The Price we Pay for not Listening

woman holds man hand listening to him talking
by Vance Larson

It’s easier to pay attention than to pay the price. I say these words repeatedly to the couples who come to me for coaching. Everyone is talking, and no one is listening. Some are too busy playing on their phones. Others have been together for awhile, and feel like they know what their spouse is going to say. Yet others, simply don’t take the time to communicate. I find this to be especially true with the younger couples. For they grew up in a time where much is done via text and email and for that reason, it is hard to become and stay connected. Emails and texts are not inherently wrong, however they can be very impersonal.  

The art of listening is quickly dying 

The foundation to every healthy relationship is communication. Without it, there is a void and lack of connectedness. While this may seem to be common sense, the art of listening is quickly dying. In most of the cases of the couples who seek me out, their troubles can almost always be traced back to a lack of communication. They simply got their wires crossed, or they did not communicate at all. That is why I say it’s easier to pay attention than to pay the price. 

What is the price of poor communication? As I mentioned, most relationship issues can be traced back to lack of communication. How many arguments could be avoided, if we just took the time to communicate on the important issues? I’ve seen it all. Everything from adultery, money to intimacy issues, all tied into lack of communication. It is hard to be connected when we don’t invest in authentic communication.

In the 30 plus years of working in mental health, the trajectory of infidelity often starts with a spouse not communicating. No talking, no listening leads to reaching out to a friend or coworker that will. Add the right amount vulnerability along with an empathetic ear, and the table is set for an affair. Even if one doesn’t actually have sex with them, they are engaged in an intimate dance. I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I have seen this in the EAP field. 

Same holds true for money. Not communicating about your finances can lead to trouble (if you’re in a merged, long term relationship). Many believe that money is the number one issues in relationships and many studies would support that. Knowing this, I am surprised at how many couples do not take a few minutes a months to talk money as that’s really all it takes. Sit down over a cup of coffee or bottle of wine, and talk money. What’s coming in, what’s going out, and what you each need for your own enjoyment? This is important, because a lot of times couples don’t discuss this and when eventually asked, one or both may be shocked. So please put the money conversation on the table. 

Relationships are a living breathing entity and communication is the oxygen. It adds clarity, intimacy and creates stability that can withstand the beatings that life will often throw at us. If you and your spouse are clear with your communication, you are side stepping at least 50 percent of potential problems. I’ve seen in my practice. I’ve seen it working both EAP and HR. Communication sets the tone for the current (flow) of every relationship, so get in the flow otherwise you will pay the price for not paying attention. 


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