One of the most frustrating issues to face in marriage is having a spouse who doesn’t seem to listen to you. And it’s a common problem; many spouses complain that their husband or wife just doesn’t retain important information–even to the point of not remembering it was discussed in the first place.
If this sounds like your marriage, don’t worry; there are several mindset shifts and strategies you can use to improve the situation and get yourself heard when it’s most critical. Want to know more? Read on.
Remember that your spouse probably isn’t tuning you out on purpose
Chances are, your spouse doesn’t really mean to let the things you say slip. In today’s busy culture, it’s very likely that he or she is often multitasking. Trying to get multiple things done at once can make it incredibly difficult to retain the things we hear. It’s just like adding one more plate to the dozen your spouse is already spinning.
It’s also true that spouses tend to listen differently; it just depends on each of your personalities and can be influenced by everyday stressors. Sometimes it’s just a matter of giving your spouse time to hear what you’re saying, process it, and absorb the information. It might seem to you like they’re distracted or only half-listening (if they appear to be listening at all), but maybe their brain is just processing the information.
Some couples who face communication difficulties are dealing with a gender issue (but not always). Stereotypically (and physiologically) speaking, men tend to have a harder time retaining things they’ve been told–but stereotypes don’t always hold true. Depending on your unique situation, your wife might actually have a harder time honing in than you do.
While there will be some cases where a spouse makes a conscious decision not to listen, most of the time, there are outside factors influencing their ability to focus or retain what you’ve said. Keeping this in mind can help you keep your responses to it in check.
Evaluate your approach and make any needed adjustments
Naturally, we get frustrated and even angry when we feel like someone isn’t listening to us–particularly someone as intimate as our spouse. This can color the way we respond to their seeming inability to hear or remember things we’ve said. But even though we may be justifiably upset, it’s still important to tread carefully.
If you’re feeling upset with your spouse, give yourself time to cool down before you approach them about the issue. Making angry demands will be counterproductive; it could actually cause your spouse to tune you out. If you’ve approached them this way in the past, it’s time to try a different avenue.
Putting your important communication in writing can be helpful if your spouse has trouble retaining things sometimes. If you’re particularly worried he or she might not get the message if you verbalize it, write it down. You can choose to put the details on paper, or you can drop a note somewhere where they’ll find it easily simply asking them to talk when they have a free moment (like on their work desk, by the computer, taped to the bathroom mirror, or something similar).
Be careful not to use notes as a way to avoid other forms of communication. Instead, think of them as a safety net. Your spouse might simply retain information better by reading than listening, and that’s okay. But you still might need to have discussions surrounding the items on your notes.
Another thing to consider is your individual communication styles. If your spouse is straightforward and to-the-point verbally, but you tend to ramble and talk around topics, your spouse’s mind might wander. Let’s say this is the case; if it is, you might have to actively adjust your communication style in certain situations when you need your spouse to hear and retain something important.
Carefully frame the moments when you need their undivided attention
Framing the crucial moments when you need your spouse to be fully present with you when you’re speaking can help you feel heard. Don’t be afraid to ask for their full attention at times like these.
You can say something like, “I have an important question for you, and I need to know you’ve heard me.” You could also ask for them to weigh in: “I need your input on something. Is this a good time to talk?”
If your spouse is highly task-oriented and you find it challenging to get their attention, you could say, “Hey, when you’re ready to talk, there’s something I need to focus on.” Rather than springing something important on them when they’re in the middle of a task, you’ll give them the opportunity to get into the right mindset to truly listen.
Does your spouse have a hard time listening or retaining important things you tell them? What are some constructive ways you use to approach the situation? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.