A Powerful Option When
Your Partner Doesn’t Listen To You
It’s happening again: Your partner’s not listening to you.
You’re trying to share about your day and they’re clearly distracted. Their attention’s flicking down to their phone, or to the book they’ve begrudgingly put to one side.
Or you’re facing each other across the dining table and they’re making all the required noises, but you know they’re not really hearing you.
While the motions are there, you feel their attention is anywhere but on you, and you feel invisible, unsupported, unheard and unmet.
The frustration of not being listened to
When you find yourself in a situation like this, it’s normal to see your partner as committing an offence against you.
It’s like they’re in the docks.
“You’re not listening to me! You never listen to me! It drives me CRAZY when you don’t listen to me!” This is their crime against you – and your words come out either with frustration or anger and start an argument, or with disappointment or sadness and lead to you withdrawing.
Do you want to keep them in the docks? For sure, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from being the one who’s right, judging the one who’s wrong.
But if you look honestly, blame and separation don’t truly feel good – for you or for them. They don’t lead to the kind of relationship experience you deeply want.
So, how do you stop seeing them as the guilty party when they’re caught in the act of committing this offence against you?
A powerful alternative when your partner doesn’t listen to you
Whenever you’re accusing your partner of an offence, ask yourself this question:
“When have I done this?”
It’s not an easy one to answer at first – but take a breath, place your yearning for peace and connection as your top priority, and look with an open mind to find that offence in you.
When have you not listened?
When have you been distracted?
When have you tuned out?
This is not about making yourself wrong. It’s not about transferring judgement from them onto you. Marriage is not about passing the hot potato of blame back and forth.
It’s just to find it. Find where you do that too. Find that characteristic in you that you’re accusing your partner of.
Human beings don’t always listen to each other
Sometimes, you’ll be the one not listening. Sometimes, your partner will be the one not listening.
What’s behind this? It’s likely that you don’t listen when something’s on your mind. Maybe you’re in a hurry, or trying to do 1,000 things at once, or you’ve heard it all before, or something’s happened which is pre-occupying you.
When you’re not listening, what do you need? Something like: space, quiet, understanding, no further burdens.
When your partner doesn’t listen, give them what you would want in that situation
Acknowledge – either to yourself, or out loud to them – that this doesn’t seem to be a good time for them to be listening. Give their experience importance.
Just as there’s a reason that you don’t listen, assume the same is true for your partner. Take your partner out of the docks – because it’s not a place from which any relationship joy will emerge. Allow yourself to move from accusation to empathy; from frustration to connection.