"You Never Listen to Me!": Relationship
Advice to Improve Communication and Connection
By Susie and Otto Collins
Julia needs to talk with her live-in boyfriend Chris about
something important. She is really worried about her sister
who seems to have a drug problem.
Julia would like his support in deciding what - if
anything-- she should do about it.
The trouble is, Chris seems to have a habit of zoning out or
multi-tasking whenever Julia wants to talk with him about
something serious like this. From Julia's perspective, it
seems like Chris doesn't care or that he can't handle
This perceived tendency has been frustrating for Julia.
She usually doesn't bother to share her difficult feelings
with Chris because it seems to her that he won't listen or
engage anyway. But now that
Julia's sister has asked to move in with them, this affects
Chris as well. Julia desperately needs him to be involved.
Do you ever feel like your partner or spouse "never" listens
Perhaps you know that there are times when your mate does,
indeed, seem to hear what you are saying. But, for the most
part, you might
It may even seem to you that what you are saying is a lower
priority than other things going on-- like, for example, his
or her work, your kids, your dog, the ball game, the home
show, the newspaper, etc.
When one or both of you feel that you aren't being listened
to, distance can begin to form in your relationship.
Close connections in relationships are absolutely built upon
a mutual feeling of appreciation and knowing that you and
what you have to say are both significant.
Too often, the sense that you are not being listened to can
fuel expectations that are already present in the
A belief that your partner is not there for you when you
need him or her and an expectation that you cannot trust
your mate to follow through are both serious signs of
trouble in a relationship.
So what can you do about it?
One thing that you can't do about your partner who seems to
"never" listen to you is to change his or her behavior. As
appealing as it sounds, you cannot make another person
But there are ways that you can positively affect this
dynamic that has formed in your relationship.
Be an attentive listener.
As much as you believe that you are always present and
engaged when your partner is speaking, you might be doing
just as much zoning out and multi-tasking as he or she is
t is quite common for us to become irritated with the people
in our lives for habits that we
Practice what you are wanting from your mate. Whenever
possible, set down your cell phone, turn away from the
computer or television and really listen to what your mate
has to say.
Ask for your partner's attention.
Rather than walking into the room and expecting your partner
to immediately drop everything and listen with rapt
attention to you, make a request to have a conversation.
Be aware that your mate might have had a long day at work
and he or she could be feel tapped out at the moment. But in
an hour, however, your partner could be a bit rested and
more available to listen more fully.
When Julia thinks about it, she does usually barge into the
room already talking about what's on her mind. Chris works
long hours and has a very emotionally draining job. When he
is "zoned out,"
sometimes it is his way of recouping after a challenging
Julia has started to wait before speaking when she enters
the room intending to talk with Chris.
She'll sit beside him and ask him if he would be available
to talk with her sometime later that evening. She can
let him know that she really needs his input about her
sister, for example, and together they can set up a time
that works for them both.
When making agreements, make sure you are both on the
If an agreement is involved in the communicating you want to
do with your partner, it's particularly important that you
both are present and engaged.
Don't assume that your mate is fully understanding what you
have said if you are expecting him or her to follow through
with a particular action.
After Julia and Chris have communicated about Julia's
sister's situation, Julia needs to be clear about Chris'
feelings about her sister possibly moving in with them.
It is vital that they come to some agreement that they both
can live with.
Chris might ask Julia how long she anticipates her sister
would stay with them. Is this a permanent arrangement or
could they set a time limit?
Julia can ask Chris to talk about his specific concerns with
this possible change. Is it her sister's drug habit that
concerns Chris most or is he worried about a possible lack
having a roommate?
With these questions, they can both better understand the
other person's perspective.
Once they have come to a decision, Julia and Chris can
repeat back to one another the arrangement they are both
open to at this time so that misunderstandings are less
likely to occur.
Connecting communication in relationships is a skill that
Both you and your partner can benefit from feeling heard and
also from listening with attentiveness so keep trying and be
sure to notice when you experience successes along the way.