Listening fortifies 43-year marriage

Day by Day:
Listening fortifies 43-year marriage

By LIZ THOMPSON
April 19, 2020
This Week News

Most of us can look back on our lives and wonder what would be different today if we had made a different choice in the past.

My most vivid thoughts on this idea float back to April 1, 1977.

A friend from church, Rosemary, talked me into going to a church-sponsored single-parents group. It took some convincing, but I finally gave in.

Within 45 minutes, I had met the man I would marry.

It was the last thing I had in mind. I was focused on raising my young daughter and surviving on a meager salary.

But one year and 21 days later, Bob and I became husband and wife.

We have been asked by young people how we stayed married “this long.” It seems we met yesterday, not 43 years ago.

Love and respect, friendship and good listening skills certainly help make the days memorable.

A verse from James 1:19 is good advice for relationships, especially marriage:

“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

Most of us have heard the phrase, “There’s a reason you have two ears and only one mouth.”

According to an article on Dayspring, “If you have (heard this phrase), consciously or not, the deliverer of that message was speaking the truth of James 1:19.”

Bob and I had some unique situations to deal with. We all have challenges, but we were a blended family before it was common.

He was blind in one eye, and I had moderate hearing loss.

We often joked that it was a good thing because he could see only half of me and I could hear only half of what he said. We joked so we wouldn’t cry or feel sorry for ourselves.

It turned out Bob had a lot to say, so I listened as well as I could for many years. I had no difficulty talking and Bob was a great listener. I was near deafness in 2002.

“But love listens because love first seeks to understand. At its core, that’s all listening really is: caring enough to try to understand before responding.”

Those sentiments from the same Dayspring article had a different meaning as I lost my physical ability to understand words. I could read body language and American Sign Language.

I usually was exhausted at the end of the day trying to understand. Many times, I responded incorrectly or remained silent, yet Bob and my family were kind and patient with me.

When the miracle of a cochlear implant gave me back the ability to hear words clearly, I loved listening and truly understanding.

I love it when Bob says, “I was thinking …” because we can share our thoughts so easily now.

The Dayspring article was about the art of listening well. I think that is the basis for any good relationship, and certainly marriage. It goes on to say:

“For those who are quick to listen, have patience with the talkers.

“For the talkers: breathe. Let others speak until they’re finished … then wait to say it. Intentionally let someone else speak first.

“And as for the slow-to-anger part of these verses in James … that’s much easier to do when we are first quick to listen and subsequently slow to speak.”

It takes practice on both sides of any communication. Did we do it perfectly all these years?

Of course not, but we came out stronger on the other side of troubles. We added a large dose of forgiveness throughout the years for ourselves as well as for each other.

We are all challenged during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. I’m thankful to have Bob by my side as we live our wedding vows every day: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.”

In many ways, we helped each other become better versions of ourselves.

I’m glad I listened all those years ago.

Enjoy each new day. Time passes all too quickly.

Thanksgiving reminds us to let go, forgive

Day by day
Thanksgiving reminds us to let go, forgive
By LIZ THOMPSON
November 4, 2014
ThisWeekNews.com

When we think of slow baking, we might get our Crock-Pot ready for the sweet smells of cooking low and slow. The fragrance of soup, meats and even desserts will fill our home, if we are fortunate enough to have the pot and ingredients.

With Thanksgiving happening this month, we are thinking of what to cook and who to cook for. Many will give of themselves to serve meals at shelters or churches; giving back to their community for those less fortunate. God bless them all with clean motives of love abounding.

The word forbearance was used in my daily devotion recently and I checked the dictionary to make sure I had the right definition. Basically, it is a byproduct of love and means to have patience when provoked; being willing to put up with people’s actions and inactions — to let things go and to forgive.

No one says it’s easy but it is possible.

In the book Lee: The Last Years, by Charles Bracelen Flood, a story about Robert E. Lee illustrates my thoughts. After the end of the Civil War, Lee visited a woman in Kentucky who showed him the remains of what was once a grand, old tree. It had been destroyed by federal artillery fire.

Crying, the woman looked for Lee to condemn the Northerners or sympathize with her loss. His response: “Cut it down, dear Madam, and forget it.”

When I asked my friend Suzanne if she thought writing about forbearance while thinking of giving thanks this month, in particular, made sense, she didn’t hesitate. “Being able to forgive is one of the best gifts God has given us,” she said. “So yes, we need to be thankful about all things, including our learning to let things go.”

Lack of communication or poor communication can break down even the smallest family or corporation. Add to that a lack of patience and walls go up that create divisions that are hard to break down or through. Offenses are exaggerated to the point where we might even forget how it all began.

“A (fly’s) egg becomes as huge as ever was laid by an ostrich,” Charles Spurgeon said about offenses magnified out of proportion.

I’ve been there, done that — seen that. It takes someone saying something to break through that wall of conflict and wave a white flag; call it quits and start again.

On the lighter side, Erma Bombeck wrote with humor on living, through her years. Near the end of her life, she was asked what she would do differently if she had a chance to live her life again. Many famous quotes came from her answers: burning that fancy pink candle instead of letting it collect dust, not worrying about grass stains and playing with her children more, but the following quote relates to my writing today:

“There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”

We need to decide whether to let our annoyances slow bake or let them go. It’s hard to be thankful when our hearts and minds are busy being angry. And you might already know it takes more muscles to frown than to smile; not just the baring teeth smile but the true smile that reaches the eyes.

Smiling is only an indication of being open to forgiving, forgetting (at least not bringing up old hurts repeatedly) and being willing to “cut it down.”
This month, we think more about what we are thankful for because of the national holiday. It’s a good reminder to be thankful year-round.

I look at the birds at our feeder and realize how hard they must work for daily food and I become more thankful.

Physical things such as food, clothing and shelter are temporary and shifting.
The long-term, year-round list for me includes family, friends, memories, and acts of love and forgiveness I have experienced in my life. There isn’t paper enough to write it all down.

Jan Karon wrote in Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, “Love is an act of endless forgiveness.” Sounds right to me.

But check that Crock-Pot to make sure your food doesn’t burn. You likely have hungry people to feed.