5 Ways Reflective Listening Can Improve Your Marriage

If there was one skill that could help us improve our marriage, we believe it’s good listening skills. Unfortunately, it’s one area that almost all of us struggle in! We all want to be heard, but we also need to take time to learn how to hear and understand our partner.

Reflective listening is one skill that can go a long way in improving our connection as a couple. Simply put, reflective listening is paraphrasing and restating the feelings expressed instead of stating your views or giving a solution.

Think about this: when was the last time you and your spouse talked about something and you actually paused and listened, without immediately jumping in with a solution?

Some couples find it difficult at first to give up the bad habit of interrupting, being dismissive or rushing to solve a problem with a practical solution – rather than staying with your partner, waiting for a real response.

I confess, I struggle with this myself. Whenever Joy shares something that’s bothering her, I can be quick to offer a solution, because I just want it over and done with! But many times, she’s not looking for answers, and only needs me to listen to her. This is a big problem for me, but like me, you will get better if you keep practising! 

When we turn towards our spouse, it means we are engaging with them. We don’t just patronize but show a real interest, and that will require practice and stopping what you’re doing at that point in time.  
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5 Benefits of Reflective Listening 

Why do we need to learn how to do reflective listening? Here are 5 ways it can help improve your marriage:  It creates a sense of teamwork.  

1. Reject the lie that you know best in everything. 

Reflective listening begins with a simple act of repeating what someone has told us, but in your own words. Obviously, you can’t do this unless you really pay attention! 

2. It tells our partner that we have heard and understood them. 

When you verbalise what you heard your partner say, it shows that you have not just heard, but have understood it. 

3. It helps you clarify if you understood them correctly.  

Then, when you express what you heard your partner say, it also helps you unravel if there are things that were not clear to you. 

4. It helps you find out what’s really going on inside your partner.

In an argument, reflective listening allows you to get to the bottom of a misunderstanding and to find out what is really going on with the other person. 

5. It tells our partner that their feelings matter and that you value the relationship.  

When we reflect back how our partner feels, we let them know that their feelings are important to us. Also, refraining from ‘giving your opinion’ or being right assures them that we value the relationship more than our being right. 

A useful formula for reflective listening

So how do we do reflective listening? You can start by using the following formula: 

Opening Line + Reflecting Emotions (what you think the person is feeling) + Because (your understanding of the reason) + Am I correct? (guess and check) 

Here are some useful opening lines: 

It sounds like… 

I hear you saying that… 

If I am hearing correctly…

You seem to be saying…

Am I correct to say that…


Examples of using the formula for reflective listening

How does this work in real life? Here are some examples of how to use the format:

Example 1

It sounds like you are feeling disrespected because I was looking at my phone and didn’t give you the attention you need. Am I correct?

Remember: Don’t justify or be defensive. Emphathise!

Example 2

It seems to me that you are frustrated about what your boss said to you at work because you feel it wasn’t totally your fault. Am I correct?

Remember: Don’t give a solution… reflect!


Practice Reflective Listening for Deeper Connection

Again, learning how to listen reflectively does not come automatically. Practice, practice, practice! The more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Commit as a couple to pursue connection at all costs, and the more you value each other’s feelings and thoughts by reflective listening, we believe it will help make a difference in your marriage.

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