Once my husband and I were asked to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show. It never happened, but it certainly gave me a lot to think about. The proposed show topic was non-traditional marriages, and we were invited because of our professional expertise on the subject, as well as our own personal examples. Since we look fairly ordinary, many of our friends asked “what is non-traditional about your marriage?”

Lots of things — especially considering where we started from: In 46 years we have moved from a very traditional marriage to an open marriage with completely shared responsibility for household, children (until they grew up), and our business. Along the way we argued (frequently), considered divorce (a few times), and supported each other in doing the things we wished the other wouldn’t do at all.

Perhaps the most important, and the most non-traditional part of our marriage are these three commitments: to be responsible for communicating what we feel, need and want to each other; to REALLY LISTEN to each other; and to support each other’s growth, regardless of the perceived risk to ourselves and to the relationship.

Without REALLY LISTENING to each other, everything else falls apart. It is the basis of all successful relationships. REALLY LISTENING to another person communicates to them “I know that you exist, and your existence is important to me.” It is the fundamental recognition we all need in order to feel that we have value in the world.

It is the response that people are willing to do almost anything to get. It is also the response that is missing in most of the troubled relationships I encounter in my work.

REALLY LISTENING means paying attention to another person’s words, feelings, and meaning, and saying and doing things that let another person know that you truly understand. REALLY LISTENING means waiting to state your own thoughts until you are certain the other person feels they have been heard and understood.

REALLY LISTENING works best when it is bilateral — when the other person listens back. Listening does not necessarily mean agreeing, it means respecting and acknowledging one another.

REALLY LISTENING may be the greatest, and least expensive gift you can give to another person!
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[tags]Relationships, Self Help, Self-Improvement, Personal Growth, Communication[/tags]