The Miracle of Listening with an Open Heart
When we hear from our spouses the painful episodes of their childhoods we often feel angry with the parent or caretaker who hurt them. Our love for our partners makes us wish we could have protected them from the pain they suffered. In loving our spouses and siding with them against those who have wounded them we rarely think of ourselves as offenders inflicting pain on the spouse we love.
I encouraged John to ask Laura about her childhood. She shared about how lonely she had felt growing up, how no one had been there for her. Most painful of all was that no one ever comforted her. She was the youngest of four children and by the time she arrived her mother had already run out of gas. Even with Laura’s older brother and sisters her mother was not known for being nurturing.
Laura’s father was downright hurtful. Laura depicted him as taking pleasure in belittling her the days she brought home her report card. He called her stupid and shamed her for doing so much less well than her brother and sisters did. Sarcastically he would ask her: “Are you lazy or stupid?” Eventually he would wind himself into a long diatribe at Laura, as though his haranguing her was going to shape her up into a star pupil.
What moved me was what happened with John. The previous week Laura had told him how his tone, when he spoke with her about letting go of her childhood pain, made her feel like he was her father lecturing her again. John rebuffed the idea, clearly not liking to think of himself doing anything but loving and trying to help his wife.
In this meeting a week later something clicked. John suddenly saw how he could sound like Laura’s father! There’s no predicting when something like this will happen. It is like a miracle. Our minds open and we can admit and take responsibility in a totally new way. That is what John did. Laura witnessed the miracle. She was surprised and dumbstruck. They left our meeting in a new state of mind. What a difference a miracle can make!
John and Laura ascended to a new level, to a new state of awareness. Will they lapse back in the future? Of course. We all do at times. But they will never lose the awareness of what they attained: how the past colors the present and the present touches the past. John has seen how he can sound like Laura’s father and reopen old wounds for her. Laura has seen in John something she never saw in her father: a man who appreciates how he can hurt the wife he loves and take responsibility for it—already he is changed.