Ever wonder why your husband zones out when you are trying to hold a conversation with him? The effect this has on women can be very frustrating and hurtful. It makes them feel valueless and what they have to say not worth hearing. This too often results in a crisis and a dis-connect in the relationship.
There are several reasons why your husband tunes you out. Some may be due to his own unresolved issues that he brought into the marriage; issues stemming from his family of origin and some are caused by the way you speak to him. Communication is key to understanding and so many couples have difficulty with this most important part of a relationship. The most common complaint I hear in my practice stems from poor communication. Couples complain that nothing ever gets resolved. Most issues get swept under the carpet until the carpet begins to resemble the Swiss Alps.
What can you do when your husband is not listening?
Let me introduce you to one communication technique called “The Change Model”. It provides ways to achieve the results that you are seeking. However, it requires a cooperative partner in for it to be successful. To begin with, it necessitates self-responsible statements.
What does this mean?
Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements are essential and the key to success.
Once you begin a dialogue using “you” as in “You never listen to me” that either becomes an invitation for a fight or he checks out and uses stonewalling as his way to wiggle out of any conversation. Neither are effective and cause further pollution in the relational space; that space in which you live and the playground for the children. The children reap the damage as well because they learn from your role modeling what love looks like and it isn’t a pretty picture. They will emulate what they observe and bring forth that dysfunction into their own lives as adults. These early learnings are inherited and are carried into their adult life. It’s multi-generational.
Five Steps to Improving Communication with Your Spouse
The Change Model, often called the Communication Model provides five parts:
- Perception—what you hear and see.
- Feelings—how the perception elicits your feelings
- Interpretation—what you think, imagine, fantasize or wonder
- Needs—what you need from your husband to resolve the issue
- The contract—what you agree to do for resolution
Most couples come from dysfunctional families to a greater or lesser degree. We only know what we know, so we carry these maladaptive behaviors into our adult life repeating the past. Doing what comes naturally is not always healthy. New behaviors must be learned to achieve better outcomes.
How to Get Your Husband’s Attention and Keep Him Listening
You’ve heard the expression “better with honey than vinegar,” right? If you want to get the attention of your husband and keep him interested in what you say, say it with honey!
Always begin with the “I” instead of the “you”. For example: You were at a party last night and you noticed your husband paying a lot of attention to a beautiful woman neither you nor he never met before. You felt insecure and perhaps angry that his attention was on her longer that needed. You might have even felt a bit jealous and for good reason. The time spent attending to her was more than the time he was attending to you. He had no clue you were pissed. By the end of the evening, while driving home your anger was noticeable. However, you wanted to get your point across and have his full attention.
Here is how the model works:
“I noticed you were spending a great deal of time talking to a woman that neither of us had ever met before. (perception)
“I felt uncomfortable and slighted that you ignored me most of the evening; perhaps even a bit insecure and jealous.” (feelings)
“I wondered if you were attracted to her and had rather spend your time with her than with me.” (interpretation)
“I need you to have more consideration for my feelings and how that behavior affected me.” (needs)
“Can we agree that the next time we go out to a social event and there is someone who gets your attention, to give me the time and attention you give to her or him? It will make me feel important and that I matter.”
“Why is it that you seemed to give more time and attention to some woman neither of us ever met before? You made me feel as if I didn’t matter and you really hurt my feelings.”
See the difference? The latter will make him reactive instead of proactive. How you communicate to your husband sets the stage for whether he will listen and respond as opposed to stonewalling you or coming back with a judgment or criticism. When we use “I” messages it’s about how we perceive, feel, interpret and what we need rather than “you” messages that are only inciting a defense or a withdrawal.
There is more than just this model that you can get the response you desire. Starting a conversation with a compliment, like “I appreciate that you invited me the party. It was lovely however I need to share something I think is important.” This sets the tone for the conversation. It’s more inviting that just blurting out a sarcastic or angry comment that will only result in the silent violence. It’s the honey; not the vinegar approach.
If your husband doesn’t respond with a sense of interest or curiosity, then professional counseling is your next step. There may be too much water under the bridge by the time you decide to use this technique. As years pass and we collect stamps and become dis-connected, it may take more than a simple approach as the communication model to gain his attention. In John Gray’s book, Men are From Mars; Women are From Venus it addresses the biological and emotional differences between the sexes. This is something I write about in my book I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success, to be released on May 11. My book is not the only book that speaks to this issue. All one must do is go to your favorite bookstore or go on Amazon to find books on relationships. They fill the shelves, and many say the same thing. It’s executing this modalities and techniques that make a difference in our relationships. Hedy Schleifer teaches principles and rituals to help couples clean the space that has become polluted over the years of marriage. John Gottman, marriage and couple’s therapist talks about the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Stonewalling, contempt, judgment and criticism are named in his work. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling are highlighted as four behaviors that destroy relationships. If you are living in a relationship where any or all of these are part of your communication, your relational space has become polluted and you are reacting to the discomfort in your relational space. If it does not improve, the relational space becomes dangerous and you are both reacting to the danger in the space that you co-created. If this is where you are, please consider professional help. It’s too difficult to resolve this dysfunction without a trained therapist.
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success to be released May, 2020. To learn more about how Encounter-Centered Couple Therapy can renew and restore your relationship, contact Joan