We often hear the complaint, “My husband doesn’t listen to my needs.” In this article, we discuss why husbands don’t listen and how you can get him to pay attention to your feelings and needs.
Did you see this? Flights to nowhere. It’s a thing now. You can read about here.
Evidently a few airlines are offering people who feel ‘lockdown burnout’ from the COVID-19 a flight that quite literally goes nowhere. You get on the plane, fly around for a while, and return to where you started.
Reminds me of a lot marital conversations I’ve heard over the years. Both parties talk, but no one listens, and it goes nowhere.
Maybe you’ve experienced it. I know I have. If you feel like your spouse is not listening to your needs, you don’t have to spin your wheels, or get on a flight to nowhere. There are a few practical steps you can take to move your conversation (communication) forward.
Let’s start by exposing one of the most misunderstood items in marital communication…
Why Husbands Don’t Listen To Their Wives
Most husbands want to connect with their wives. That needs to be said. It’s unfair to lump all men (or women) into a stereotype that is unflattering. While men might struggle conveying their true feelings (emotions) it doesn’t mean they do not have them.
There are many reasons a man fails to connect with his wife. Here are six worth considering.
Overwhelm is a trendy catch-phrase in today’s culture. It’s vogue to talk about being overwhelmed. While it is a bit overused, we are certainly stretched emotionally and physically as we try to deal with the growing amount of change in our lives.
Overwhelm happens we feel we have too much on our plate. Too many time demands, and far too many emotional withdrawals that leave us running on empty.
Unfortunately, couples allow these demands to negatively impact their communication.
Your husband may not be tuning in simply because he feels overwhelmed from all the things pulling on his attention.
2. Burn Out
I distinguish burnout from overwhelm. Burnout happens when your spouse feels bombarded with complaints and appeals to discuss every little issue. Pretty soon, the big things are lost and buried by the little things you keep bringing up.
In a video below, I talk about maintaining laser focus when you want to communicate and connect with your spouse.
3. Selfishness / Narcissism
Some men (and women) fail to connect because they are selfish. We call them narcissists. They only care about themselves.
If your spouse is one of these, you have your work cut out for you. And you have decisions to make about your expectations in marriage. I suggest getting professional help to navigate your relationship.
Bottom line: Some people will never give you the attention you deserve and desire because they are incapable (by choice) of thinking about anyone other than themselves.
It’s sad. And it ought not be this way, but often it is.Some people will never give you the attention you deserve and desire because they are incapable (by choice) of thinking about anyone other than themselves. Click To Tweet
4. Too Tired
Stress and time demands affect our moods and ability to engage. It’s easy to forget to leave work at work.
If you struggle with how to turn work and problems off, find a ritual that will allow you to connect with your spouse. My wife and found something that works for us. Find your ‘thing’ you can do together. This will lower the thresh hold of entry into conversations you might otherwise have problems discussing. If you struggle to find a common interest, read our article on making marriage work even if you have very little in common.
5. Wrong Approach
No one likes to be accused, criticized or called on the carpet. We get defensive. Even if we are guilty. It’s a natural reaction (whether good or bad).
This is especially important to remember if you have something important to discuss with your spouse. Your approach will either make or break the conversation.
6. He doesn’t trust you
I’ve saved this one for last because I need to explain in some detail. Before we tackle this, make me a promise you won’t be offended. Finding fault with this statement will only keep you from understanding your husband a little better. When you understand him, you can relate better. (By the way, same goes for him. It’s a two-way street. But we are answering the question, why husbands don’t listen to their wives. Not vice-versa).
Are we agreed? No offense!
Okay. Here’s my explanation.
When I say ‘trust’ I’m not talking about a moral, bonding level. It’s not that he doesn’t trust you will be faithful. I’m not implying he is not bonded to you. Or doesn’t love you. Or even believe you. I’m sure he is and does.
But…he does have trust issues.
Men (in general) don’t trust women’s emotions. Hard. Cold. Facts. Partly because their brains are wired different.Men (in general) don’t trust women’s emotions. Hard. Cold. Facts. Partly because their brains are wired different. Therefore, modify your approach to discussing tough issues. Click To Tweet
The image below shows the difference in how men and women see colors. No. This is not literal. But it does make the point that men tend to boil things down to the raw essentials.
Now transpose color with emotions. The principle fits. Women (generally speaking) have thousands of emotions. Men, only a handful. Yes, that’s meant as a joke.
Marriage crisis coach Stephen Hedger puts it this way:
When I’m interviewing couples to work with one factor always presents itself. As each person describes their history, the woman will share her pain her problems and the emotional journey she has been on with him. In contrast, he will usually describe their history is a factual journey of them being together minus the emotions.Stephen Hedger
This doesn’t mean he is not connected emotionally. Men and women simply process information differently. Men are by nature analytical and factual. (Not that women aren’t factual, they are). Women by nature process things emotionally.
According to Hedger, his research found:
When a woman brings emotions to a man he is naturally designed to not trust her emotions because he knows they can change, to him she can be erratic or unreasonable.
I’m not sure I would use the term ‘trust’ in this scenario. Nor erratic or unreasonable. It’s more like men are uncomfortable working in the arena of emotions. It’s generally not our wiring.Men are uncomfortable working in the arena of emotions. It’s generally not our wiring. We like facts, logic and certainty. Emotions are unpredictable and we like predictable. Click To Tweet
We will talk about how to get him to listen to your feelings later. For now, it’s important for you to understand what’s going on in his mind.
Side note: This doesn’t mean women are wrong, bad, or poor communicators. It also doesn’t imply men are dull, uncaring, or unemotional. Both of those are stereotypes that we should avoid.
It does mean men and women process differently. To connect, you need to know the rules.
- Men need to work at connecting with their spouse’s feelings.
- Women need to work at translating those feelings into facts.
All this according to Hedgers research. I agree.
How Girls and Boys Deal With The School Yard Bullie
Remember in grade school when you had an argument with someone? Or someone made fun of you?
For girls, the argument seethed and lasted the entire school year. It rarely (if ever) erupted into a fistfight, but it simmered all year and resulted in catty remarks and manipulation of others to take sides.
For guys, just the opposite. It usually reached boiling point quickly and ended in a physical altercation. Then it was over. The two guys became friends and bonded for life.
That’s an over-simplification, but it depicts a fair view of reality.
The key in communicating with your spouse (or having them communicate with you) is to understand the basic wiring. Men and women are different. Not just biologically. We are different psychologically, emotionally, and intuitively (women appear far more intuitive than men).
Now that we’ve discussed why he might not be tuning in, let’s lay some ground rules so we can get him to open up, connect, and listen to you?
What To Do When Your Husband Doesn’t Listen To Your Needs
This is more about attitude than tactic at this point. Your approach has as much to do with his response as what you say.
1. Be Patient
Monitor your expectations. While your girlfriend might be able to stay the course for a three-hour conversation about how you feel about your new boss, your husband will probably lose interest.
He thinks in terms of fixing a problem; not just discussing it. This is not always good. But it is our default mode. Men have to work at listening and discussing if there is no ‘end goal’ in mind. We like to resolve issue, not just talk about them.
This doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. It’s just not the way he thinks. Give him time to keep up.
2. Don’t Retaliate
If you feel he is disconnected, don’t return with more disconnection.
First, he might just think you are moody.
Second, it doesn’t give him a chance to connect with you. If you close down, how will he ever feel like opening up?
Retaliation is punishment. Do not punish him for something he is having to learn to do.Retaliation is punishment. Do not punish someone for something they are having to learn to do. Click To Tweet
3. Don’t Use Sex As A Weapon
Sex is important to men. Never, ever, ever use it as a weapon to punish. Don’t withhold sex just because he doesn’t think, feel or agree with you.
I’m not suggesting you should always be available. Sex is something that should be shared. I’m just saying too many women use it against their husband to manipulate and control.
This only drives a wedge in your relationship. If you goal is to connect, driving a wedge is the opposite result.
4. Refuse to Argue
Verbal arguments about talking only reinforce a man’s tendency to avoid.
I’ve often referred to men as turtles. If they feel threatened (by a woman) they retreat to their shell. Arguing is a sure way to cause them to close up shop and retreat.
5. Make Sure You Know What You Want To Communicate
Your conversation must not become a avalanche of emotions. Not if you want him to hang in there.
Don’t overwhelm him. Remember, this is one of the reasons he shuts down in the first place.
Most of the time husband DO want to engage with you. They just don’t’ know what to do with ‘high emotional impact.’
I’m not sure about the research on this (this is simply my observation and opinion after dealing with hundreds of couples…and men); women tend to approach things from a strong emotional angle while men tend toward logic.
I’m not suggesting women aren’t logical any more than I’m saying men don’t have feelings. My point is men do not typically approach things from an intuitive (internal, emotional) perspective. They are far more analytical.
I think research backs me up on this. If not, it’s still my observation. It’s true more than it’s not.Men do not typically approach things from an intuitive (internal, emotional) perspective. They are far more analytical. Logic, not emotions, is their default mode. Click To Tweet
What this means for wives: Get on his level even if he can’t quite get on yours.
- No. All the work doesn’t fall on you.
- Yes. He should pay attention to your needs even without you asking.
All of this is true. But some times it doesn’t play out like that. So you have to get creative. You are, after all, the one who wants to be heard. This means you might have to find ways to enter his world to help him connect with your needs.
Before you ask, let me say…No! You should not have to do this all the time. If that’s the case, you have problems in your marriage beyond just wanting him to engage with your feelings and needs.
Marriage is a two-way street.
How Do I Get My Husband To Listen To My Feelings?
Now it’s time for strategy and tactics. Let’s get practical.
1. Ask, Don’t Assume
Don’t overlook the obvious. As I mentioned, most husband want to talk and share life with you. Many times we respond out of our own sense of rejection.
Don’t assume he doesn’t care. This only sets the stage for more rejection. If you start by making him feel guilty, he will more than likely shut down. Game over.Don’t assume your husband doesn’t care. This only sets the stage for more rejection. If you start by making him feel guilty, he will more than likely shut down. Game over. Click To Tweet
Assume the best and just ask for what you need and want.
2. Help Him Understand the ‘Why’
Communication is one of the major stepping stones toward building trust in a relationship. Think about it. Can you trust someone when you don’t know their heart? Of course not.
Talking bridges the gap between knowing your spouse and trusting them.
You might need to discuss the importance of talking with him. I know this sounds elementary, but it’s possible he doesn’t realize how important it is to you.
3. Plan a Getaway for the Two of You
One of the barriers to successful communication is distraction. We are distracted by thousands of attention getting demands every day. Heck, every minute.
Commercials. Cell phones. Text messages. Social media. Television. Sports. This list is endless.
I’ve discovered couples that schedule time alone (no kids, work, social media, etc) connect on a deeper level. This is not rocket science. It’s common sense. Yet it is often overlooked (or ignored) by couples who struggle to communicate.
This doesn’t have to be an overnight trip, or exclusive vacation. In fact, those can often distract you from what you really need to do – connect by talking.
My wife and I have date nights. I’ve written about this before. It’s all about making your marriage a priority. We also like to fish. During the Summer we usually head to the lake in the late afternoons (longer days). This is when we talk. We discuss our day. Talk about dreams and desires. We connect.
It’s not hardcore ‘get this off my chest’ type stuff. We normally don’t have to do that BECAUSE we connect on a regular basis. Things don’t build up to a boiling point. We offset the need for ‘crisis conversation’ by remaining connected and talking daily.
Some couples don’t have the leisure to do it the way we do. That’s okay. But find your rhythm and connect frequently.Don't allow things to build up to a boiling point. Offset the need for ‘crisis conversation’ by remaining connected and talking daily. Click To Tweet
Planning a ‘getaway’ is the first step if this is not regular routine in your marriage. It sets the stage to talk about things that need to be discussed. And it helps you connect.
4. Slow Down
Stanford University put out a paper outlining a three step ‘resuscitation plan’ for people who feel bombarded, isolated, and overwhelmed in dealing with emotional challenges. I think this applies especially to those facing relationship struggles.
The three step plans goes like this:
1) Stop and take a deep breath
2) Slow down
3) Complete one task
In the video below I go into detail about how this applies to marriage.
I tell the story of a meeting my wife and I had that deteriorated into tension and frustration because I didn’t slow down, stop and focus on what was truly important.
The lesson I learned was: Communication is not just about being heard…it’s about hearing. Until we are ready to listen, we probably shouldn’t be talking.Communication is not just about being heard…it’s about hearing. Until we are ready to listen, we probably shouldn’t be talking. Click To Tweet
It is painful when you feel like your husband doesn’t listen to your needs. Communication is one of the primary building blocks of a healthy marriage.
In this article, we addressed the proper attitude you need to have when dealing with communication issues, as well as a few practical tactics to get your spouse to open up.
Here is a recap:
- Why Husbands Don’t Listen To Their Wives
- What To Do When Your Husband Doesn’t Listen To You
- How Do I Get My Husband To Listen To My Feelings?
To get more help creating the marriage you desire and deserve, check out these resources:
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If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.
Magic Relationship Words by Susie and Otto Collins
The Devotion System This free video will show you why men pull away and what you can do to enhance your relationship.