Owning My Faults

the speaker listener technique for good communication

I'm a self-proclaimed fixer and not always the best listener. I'm not proud of it, what with all the times I've shared about the struggles Jenny + I have faced in our marriage this last year. It wasn't until a week spent apart from one another, Jenny at home in KC and me in the mountains with some good dudes, that I fully realized all the times I've caused Jenny pain and suffering through this process of healing she's working through. My therapist says I have good intentions, which I do, but something is getting lost in translation. 

I've decided to stop focusing on all the things wrong with my life, and things I find wrong with the loved ones in my life, and just own my own poop. Why did it take me so long to realize that I was hurting myself and others and life really isn't out to get me

Why has it taken me so long to see the little pieces of encouragement I leave in letters for strangers I was withholding from Jenny? How is it fair that I let everyone else know they're doing the best they can yet push Jenny over and over to try harder...to do more. It's not right. I was ruining the thing I cherish most in my life...my relationship with my wife. I wasn't listening to what she has been trying to tell me. I'd been trying to fit Jenny inside this idea of what I think her life should look like.

So, I came home from 5 days in Breckenridge, ready to re-commit to her. Ready to own my issues, and overcome them. Ready to love and support her in ways that feel like love and support to her. There were numerous moments I wanted to take a shuttle in to Denver and fly home early, yet Jenny made it clear if I did that, she would feel like she ruined my trip. And I was torn, because I didn't want to be there, I wanted to be with her, but she wanted me to stay in the mountains. Like most women, she knew what was best for me, even when I didn't. So I listened to her, even though it was really hard for me to know my heart wanted to be somewhere else.

Here's what I learned I needed to do, and that if I didn't, I would lose my wife. I needed to listen. I needed to have patience and empathy and compassion. I needed to stop suggesting things Jenny should or shouldn't be doing. I needed to keep my mouth shut and my arms open, ready to hold her tight and listen to whatever she had to say. Most importantly, I needed to trust Jenny in the fact she knows what's best for her. She knows what she can handle, and I have to not flood or overwhelm her with other stuff.  

It's now been 11 days since I've been home, and besides 1 slip up on my part, things have been great. It feels like we're on the same team again. There have been numerous times since I've been home where in the past we would've ended up in an argument, mad at one another and staying up late yelling about the same crap, but that hasn't happened yet because I have kept my trap shut and truly listened to her. And here's the thing I find most interesting. Jenny is and always was working so hard, but in the last few weeks she's had more energy to try new things for healing (meditation!, acupuncture!!, giving up soda and gluten!!!!!!!!!!!). Jenny has more love for me, knowing I'm a safe space for her and not one of hostility and pain. It's become a circle, but instead of one of confusion and hurt, it's of support and love, for both of us.

It seems to me the second I tried to stop forcing her into a certain box I thought she should fit in, things got better, for all of us. Is there still work to do? Heck yes. I'm always going to be a work in progress, so is Jenny, and so are you reading this. But, things feel good. I'm waking up happy and filled with hope, ready to see what the day brings. Just a few weeks ago I was waking up frustrated, filled with anger and wanting the day to be over as fast as possible. It seems like there might be some truth in the saying about letting go of things outside of your control and listening to what's right in front of you

I have a good friend named Graham who told me about a Speaker/Listener technique he uses with his wife to help them communicate better. It's as simple as this...

  • As the Speaker - speak for yourself only, keep your statements brief and stop to let the listener paraphrase.
  • As the Listener - paraphrase what you're hearing, focus on the speaker's message without rebutting.
  • Other rules - speaker always has the floor, speaker keeps the floor while listener paraphrases, and always share the floor.

I don't think Jenny even knows I've been doing this lately, but I've seen firsthand how effectively it's helped us. 

I'm sure I have other faults and plenty to work on, but right now, owning my fault of a need for control and letting go of my self-serving nature to serve my wife are my focus. I know the work is hard, but I know I can do hard things. 

I share this story because I would love it if you took a few moments to see if you can identify anything you're doing that might be causing you pain, hurt or confusion in your life. Try and identify a fault or two of yours and commit to working on them. 

A bit of advice before I end this rambling. Make sure you give yourself some grace throughout this process. We're all growing and learning and doing the best we can with what information we have available to us. And that means we'll sometimes make some mistakes. It's ok, though. No one is perfect. Forgive your past mistakes and move on knowing you're trying your hardest. I know you can do it.

Josh Solar

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