husband or wife, but it is also a key to strengthening your marriage.


Mark Merrill is the founder and president of Family First, a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping people love their families well. He delivers marriage and parenting wisdom to over 100,000 people each month through his blog and podcast on MarkMerrill.com.

Susan Merrill is the director of content for Family First and oversees the content creation and digital marketing of all Family First platforms including All Pro Dad, iMOM, and The Family Minute. Mark and Susan are the co-authors of Lists to Love By for Busy Husbands: Simple Steps to the Marriage You Want and Lists to Love By for Busy Wives: Simple Steps to the Marriage You Want.

The art of listening well

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