SUMMARY: Kathleen Mills and Phillip Crum talk with Mark Jones about being a student of your spouse and learning to listen.
Episode #57 | Mark Jones | Being A Good Listener To Your Spouse
Kathleen Mills-Proprietor, Counselor at Life Tree Counseling
Phillip Crum-The Content Marketing Coach
Mark Jones-Life Tree Counselor
Phillip Crum: Do you know what time it is?
Kathleen Mills: I do.
PC: It’s time.
KM: It’s been overdue time.
PC: It’s time for episode number 57-
Mark Jones: Wow.
PC: -in the It’s Just Coffee series.
KM: I like that number.
PC: And we’ve got Mr. Coffee here today.
MJ: It’s like ketchup. 57 varieties.
KM: It’s better than that. We have Mark Jones in the house, don’t’ we?
PC: Yes we do. And it’s episode 57 of Life Tree Counseling’s weekly journey into the inner sanctum of the mental health professional.
KM: That’s right. And we have Pastor Mark here today.
PC: Mmm hmm. That would be him right over there.
MJ: It’s great to be here.
KM: I’m glad you’re here.
MJ: Well, thank you.
KM: I’m always glad you’re here.
MJ: Thank you.
PC: It’s the Christmas season.
MJ: It’s a privilege to be here.
PC: So what’s on your mind this week? What have you been running into?
MJ: Well, you know what? One of the big things I’ve been running into lately is the whole area – and it’s really a communication type subject – but one of the things that’s been really kind of a light bulb moment for a lot of the people. I’ve been meeting with is really becoming a student of your spouse. Meaning that before you get together with your spouse, be it a boyfriend or a girlfriend or your husband or wife, we’re actively trying to find out every single thing about them. We want to know what foods they like. We want to know what kind of cologne they wear. Every time they say something, we’re right on the edge of it. We write it down in our smart phones so we’ll seem really smart when we bring it up and they’ll say, “How did you know?”
KM: And we have a big smile on our face and the pursuit is just, “Woooo!”
MJ: Because the pursuit is on. Well, something happens after we capture that person and the pursuit is off.
PC: That’s called life.
MJ: Yeah. Life happens and we’ve stopped doing that. So you’re married for a year or two, or five, and you don’t do that anymore and you don’t know each other anymore. You don’t know what the other person likes anymore. I’ve seen time and time again where – and I’ve stopped doing this. I was telling a couple this the other day: when I’m in church or I’m in a market I see a couple together. I might notice that she has highlights in her hair or something, because I just notice that kind of thing. So I’ll say, “Wow, that ‘do is really you.” And the first thing she’ll do is she’ll sit there and she will say, “Thank you so much. I’m glad you noticed,” and she’ll look at her husband and I’ll get darts coming out, like, “Dude, what did you just do to me?” kind of thing.
KM: I love it, there you go.
MJ: Exactly. But it reminds me once again that he didn’t notice that. Before they got together, he would have noticed. He would have been all over that.
KM: “Your hair is so beautiful!”
MJ: Exactly. So it gets a lot deeper than that because it’s not just about the hair. It’s about how that person wants to receive criticism. How that person, when there’s a conflict, how to go about it. And so it affects all different types of things, and sometimes it breaks down communication because we don’t take the time to understand that person.
KM: You did a podcast a while back about the thank you, and we forget to say thank you. It just sort of segues into that.
PC: That’s an interesting way for a pastor/counselor to drum up new business – trolling through the frozen food section.
KM: Noticing highlights.
PC: Ruining relationships.
MJ: You know what, yeah! You drum up business any way you can.
PC: It’s creative. I like that.
MJ: I mean, even things like – I don’t know if you’re familiar with the five love languages. Well, just knowing if you say to a person, “Do you know your husband’s love languages? Do you know your wife’s love languages?” And if you don’t –
PC: What’s a love language?
MJ: What’s a love language? Well, Gary Chapman came out with the five love languages and they’re basically words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. And those are the five primary ways that a person, when you do that for them, it tells them, “I love you.” Now, if your love language is gifts, I can hug you all day long but that’s not going to really mean a lot to you until I start giving you gifts. Now, if your love language is physical touch and you bring me a bag full of goodies, that will be nice but I want a hug because that tells me that I’m loved. So whether it’s words of affirmation or quality time, a lot of people do this. A lot of husbands get really busy so they’re making the money, bringing the bread home, and they’ll bring their wives all kinds of gifts. And then they’ll say, “Goodnight, honey” and won’t spend any time with them. When what she wants is not the gift, but she would rather have a half hour of him just sitting there and saying, “How are you doing, honey? How was your day?” And letting her just kind of emote all over. And that would mean more than a diamond ring to her because that’s her love language.
PC: So if she wants to torture him on the couch with a half hour of, “Here’s my problems, but don’t fix anything.”
KM: Phillip, it’s not torture. It’s being a student of-
PC: Is, “Honey, get me a beer” a love language?
KM: It’s could be.
PC: I’m into this, then. Let’s go.
MJ: So it just happens so many times and you see the breakdown of relationships so many times because you don’t take the time. And part of it’s taking the time. Investing takes time. And we change. People realize that if you’ve been married for more than a day, you’re not married to the same person that you said, “I do” to.
KM: Right. Oh wow, I totally agree because you don’t live in a vacuum and life happens, like Phillip said. And years go on together and you are not the same person because you’re spiritually, intellectually, emotionally maturing, if you will. And so being that student that you’re saying, you constantly have to be that student because your spouse is changing, but you’re changing, too.
MJ: Exactly. And it could be on a daily basis. Your spouse comes home from work and that day something happened that they may not even be able to explain. They may not even be able to tell you what happened, but you noticing that something’s different. You noticing whether it’s body language or whether they’re quiet – whatever it might be – to be able to say, “Something’s different.” And not only to say that. One thing that happens to guys all the time, and I’m guilty of it myself, there are times where I’ll be walking through the house and say my wife changed something around. And I say in my head, “Wow, that’s really cool,” but it stops right there. It goes from my brain to the back of my lips and doesn’t come out. And so later on, what does she do? Inevitably she’ll say, “Was that good? Did you like that?” Oh yeah, honey. “Oh, you didn’t say anything.” Well, it wasn’t that I didn’t think it, but I didn’t take the extra step and say something and make that a point to say, “You know what? She’s important enough to me that I’m not just going to let it stay behind the lips. I’m going to actually say it and I’m going to be the proactive one and not wait for the other person to pull it out of me.”
KM: You know that she wants to hear words of affirmation.
MJ: Right, and that’s for everybody. How many times do we say, “Oh, I thought that but I didn’t say it.” It’s redeeming the time and that’s so important. One of the things that’s become so apparent to me more and more every single day, especially recently, is we are not guaranteed tomorrow. We are not guaranteed the next minute, so when there’s something to say, say it right now.
PC: Even if there’s a 15 minute discussion to follow?
MJ: Absolutely. Because they’re worth it.
KM: Mmm hmm.
MJ: They are worth it.
PC: I really hate you. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.
KM: You know, you’re talking a little bit about life challenges, life difficulties. We all know that’s inevitable, it’s going to happen but we just don’t know when. An example for me to you is when I was going through some pretty dark times not so long ago is my spouse and I developed kind of a different language of connection. Because when I would come home from a really difficult day, let’s say, defending and protecting and all that kind of stuff, he would just give me a look and I would give him the sign back of whether I was willing to talk about it. It was okay that he didn’t want to know, but he knew what he needed to do for me. We were a team and so I think every day was a different deal based on the look. (Laughs)
MJ: And that took communication for you to be able to say, “What are we going to do if?”
KM: How do I need to serve you tonight? How was your day? Or I didn’t want to talk about it because I just didn’t want to talk about it. And he knew exactly what to do and it was awesome.
MJ: Right. And it benefitted both of you.
KM: Yes, because he didn’t want to get mad. And I didn’t want to get him mad, but we were a team in the life tragedy.
MJ: A word you just used a moment ago was, “How to serve.” Serving each other – that is so needed today in relationships because –
KM: It changes!
MJ: Well, it changes, but usually it’s about when you come home from a long day of work, what do you want? I want somebody to serve me. I’ve been giving out all day. I’ve been ministering to people all day. I’ve been working. I’ve been obeying the boss all day. So when I come home, I want somebody to serve me. But the thing that really grows relationships is to say, “You know what, I’m going to set that aside and I’m going to serve you.” And that’s smart because what happens is when you serve somebody else, especially your spouse, the response will be they’ll want to serve you more, too. So that benefits you by understanding how to serve each other.
KM: My dad, when we were growing up, I never understood what he was talking about. I just thought he had a bad day. But we’d be sitting at the dinner table because we always ate at six o’clock family time. It was just part of the deal at my house. And my dad, you could tell he had a bad day when he started talking about, “I just love coming home. This is such a good place to come home to.” And I’m like going, “Oh my gosh, what’s happening to my dad? Like he had a rough day,” but his home was his castle. It was his refuge, which really was a powerful thing for us as kids because he said that all the time and it was like, “Okay, dad.” But my mom and dad had worked it out where this was the perfect hobbit hole to come home to and they just made it work. And that was just profound.
MJ: Right. And that’s really good, and that’s a great blessing that you had. That’s a jewel that you had. You know, this goes more into just a spouse relationship. It’s understanding your children as well. So many people make the mistake of if they have multiple children and responding to the children in the same way, rearing the children in the same way, your kids are not the same. What works for one child, does not work for the other child. I have one child – I have four children – and one child, he’s strong-willed. I mean, James Dobson probably used him as an example as the ultimate strong-willed child. He was the textbook, but it worked out really well for him because when he was going through all his physical challenges with kidney disease and so forth in the hospital, it really worked to be strong-willed.
KM: It’s an asset.
MJ: As far as to break him, as far as discipline, oh my word. It was unbelievable. I have another child that all you had to do was give them a look and they were, “I’m sorry,” and they changed like that. One child is different. Now if I responded to both of them in the same way, it would have been a negative thing. So becoming a student of your children as well, as parents, will help your whole dynamic as a family.
KM: Do you think there’s a connection? Like if I’m a good steward, a good student, of my spouse then it translates into then the possibility exists that I’m a good student of my kids.
MJ: Absolutely. And I think, too, where it marries each other as well is that you’re a united front as a couple with your children when you become a student of your spouse. Because you know their body language. If they’re doing something and you hear their tone and you’ve talked about it and you’ll know how they want you to respond in a certain situation with your children. Where you might want to say something right there in front of your kids, but if you’re a student of your spouse and you know that that’s not a good time to do that, you’ll say, “Okay, I’m going to do this later.”
KM: I think it’s so important.
MJ: “I’m going to pull my spouse aside and not do it in front of my child at that moment.
PC: You know, that’s interesting because if I had a buck for every time I told people about the differences in my kids and how to work with each one of them. One will do this. The other one won’t respond the same way. I’ve done that a number of times but I never applied that same thought process to the wife – that there’s certain ways that all women aren’t just exactly alike. All people are different and respond to different- I mean, we do have a system. When I get home if the doors are all locked and barricaded with furniture, she doesn’t want to talk. So you know we’re not totally without process here.
KM: You’re intuitive that way.
MJ: Well I’ve told people I’ve worked with over the years-
PC: I put castors on the furniture for her. It makes things easy.
PC: I’m trying here, okay?
MJ: I’ve told people over the years, if you have something that you want to deal with me about. Say something bothers you about me. If you walk into the room and you start yelling and screaming, or you say something real snippy or you’re very sarcastic, a wall’s going to go up and I’m not going to hear a word you’re saying. I’m just not. If you want to criticize me, if you want to correct me, the way to do it is to come in with a calm voice and say, “Mark, I have something I’d like to share with you,” and just come in a respectful way. I’ll listen to every single thing that you say and I will give you the floor and I will be more apt to do whatever it is to make sure that I can correct that. But there are ways to come to me with that. One way puts up a wall and I don’t hear a word you’re saying. Another one opens the door for you to come into my heart.
PC: So the phrasing matters.
MJ: Oh, absolutely.
PC: So, “Mary, I’d like to point out one of your many imperfections,” is not going to work.
MJ: It might, depending on how you say it. My wife and I always say, “The words and the way you say things mean everything.”
PC: You know, on that same point, what’s interesting is– and I noticed this a long time ago about my dad. He learned early in life to smile when you’re admonishing someone because it puts a different tone on what you’re saying than a scowl on your face. Say the same thing with a scowl versus say the same thing with a smile and it’s easier to swallow. Well, he learned that early. It took me a long time to figure that out so when I do things, people want to hurt me after I say things. So I have to write myself a note to remember to smile when I’m admonishing somebody and what not.
MJ: Well, that brings up another great point. In our day of technology, we have gone so far that even spouses do it now where you text each other. You send each other emails. And you don’t get to see that smile. You don’t get to see that body language.
PC: We have emoticons – little smiley faces.
KM: And I think that’s where the break down of communication comes. A lot of couples have conflict arguments via texting. Or they misread the texts or they put in a lot more- because the behavior and the inflection and the face-to-face is not there and-
PC: All they have to bring to that party is past baggage. “Well, the last time he said this he meant this, so it must be the same this time.”
KM: It’s so hard to unravel.
MJ: Oh and I’ve sat in the room with one spouse or the other. Well, they will actually open up their phone and they will show me the whole conversation from weeks gone by of, “Look what he said here. Look what he said here,” and it’s all on text where they never have spoken to each other face-to-face about these things, but it’s all through technology. And that can be a real detriment as well.
PC: Not a good way to go.
KM: Stop it.
MJ: There are people who will be in the same house in different rooms and they’ll communicate through a text rather than going and sitting in the living room and just sitting across from each other on the couch.
KM: Is that sad?
MJ: It’s very sad. It’s very sad. And it’s not only sad, it’s so dangerous in your relationship. So dangerous to being able to really get to know each other. I think I mentioned this before – it’s not original to me, but something that I encourage couples to do all the time is couch time. That’s uninterrupted me-and-you time where we just sit on the couch – no kids, no interruptions, sacred time. We might not have to say a word, but it’s a time for us to just communicate with each other.
KM: You know what? My husband and I were talking about this this morning. Tonight we’re going to be watching the football game, right? So I said, “So we’re going to watch the football game, right?” And he goes, “Yeah but I probably am going to have to do some work,” which the translation of that is, “We’re not going to be able to sit on the couch together like we always do when we watch a movie together or whatever. He’s going to be in his lazy boy with his computer and his work while we’re watching the football game together, but it’s not the same to him because we’re not sitting on the couch. I said, “Well, it’s okay, honey. I’ll just move my chair close to your chair. How’s that?” But it’s important to pick up those little-
MJ: And the great thing is that he recognized that and he communicated that to you because he knew that was important to you and it was important to your relationship.
KM: And it’s important to him. He is the one who wants to sit on the couch with you together to watch a movie because that’s that quality time on the couch for him. That’s his love language. We’re in the same room but I want to sit next to you. And I’m like, “Well, we’re in the same room,” but I have to be a good student and go, “He needs this.”
MJ: And not only knowing that-
KM: It’s not that I don’t want it. It’s just I have to understand that that’s not- being in the same room is not the same for him as sitting on the couch next to me.
MJ: Absolutely. That’s great. Very good!
KM: So I’ll sit next to him in my chair and we’ll be screaming at the television while he’s working.
MJ: Hopefully you’ll be doing more cheering than screaming tonight.
KM: I hope so. I hope so.
PC: Well, here we are.
KM: Here we are.
PC: Interesting. All right.
KM: What do you think maybe the top, I don’t know, 1-2-3 kind of things… like just a little takeaway that somebody could do, just a little inventory with their spouse-
PC: What do I do first, Mark?
KM: You know, in a daily kind of way. What three things that the listener can maybe implement at home daily?
MJ: One thing is, part of it is the time that it takes to do that and one of the things somebody challenge me a long time ago was they took my calendar and they said, “Okay, I see you have all these appointments with all these different people and everything. If I looked in your calendar right now, where would your wife’s name be?” And that was really challenging to me. One thing, because do I take that time to spend time with her? To talk with her? To get to know her? Those types of things. And then doing an inventory. Ask yourself some important questions: Do I know these important things about them? There’s some games where they’ll ask you questions about, “What’s your wife’s favorite this? Or where does she like to go? If you go out to dinner, what is her favorite type of food?” Little things like that – asking questions. Do you know those things? Do you know what her favorite cologne is? Do you know what her favorite restaurant is? Do you know her love language? Things like that, so asking yourself questions like that. But then also just saying to yourself, “This is a gift that was given to me.” And you look at your life and you say, “The things that I really care about…” I always tell people, I say, “The things that were most important to you got done. When you lay your head to bed at night, the things that were really important to you, they were taken care of.” So if your spouse is really important to you, did you take time to get to know them today? Did you take time to pursue that relationship today? If you didn’t, you can tell me to you’re blue in the face that that’s the most important relationship in your life. No, it’s not.
PC: Your actions say otherwise.
MJ: Exactly. The things that-
KM: So it’s the constant pursuit.
MJ: The things that got done, those are the most important things to you today.
KM: How can I best serve you today?
MJ: Exactly. So thinking about things like that, and even if you can’t get certain things done like your husband did- okay this might be different today, but I’m going to make up for it. Or we’re going to do something different. And what does that do? It says that, “Okay, we still might not be able to do this, but I was thinking about you.”
PC: We’re out of time, folks. Mark, if I go home today, doors are locked and I can’t get in-
PC: – where can I find you, please, sir?
MJ: (Laughs) You can find me-
KM: -Running in the Flintstones car coming over!
MJ: There you go. You can give me a call at 972-234-6634 extension 103, and I would love to get together with you and help you pursue that relationship to a deeper level.
PC: We can do that, just get the couch ready, okay?
PC: What about you, Mills? Where are we going to find you?
KM: Same place. 972-234-6634 extension 104.
PC: And I bet you’re wondering who I am.
KM: Who are you?
PC: I are Phillip Crum, content marketing coach and can be found at Contentmarketingcoach.us 24/7.
KM: No way. You don’t sleep.
PC: Yes, it’s always there. I’ve got one of those websites.
KM: That’s what the matter.
PC: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Thank you everybody. We’ll see you next week. And on we go.
KM: Thank you, Phillip. Thank you, Pastor Mark.
MJ: You’re very welcome. Thank you.
PC: Thanks, Mark.