How do we achieve understanding? Paul Tournier writes in his book*: „One who feels understood feels loved, and one who feels loved feels sure of being understood.
(…) Deep sharing is overwhelming, and very rare. A thousand fears keep us in check. First of all there is the fear of breaking down, of crying. There is especially the fear that the other will not sense the tremendous importance with which this memory or feeling is charged. How painful it is when such a difficult sharing falls flat, upon ears either preoccupied or mocking, ears in any case that do not sense the significance of what we’re saying.“ (P.28+29).
So what can happen next? Tournier points out that a partner who has spoken in a very personal way „without being understood falls back into terrible emotional solitude. He may become sick because of it. In such circumstances some will go to see their pastor or priest, others their doctor. They are simply seeking someone who can understand. In certain cases of therapy, the help of a doctor or of a man of God may be necessary. Often, however, a wife can bring the same help to her husband, or he to her, if the same painstaking care is exercised in listening as would be done by a pastor, priest, psychologist, or doctor. How beautiful, how grand and liberating this experience is when couples learn so to help each other. It is impossible to overemphasize the immense need men have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood.“ (P.29)
I think we can all learn to listen better! Some are better than others already. But each one of us can improve!
He says that a man, if he is alone „marks his time and becomes very set in his ways. In the demanding confrontation which marriage constitutes, he must ever go beyond himself, develop, grow up into maturity. When marriage is reduced to mere symbiosis of two persons essentially hidden from one another, peaceful though such life may sometimes be, it has completely missed its goal. Then it is not solely the marriage which has failed, but both husband and wife. They have failed in their calling as a man and a woman. To fail to understand one’s spouse is to fail to understand oneself. It is also a failure to grow and to fulfull one’s possibilities.“ (P.31)
What Tournier points out as very important is to face problems and not to avoid them.
What? Problems? Some couples might say: We never argue. But like Tournier says, there are „problems in every marriage“ and those „who make a success of their marriage are those who tackle their problems together and who overcome them. Those who lack the courage to do this are the ones whose marriage is a failure.“
It is the „differences in our characters, tastes, habits, prejudices, and convictions which oblige us to a greater effort to understand each other. These in turn lead to further growth in both of us.“ (P.33+34)
It takes courage he says to „face up to all the problems created by a complete adaptation of two personalities. People are very different one from another.“
And „to come to understand that one’s partner is very different – this already presupposes a great deal of personal growth.“ (P.35)
??? Can you relate to what the author is saying? Do you share his opinion? What do you experience in your marriage? Do you have any good tips for understanding the other better???
*Book: „To understand each other. Classic wisdom on marriage“, Paul Tournier