On several evenings, I couldn't wait to go to dinner with my husband. Dinner dates are a rare treat, and when we find the time and money to go, they are the highlight of my week. However, on more than one occasion, the host sits us in front of a large TV, and my husband becomes completely engrossed in the game. I try to talk to him, but I can tell he has no idea what I'm saying.

Now, most of the time, my husband is a wonderful listener. But, he and I are both guilty, at times, of not giving each other 100 percent of our attention. Being a good listener is critical in a marriage. Communication builds trust, friendship, love and strengthens a relationship. The stronger an individual is at communication and listening, the stronger the marriage.

Here are a few ways you can become a better listener and improve your marriage.

1. Watch your body language

You may say you are listening to your spouse, but your body language tells your spouse otherwise. For example, the way you look at a person shows whether you are truly hearing what he is saying. Look into your spouse's eyes as he or she speaks. Face directly toward her and do not look in other directions, even a short glance.

Also, be cautious of how you position your body. When your arms are folded, it shows you are closed off to his comments. You are uncomfortable and uneasy. Furthermore, avoid being fidgety as this can be a sign of boredom. Sit facing forward, keep your hands in your lap and eyes on your spouse when talking with one another.

2. Ask questions

When you ask questions of your spouse, it shows interest. It shows you heard what he or she had to say, and you are interested. However, be wary of the questions you ask. Thoughtful and sincere questions are better than generic and basic questions. Also, avoid asking anything that has already been discussed. This tells your spouse that you are not listening.

3. Don't be a one-upper

One-uppers are challenging to communicate with. These individuals have to tell something a little bit better than the previous person. For example, if your spouse shared a story about his stressful day at work, you should not jump in and tell him about your challenging day at home. Instead, ask more questions about his day. Ask him to expound on something he has already shared with you. Show interest in his stories. This will show that you truly do care about his life away from you.

4. Don't be a parent

Many times I catch myself being more of a parent than a wife. My husband may tell me about a challenge or difficulty he is experiencing at work or school, and I tell him what I think he should do instead of listening and working out the problem together. Having one another to lean on during tough times is one of the great things about marriage. It is important that you listen and work together on issues, not demand the other individual listen and do everything you say.

When both partners are strong listeners, the doors of communication open. This allows for the friendship, strength, guidance and love that marriage brings to permeate their lives. Listening is a simple thing, yet an area in marriage that many individuals need to improve.

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