Why Your Spouse Won't Listen to You?
When one or both of you are not listening to one another, you have a problem in your marriage. If the lack of listening continues, your marriage could be in jeopardy.
The listening problem in your marriage could be related to issues that your spouse has, your method of delivery, or a combination of both.
Your Method of Delivery
- You may be taking too long to say what you want to say. Long-winded monologues are boring. Get to the point.
- You may monopolize conversations with your spouse. Give your spouse a chance to talk.
- If you have a history of saying things that are hurtful, insulting, intimidating, dismissive, or disrespectful of your spouse's beliefs and feelings, your spouse will be protective and defensive by not listening to you. Don't say these things!
- If there is a pattern of manipulation in what you say to your spouse, your spouse will tune you out. Stop being manipulative. Say what you mean.
- If your talking style is one of preaching, lecturing, or questioning, your spouse may prefer to not hear your lectures or questions. Stop being the professor or attorney in your marriage.
- You may use too many generalities in your statements. Comments that use words like "always", "never", and "constantly" can cause a spouse to tune out the entire conversation. Eliminate these words from your vocabulary.
- Your timing could be off. Your spouse probably won't listen when tired, preoccupied with other thoughts, involved with a project, watching television, or working on the computer. Tell your spouse you want to talk and ask if it is a good time. If your spouse says no, don't get pouty.
- Any conversations about topics or issues that have been discussed at length previously will cause a spouse to tune out. Don't keep bringing up old issues or topics.
- Your spouse may have grown tired of continued conversations where you complain, whine, or speak negatively. Be more positive.
- Perhaps you don't listen to your spouse. Check out your own listening skills.
Your Spouse's Own Personal Issues
- Your spouse may not be interested in the subject you are talking about. Ask if this is something your spouse wants to talk about.
- Your spouse may be afraid of intimacy.
- Your spouse may disagree with what you are saying and isn't open to hearing your side of an issue.
- Your spouse may have listened as much as possible that particular day and is in information overload. Don't push for more.
- If you are giving your spouse advice or information, your spouse may believe that he/she already knows the answer or how to do something.
- Your spouse may have the habit of racing ahead of what you are saying by thinking of how to respond.
- Your spouse could judge that what you have to say isn't important.
- Your spouse may believe that ignoring what you say will make the issue or situation go away.
- Your spouse may not want to hear what you have to say.
- Your spouse may only be using half a brain to listen. "Researchers in the United States have found that men only listen with half their brain, while women use both sides ... he [Dr. Joseph T. Lurito] suggested women were not necessarily better listeners. He said women may need to use more of their brain to listen to conversations, but said it could show women could listen to two conversations at once." Source: BBC.co.uk. "Why men don't listen?"
- Your spouse may feel intimidated and not comfortable expressing his/her opposing view, so tuning out is an easier option. Allow your spouse to disagree with you.
- Your spouse may have a short attention span. According to Carla Rieger, the attention span of an average adult is only 7 seconds. You need to pause now and then as you speak. Allow your spouse to ask questions to clarify what you are saying.
- Your spouse may have too many distractions at the time of your conversation. If having total attention to what you are saying is important to you, turn off cell phones, etc.
- Your spouse may not want to listen to avoid conflict.
- Your spouse may have heard what you said, but believes differently or doesn't want to do what you asked, and it is easier to be perceived as not listening than to say no.
Listening to Your Midlife Crisis Spouse Without Passing Judgment
If you are going to have a relationship talk with your midlife crisis spouse, you have to be willing to not only listen, but also listen without passing judgment. Think of any relationship talks as a chance at cooperative learning.
As illogical as it sounds, the one thing a spouse suffering midlife crisis wants is understanding from you. You want him/her to be able to express feelings, explain their behavior and even criticize without fear of repercussion.
To listen without passing judgment you cannot take what your spouse says personally. Viewing the words that come out of his/her mouth as a symptom of midlife crisis instead of truth enables you to see things from a different perspective. Not that of a spouse but that of a helpmate.
Remember, the crisis is about them, not about you!
Below are a few tips that will help you navigate relationship talks with your midlife crisis spouse:
- Be patient with your spouse. Don’t hurry the conversation or push for answers to questions you have. Relationship talks should not be viewed as a game to win or loose. It is an exploration…an attempt to learn more about what your spouse is going through. The more you learn the better understanding you have.
- The relationship talk is not an opportunity to focus on what he/she has done wrong. Listen to your spouse and stay focused on what is being said without becoming defensive. Be willing to let him/her spew venom. Be able to respond with a simple, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” This talk is not about him/her or you; it is about what is going on in the marriage.
- Be able to see things for his/her perspective. Don’t dismiss out of hand something said. Give thought to what is said by your spouse and be willing to take responsibility for any part you played in his/her crisis.
- If possible, be able to validate his/her feelings and offer positive encouragement. For instance, if your spouse says to you, “you never listen to me or took my needs into consideration.” Respond by saying something like, “I’m sorry you’ve felt dismissed, listening is something I need to work on.”
- You see, the key is not whether or not you listened to him/her. The key is whether or not they believe you were listening. You feel like you were listening, he/she feels you weren’t listening. “Feelings” are neither write nor wrong and feelings should always be validated.
- Resist the impulse to criticize your spouse’s behaviors. If he/she is engaged in an affair, drinking excessively, ignoring the children…whatever. A productive relationship talk with your midlife crisis spouse won’t happen if those are the things you focus on.
Become a Better Listener
How good a listener are you in your marriage? Would your spouse agree with your answer? No one probably taught you how to listen. Well here is your first lesson. These tips will help you be a better listener. There is one thing you need to remember, practice these tips, do not just read them.
- Step 1 When you are listening, listen. Do not plan your response in your head, or play with your phone, or watch TV. Put your attention on your partner.
- Step 2 Do not second guess what your spouse is going to say. You will sometimes hear what you think you are going to hear. If you have been together for a long time you develop expectations. Open your mind, let your self be present, and hear what your spouse is actually saying.
- Step 3 Do not interrupt. This is particularly challenging for most people. When you interrupt you are being disrespectful. Usually you interrupt when you feel a strong reaction to what you are hearing. If you feel that your spouse is inaccurate, off base, critical or attacking, these are prime triggers. Breathe and try to calm yourself. You will get your turn to speak (and will want to be listened to without interruption).
- Step 4 Use a "talking stick" to stop the interruptions. Find something that you can use as a symbol, it can be a pen, a feather, anything you agree on. The person who holds the item has the floor. When you pass the talking stick to your spouse, they have the floor. This is a good way to start practicing the no interruption idea.
- Step 5 Concentrate and focus. Be present in the moment, listen to the words and the feelings that are being shared.
- Step 6 Unless you are asked, do not give advice.
- Step 7 Tell your spouse what you heard them say. You can use a reflective statement, which sounds like this, " I understand that you don't want to go to the party this weekend because you are tired and would like to rest". Your spouse can then let you know if you heard them correctly.
- Step 8 Pay attention to timing. Your spouse may want to talk when you are too stressed or tired to listen. Tell your spouse you are not able to talk at this moment and why. Let them know what they have to say is important, then suggest an alternative time to talk.
- Step 9 Be careful of your nonverbal communications. If you roll your eyes, smirk, or make a face, you may shut down the communication. Nonverbal communication while your spouse is talking is another form of not listening.
Improving Listening Skills in Your Marriage
I'm sure you've heard it said a million times that improving listening skills is important. And duh, yes, of course it's important! But... have you ever really thought about how to accomplish this?
If you're anything like me, listening to important people in your life (like your spouse) comes easily when the sailing is smooth. For example, when you're having a quiet, romantic dinner, or when you're snuggled up on the couch together.
But how about when you're busy, angry, or not really that interested in what your spouse has to say? How are your listening skills then?
If you answered, "not so good," then don't worry; you're not alone! Being a super-attentive active listener can be tricky at the best of times. But it's at the worst of times, when you don't feel like listening, that your spouse really needs you to listen to them, and it's at these times when great listening skills can really pay off.
Now here's the handy thing: the more you practice active listening skills in the "good times," the more naturally it'll come to you in the "not-so-good times." So how do you work on improving listening skills? Here are some tips:
Paraphrase What You've Heard
After your spouse has shared something with you for a few minutes, repeat the general idea back to them. This will make them feel very listened-to. For example:
"So you're saying that you're getting tired of calling your friends on the phone because not many of them ever call you."
Ask Open Questions
Your spouse will really feel like you've listened to them if you ask questions about what they've just told you. Only, make sure they're open (aka leading) questions, as opposed to yes-or-no-answer questions.
Spouse: "My assignment at work right now is SO frustrating!"
You: "What's making it so frustrating? Who are you working on this assignment with? When is it due?"
Give a Feeling Reflection
This is similar to paraphrasing, but a bit trickier. Giving a feeling reflection is when you give a response of what your spouse must be feeling, based on what they said, and more importantly, on how they said it.
Not only do you have to listen to their words, but you must also pay attention to their tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. For example:
Spouse: "The commute to and from work is driving me CRAZY... literally!"
You: "I hear you feeling frustrated and helpless at having to spend so much time driving in traffic, knowing that you can't change jobs to a place that's closer to where we live."
You don't like it when you're telling your spouse something that's important to you, and they seem spaced out, do you? So don't do it to them! A few tips:
- listen carefully to what they're saying so that you will understand and be able to make thoughtful comments about what they've said (see above)
- don't check your watch (unless you really need to keep track of the time because you have an appointment coming up, etc)
- try not to yawn - if you really must, cover it up by turning around or bending over to "tie your shoe" don't interrupt
- make eye contact, lean forward slightly, and face the person who's talking
Grab a Pen
If your spouse is going on an on and you can tell that they're really in a pickle over something, grab a pen and take a few notes. This will help you keep track of what they're saying so you won't have to ask them to repeat themselves later on.
Agreed, in some situations taking notes of what your spouse is saying will seem kind of lame, so know when's a good time and when's not! The best time may be when they have a tough decision to make and are weighing the pros and cons out loud. If you take a few "pros and cons" notes, you can show them the notes when they're done ranting and help them make a sensible decision based on what they've told you.
I guarantee you that this will go over better than saying, "I don't know what to do... just do whatever you think is best!"
Don't Overdo It!
Yes, improving listening skills is important, but use some common sense and don't go overboard with it! If you take the tips from above and go overboard with them, your spouse will think you've lost it.
Just imagine you sitting there listening, staring a hole through your spouse, taking notes like a mad-man, paraphrasing every few sentences, nodding your head like you're bobbing in time to some imaginary music, and making so many empathetic facial expressions that you're spouse thinks you're about to vomit!
Everything in moderation! Remember that you want come across as genuine, not artificial.
Know Your Spouse
The more you get to know your spouse, the easier it'll become for you to "read their cues." In other words, you'll start to recognize the difference between when they really need you to drop everything, sit down, and listen to them, or when they're just saying something in passing.
This, of course, is part of the joy of being married - knowing someone, and being known better than anyone else in the world!
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