We all desire to be seen and heard. It is true at work, in our relationships, and most especially with our spouses. Fewer things are more empowering than articulating thoughts that are heard, received, considered and used to grow our relationships.
On the contrary, not feeling heard disempowers, erodes and stunts our relationships from maturing. Worse, if it happens over a period of time it can lead to anger, distance and apathy.
So what do you do if your spouse won’t listen to you? If you find yourself in that situation, you likely feel frustrated, at best–and entitled, at worst. You probably don’t want to hear that you may be contributing as much to the problem as the accused.
If you feel you aren’t being heard, let’s take a step back and consider a few reasons why that may be happening.
First, consider the timing of your delivery. Catching your spouse as they walk in the door may not be the time they are most receptive to hearing you out. Some people need some time to wind down and recharge (this doesn’t count if your idea of winding down is tuning out for the entire evening). Does this sound like your spouse? If so, consider that need and think about the timing of your delivery. A little bit of time could create much-needed space for your spouse to be a better listener.
MEN VS. WOMEN
Everything from science to psychologists to our own experiences has proven that men and women generally come from two very different places–and have very different needs. At the core, women want to be loved and cherished and men long to be respected. Before we get carried away, we ALL desire to be loved and we ALL desire to be respected; however, how we prioritize those things is different.
Wives, your men are 100% more likely to shut down if they feel they are being nagged or disrespected. Often–and maybe even rightfully so–women may feel frustrated, as though men should earn their respect. The problem is, that is not the face of sacrificial love.
Proverbs 14:1 says this: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” One of the greatest ways to build your home is to establish a foundation of grace, love and respect between you and your spouse. Finding your identity in Christ and operating out of the abundance of His love will establish a soft heart for your husband and a place where he will feel respected. Almost always, when a husband feels that respect, his heart softens, and making his wife feel loved and cherished won’t be forced, but fulfilled.
This doesn’t let you off the hook, men. So many of you are prone to wandering minds. If your wife is speaking to you, be intentional about putting down your phone, turning off the game and leaving work at work. Make eye contact, listen, and respond. You are to love and cherish your wife. Your undivided attention is of the best ways you can do this.
Men and women are different. But there is beauty in knowing that and finding the best ways to glorify God in spite of those differences. If your spouse isn’t listening, be sacrificial in your love. Think of what you could be doing better, swallow your pride and love them–not necessarily because they deserve it, but because Christ loves you.
As goes the saying, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. When communicating with your spouse, it is wise to check your heart and motives before you deliver your message. So often, we are prone to tune out when we pick up on a tone of voice that puts us on the defensive. Checking yourself can be so hard to do when we are operating from a place of hurt or anger, but it is worthwhile to wait until you can communicate in a positive manner. This builds character in yourself and trust in your spouse.
One common denominator across all healthy marriages is healthy communication. At the core, that takes open hearts, articulate communication of your feelings and an ear that is willing to listen. It is no accident to find these in your marriage.
If you are finding your spouse at a place where he/she won’t listen, it is time to do some searching. Start by examining your own heart, timing and delivery. Make small changes where you can. If that doesn’t work over time, seek professional counseling. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather an indication that you want your marriage to thrive. Start small, start now.
My son is in his first relationship and we had this exact conversation on Monday night. Your article articulates what I was trying to convey so much better than my actual delivery. In our conversations, my son kept saying, “She isn’t showing respect!” and I would say something to the effect that maybe how he was talking to her was shutting down her communication. This article is a perfect follow-up to our conversation. Thank you!
Excellent enlightening information …thanks for sharing 🙂
That is a good article – for normal couples. But I find myself married to a spouse with a mental illness (borderline personality disorder). On the exterior she is a highly functioning successful business woman. But relationally, she is a bottomless pit who doesn’t trust and has a rage that is so destructive. There are so many people with BPD – I didn’t realized it until I realized she had it. But I would love for some material from known Christian organizations for people in sadly, not normal marriages. Thanks.
I found lots of Christian writers who wrote about loving your mentally sick spouse. All I did was Google: loving your mentally sick spouse Christain.
Thank you for sharing your marriage struggles. It allowed me to see others deal with mental illnesses in their marriage, and now I have some resources too. God bless you both.
Christ can heal her and your marriage. Ask God to strengthen you to endure and ask Him to show you if there’s a way you might be able to create a safer environment for her. Sacrificial love really spoke to me and my extremely difficult marriage which consists of my rage issues and my husband’s sexual abuse/evil father issues – both of which have created a deep shame at his core making basic communication impossible at times. Going on 13 years of marriage and finally starting to get the “sacrificial love” thing. It’s hard when your spouse has hurt you so much over and over. Apostle Paul said to save yourself from many sorrows by not marrying and instead serve the Lord full time. But, marriage is a great place for Christians to learn to die to self and be more dependent upon Christ in their weakness to “fix” the marriage. We can only work on our part and pray for our spouses. God will be glorified if we are willing to learn how to show love and respect simply out of reverence for Christ – not bc our spouses deserve it.
Thanks for the encouragement.
Hi Will, Once married to a bipolar. Read a awesome book, ” Stop Walking on Eggshells”, and the work book. Changed my life in so many ways.
I also read “Type Talk”, and “His Needs , Her needs”, a many others. By the way, Will, there is no such thing as a normal couple. Exp;
But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.
The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 (1 Co 7:28). Thomas Nelson: Nashville,
The process of trials molds the partners into to Gods image, thereby releasing the blessings from heaven. Hope this helps, felt compelled to respond…. Tr
Thanks. I’m reading the Eggshells book right now – I believe she has BPD. I just hope and pray I can apply the things I’m reading.
I am sorry for your disappointment and hurt. I have an adopted daughter (almost 18) that displays many of the BPD symptoms. She is not diagnosed yet, as they don’t tend to diagnose BPD before 18 (given how tumultuous the teen years are for “normal” people. But, we have been warned that it is likely she has it or is developing it.
There is some research that suggests there’s a possible genetic component to it, in addition to childhood trauma/issues/abuse. In all the years of counseling we’ve sought for our child, the one treatment that most targets BPD and has shown the most effectiveness relative to the disorder is Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It’s a therapeutic plan that helps the BPD person learn to manage their lives, emotions, and relationships better. Do some research on it, and see if you can find a trained DBT therapist. Your wife may resist the suggestion that she needs counseling, so perhaps work with the counselor first to find the best way to get her in there. BPD is hell for the people who have to live with it, and it is hell for the people who suffer from it. I wish you the best .
You seem very gracious and open in this dialogue. I lifted you in prayer. You have a difficult journey. -adam
I agree. My spouse also has BPD and I feel like the dancing monkey who walks on eggshells.
It is so hard to communicate without triggering paranoia. Help us, please.
There is a wonderful book called Stop Walking on Eggshells that I would recommend.
I’m sick & tired of placating a narcissist. Lady’s we have to watch & measure our every word. If the relationship is abusive physical or emotional get out!!!! Don’t let twisted sister super saint talk you into blaming yourself. It’s not always our fault & I’m sick of this constant men do no wrong garbage.
I’ll pray for you! I’m sorry you feel hurt.
I totally understand… my partner, not “husband”, of 8yrs tends to shut me out. He acts like ANYTHING I have to say to him or about our household doesn’t pertain to him which leads to me getting angry. In turn tells me that I’m “bipolar”. Really?! I’m NOT the alcoholic, the pot smoker, occasional snorter, the one coming home whenever then isolating myself after a long day, tuning people out or acting like I’m better than everyone else. I’m the complete OPPOSITE! Yes, my fuse gets shorter when I have to keep repeating myself. I’m the stay at home parent, first up last to bed and checking on everyone in the wee hours, take care of sick kids, organize and clean just so he and the kids can go behind me and leave a new trail, balancing and budgeting, minimal alone time, constant talking then yelling at people in my household to get on the ball. Because of HIS actions and lack of respect for me the kids are picking up on it and thinking that it’s ok and it’s NOT! Instead of talking about things he blows up, gets destructive, and careless leaving me to pick up the pieces. Also because of him throwing a man-child fit we are in a dispute with CPS and thinks that they should work around his schedule (pride) for his classes, but it’s NOT on his terms and he doesn’t get it! I’m about done trying to deal with him. I called the VA to get HIM help and they turned it around on ME like I was the problem, now CPS is involved which made me angrier towards him. If I didn’t care about his well-being I’d have never called to get him help. Who knew a PTSD eval request would backfire!
My mom was married to a crackhead, pot smoker alcoholic. It was my step dad. We were so angry at him and her for staying with him. We begged her to leave. One day she decided to move across the country to be close to her mom and taking us with her away from him and his friends tgat all had the same lifestyle. She didn’t divorce, but she put her foot down and refused to let him back until he proved he was clean. In about a year he graduated from the teen challenge drug rehab program and left his brothers to move back in with us. My mom was confident that he was changed. We were very much against the reunion. But he won her over. He moved in with us, got a job, stayed clean from the drugs and mostly alcohol too. I still didn’t like him because of how he treated her in the past, but he was a different person. And he proved his commitment to her by uprooting himself. He then stayed married to her for another 20 years. He never went back to hard drugs. Not perfect but stayed generally happy in their marriage until his death. My point is, leaving a dangerous and awful situation with your children without divorcing him could be what he needs to wake him up. Of course it keeps you safer and your children will eventually understand. By the way. Because my mom had the courage to move I was saved through Jesus Christ. I was on an awful destructive path. My siblings were also saved as we started to attend the local church in our new neighborhood. I believe and I’ve told people this for years, that what Satan used to hurt our family, ( drugs and alcohol), God had a plan to use it to get the gospel light to us. I believe that even my step dad was likely saved. He struggled but greatly changed. There is hope but you need a new path. Get help.
I understand what you are dealing with. I am a recovering alcoholic & addict, Noe Sober…. I put my wife thru similar situations. My suggestion to you is,
(providing you can make the time) is find and go to an Alanon meeting. These are meetings for the spouses of people that have an active heavy drinking problem.. They are with other people that are , and have dealt with the same problems that you are going thru now. My only other suggestion is that ( You have to take care of yourself 1st…Above all else. You are no good to your children or Him, if you don’t take care of yourself. My prayers are with you.
I found the book Angry Men and the Women who love them by Paul Hegstrom really helpful as I have had a very difficult marriage journey . I have experienced some breakthrough in recent years.
Like others commenting I found “Stop walking on eggshells “ really supportive.
Dear hurting sisters and brothers,
I was married to a BPD sufferer for nearly 18 years. It is a hard life. The website “BPDFamily.org” was very helpful for me. Support, learning that you are not alone, advice for staying or leaving, a few Christians who will pray with you, and learning more about the illness so that you are empowered- very good stuff. These folks are broken and you did not break them. You also cannot fix them. Only God can do that and only when/if they take their brokenness to Him (and a good, Christian counselor).
In the end, God released me from that situation, showing me that my ex-husband’s addictions to pornography, drugs, alcohol, and rage were exactly the same as adultery and that I was going to die if I did not leave.
You are not alone! Cling to God and ask what He would have you to do.
What does respect of your husband look like exactly ? I know what things make me feel disrespected, but imagine for men it is entirely different. I do not know for sure because I have asked my second husband directly many times and he responds “I don’t know I just know when I feel disrespected,” but he does not tell me when those times are. If he does happens to indicate he feels disrespected (my sign is when he gets defensive), it generally seems like it is whenever I ask a question about a decision he wants to make (usually without any input from me) or a situation I ask seeking questions to get more information or understand his point of view about it. Is just keeping my mouth shut and saying “Yes, dear, whatever you want dear,” is that the respect men want? I have read the Love and Respect book even though my husband would not read it with me. I have read the Boundaries books. I attended your marriage evening in October. We have gone through 5 years of counseling that was helpful, but he is resistant to going back. I was raised that a woman’s respect meant never disagreeing with your husband and catering to his every opinion and need, stifling your needs, never raising your voice, talking back and/or just waiting until he was finished screaming his head off at you and just sitting in silence and praying more, especially to be more loving and forgiving. Basically like being a woman child, that respect meant the respect a daughter would give a father. This led to me being a doormat that did get emotionally, psychologically and sexually abused in my first marriage. The more loving and forgiving I prayed and strived to be, the worse I got treated because it was expected I would just take whatever was dished out with a loving smile. Back then I thought that was just what women had to endure. It was just our biblical hard luck. Counseling helped this distortion a lot, but can you please clarify what respect actually looks like, or at least the kind men desire and what it looks like in a healthy relationship?
It’s a whole new ball game if she is ADHD/ADD. But, since I have a relationship with God, he will [has] shown me the way. It’s still frustrating but it actually makes me a better person. It takes more than communication, being considerate, & having a commitment. You have to understand & go to her Counselor with her. She has 6 – 10 things going on @ the same time. Thinks she told you, but, really didn’t. Has her own ways. Even though,” there are better & easier. ” She’s a giver & a helper & a enabler. Her problems are really not a problem, unless I make them. I’m sure God brought us both together & since life is a learning experience, we are getting ready to make the phrase: to death do us part, WORK. Smile
Staleon:I dont know. What i have,This is my 2nd Marriage as well as my wifes. And I cant figure out whether. Its Defiant personality or what.My wife has never apologized For “Anything” After we have an augument . I know i say somethings in middle of Augument that i regret but i willingly. say I shouldn’t. Have said that and im sorry.But she will not ,Nights and days later she will not ,I wonder why she will not admit to adding to hostile atmosphere. Being in Ministry “She”should see Anger resting “But She does not.Help!!!