When Your Spouse Won't Listen

Over the past few weeks I have had a few conversations with folks about communicating within marriage. Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott have written a great article addressing Timing and Delivery when communicating. I thought it was a very practical and helpful article, and I pray that it will be helpful to you as well.


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.

TIMING

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.

[T]here is beauty in knowing that...men and women are different...and finding the best ways to glorify God in spite of those differences."

DELIVERY

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.