Today I’m celebrating four years of being married to my husband Jordan. These past four years have been incredibly rewarding, both for the way they’ve filled me with joy and for the way they’ve challenged and refined my character.
To mark the day, I’m sharing both mine and Jordan’s answer to one question: What’s the biggest thing you learned in this past year of marriage?
What’s the biggest thing you learned in this past year of marriage?
Jordan: When I talk to married couples, most people are just trying to figure out how to resolve their conflicts, (i.e. how do I make my wife/husband do what I want them to do). The source of the conflict–whether that’s their finances or how they parent or how they spend their time, etc.–is really inconsequential. This past year, I’ve learned that building intimacy with your spouse is way more important than conflict resolution. It’s not even close. In fact, I think 99 percent of the conflict we have in our marriage is due to a lack of connection in some way, and the other one percent is an actual conflict that needs to be resolved.
So, in this past year when I’ve focused on what builds connection between me and Jessica, the stuff that would have caused an argument is solved with a simple, non-inflammatory conversation. We can laugh stuff off, but it’s hard– almost impossible to laugh off something when I don’t feel connected to her.
Case in point, when we talk about money–I’m the one that likes to make it rain as an impulse buyer and she, raised by an immigrant mother, likes to SAVE–it’s ripe for conflict. In those moments, there are three options:
- Lie! Buy stuff and hide it until she’s in a really good mood and confess. No, I haven’t done that in a really long time, because it never works out well. Or have I ? ;-) [Jessica’s note: Jordan, you’re a fool.]
- Argue. Why am I letting her control the money again? She just wants to hold me back from sneaker greatness.
- If we’ve been spending a lot of quality time together, not just scrolling through instagram as we sit near each other, and we’ve really connected so that I really know her fears and dreams for our financial future, it changes the way I see everything. Since we’re connected, there’s no need to argue because there’s nothing I want to do in that moment to destroy the good thing we got.
Jessica: Marriage has done a lot in teaching me how to be a better listener. When Jordan and I first got married, I had no problem looking him in the eye and hearing the words coming from his mouth. But listening is much more than that. Somewhere along the way in life, I’d developed a listening style where I would prepare my rebuttal as the other person spoke. The biggest thing I’ve had to learn (and am still learning) is that in order to really build connection with Jordan, I need to change my goal in our interaction. Marriage has been a clear mirror to show me how defensive I can be, often unnecessarily.
Instead of hearing what he says in order to respond, I’m learning to simply listen and try to discern what’s going on in his heart. I think the most difficult thing with listening has nothing to do with Jordan–it’s my own insecurities wreaking havoc. I want so badly to do things right, and when Jordan would say something that I saw as a critique, my default was to fix it, to say something that reassured him, to come up with a solution (that’s my bend as strategic consultant, after all). But my goal hadn’t been to fully hear what’s going on in his life and heart.
In really just listening, not trying to come up with a solution or have a profound response, I’ve heard much more than I ever have. By not jumping in or assuming I need to fix, I’ve been able to validate his feelings and understand what’s going on beneath the surface.
This year, I’ve learned to love by listening.
Happy anniversary, Jordan. You’re an absolute gift to me.
If you’re interested, here’s my reflection from our third wedding anniversary. And to my married friends out there – what is marriage teaching you?