My Husband Doesn’t Listen to Me

My Husband Doesn’t Listen to Me

4 Ways to Speak the Language Husbands Like and Understand

Having the same conversation again and again, the one that turns into an argument or a cold war every time, gets old fast.

But when your husband isn’t holding up his end of the parenting, finances or household maintenance, you end up stuck holding the bag, which is exhausting.

You’re likely to get resentful if you don’t say something, but what if he gets irritable whenever you mention a particular topic?

Or, what if every time you bring it up, it isn’t a good time? What if he just won’t listen?

If he’ll never talk about it, how will things ever get better?

It can make you feel hopeless.

Here are 4 secrets to talking so he can hear you. Click To Tweet

1. Appreciate Something He’s Already Doing

Husbands crave appreciation.

One man told me his wife complained that he woke her up by munching on potato chips in the car while he drove the family back from a long weekend in the mountains.

“I thought I was doing a good thing, taking the family on vacation and driving everybody back while they rested. But I didn’t feel appreciated. She only noticed that I eat chips too loudly.”

Another husband told me recently that he used to clean the kitchen but has stopped because his wife never acknowledged that he did it. “She never said anything, so it was like it never happened.”

You might be thinking, “I clean the kitchen every day, and no one thanks me either!”

You’d probably like someone to notice and acknowledge your efforts. That’s human.

To have a culture of gratitude in your marriage, why not go first?

You can thank him for ordinary things like making the coffee, putting the kids to bed or putting on a new roll of paper towels. And for big things like supporting the family or his character traits–like being fun-loving and generous.

When he feels appreciated, he feels successful in being your hero, which inspires him to want to listen to you because what you’re saying makes him feel good.

As one guy on the man panel at The Cherished for Life Weekend put it, “My wife was so grateful that I fixed the cabinet that I started thinking, ‘What can I break around here so I can fix that too?’”

Of course, you don’t have to say “thank you” to him to make him listen, but when you want him to be open, that’s a great time to look around appreciatively at what you already have, thanks to him.

2. Ask to Borrow His Brain

Announcing that you want to talk is the same as saying, “You’re in trouble and I want to complain about you.”

There’s a conversation nobody wants to have.

Most husbands will climb out the window or disappear into the floor to avoid that talk.

If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking, “But he’s not in trouble! I just want to discuss the budget and how we’re not banking any money for a vacation.”

But right there, hidden in your agenda, is a complaint: You spend too much/don’t save enough/don’t make enough.

And your husband is highly sensitive that you think he’s falling short. Your disappointment in him is pretty crushing, actually.

At least it was for my husband and for every man I’ve ever spoken to about this.

Looking back, I can see why my husband retreated to the TV so he didn’t have to continuously be reminded about how he wasn’t making me happy.

From his standpoint he was already doing his best, so my complaining didn’t motivate him to improve–or to listen to me. He avoided the pain of that conversation completely.

But if you figure out what it is you want and ask if you can “borrow his brain” about something, you can engage him in solving your problem, which he loves to do.

For example, you could say, “Can I borrow your brain? I want to figure out a pretty backdrop for my next video and I’m stuck! Any ideas?”

I said that yesterday, and today we’re shooting a video with the great new set design he came up with.

3. Express a Desire, Not a Complaint

Husbands can’t even hear you when you’re complaining. I know this from my own experience of complaining for years and having my husband tune me out.

I thought I was saying what I wanted, but I was actually saying what I didn’t want, which is what complaining is.

He just didn’t know what to do for me. He didn’t know what I wanted!

For example, in the old days I would have said how boring the plain old walls look as the backdrop for my videos.

He might listen politely, but he wouldn’t know what to do for me. He might think I needed a nap.

Double-check to make sure you’re expressing a pure desire–meaning no manipulation, control or complaint–when you talk to your husband. Just think of the final outcome you want and stick to that.

It’s so easy for complaints to sneak in! That happens to me too sometimes.

I was tempted to say, “I’m sick of these plain old walls as the backdrop for my videos, but I can’t use the windows because I look dark when I’m backlit, so argh!”

There’s no indication of what I wanted in that, which is the critical information my husband needs in order to make me happy.

If your husband is anything like mine, that kind of complaint will only have him tune you out again. So i just said it to myself and figured out what I wanted before speaking to him.

It’s not fun to listen to complaining to begin with, but when he can’t figure out how to help you he isn’t likely to tilt his head and say, “Tell me more!”

More likely he’ll search for something more interesting to listen to, like the TV–unless he hears a way to be your hero and do something that will make you happy, that is.

One woman was astonished though, that when she simply said, “I would love a glass of wine!” without any expectations that within minutes her husband was on the way to the store to get her some.

That’s the power of expressing your desires in a way that inspires.

4. Keep It Short

It’s tempting to go into a long story about why you’re thinking about whatever it is you want help with and what happened before and what your sister said and lots of other details.

If you want to express your desires in a way that inspires, consider keeping it short and sweet.

Once you’ve expressed your appreciation for something he does and figured out what it is you want, construct one brief sentence so it looks like this:

“I’m so grateful you put our son to bed every night. Can I borrow your brain about something? I’d love for him to clean his room, but it is not happening. What do you think?”

Then you can stop and listen to what he has to say. I promise he won’t try to jump out the window this time.

As far as whether to go along with his suggestions, that’s up to you. You could continue to refine your desire as you go along. So if he says, “Okay, I’ll tell him I’ll take him for ice cream after he cleans it,” and you worry about your son having sugar or a reward for doing his part, you can always say, “I’d love to get into a routine that doesn’t end with sweets.”

Another example is:

“Thanks for going to work every day to support us. Can I borrow your brain about something? I’d love to figure out some way for my mom to stay with us comfortably when she comes to visit.”

You might be surprised just how attentively and thoughtfully your husband listens when you use these techniques.

What would you like to talk to your husband about using this approach?

 


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34 thoughts on “My Husband Doesn’t Listen to Me”

  1. wow thank you Laura your advise makes sense and helps a lot, I will try to follow these steps and give feedback, thank you once again

    Reply
  2. First, the reason why woman “complain” is because they are searching for support in their struggles and empathy for their feelings. Unfortunately, men do not read this language and often only want to change the way their partners feel. We just want to feel safe enough to feel down, listened to, and understood.

    Reply
    • Stephanie, I hear you! Yes, I felt the same way and wanted the same thing. Unfortunately, as you point out, my husband did not respond in kind. Learning to communicate with the 6 Intimacy Skills gave me the safe space to feel heard and understood. If you’re seeking more ways to get that support and empathy you crave, I invite you to my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  3. Your ” whatever you think” works so well. But this is one tip I forgot about. Think I’ll try it on new furniture. By asking him if he would like his choices in a furniture upgrade or style. Also I’d like to borrow his brain on creating his favorite meal everyday.

    Reply
  4. Thank you sooo much for breaking down the steps and the great examples of how to say things better!
    Ive read the books and blog…and struggle with tweaking/approaching different topics.
    Real examples of are AWESOME!

    Reply
    • Nikki, I love how devoted you are to finding new ways to communicate! I hear that you’ve been struggling with certain topics and would love to empower you with more resources. I invite you to my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  5. Great reminders thank you. Just want to clarify, you don’t advise that we do this about issues to do with our relationship though, is that right? We are supposed to do this about other things, and let the things we want in our relationship flow naturally from having more emotional safety, respect etc? Your advice is working really well for me and has made things way better, cut out pretty much all the fighting, etc, which I am sooo grateful for. However I still don’t feel adored or cherished much, I feel closer in some ways but a lot of the time still don’t feel that sense of closeness. I’m wondering if I need to adjust my expectations, focus on meeting needs through time with girlfriends etc OR keep focussing on improving my application of the intimacy skills? I guess I just need to keep applying the principles and learn to be content with whatever happens from there? (Btw I have attended webinar and don’t have finances for coaching unfortunately). Thanks so much for your life-changing help.

    Reply
    • Jane, kudos on your commitment to practicing the 6 Intimacy Skills. I’m delighted to hear you’ve created such a peaceful, respectful relationship! I hear that there’s room for a lot more closeness. I remember the loneliness and longing I felt when I wasn’t feeling cherished or adored. Continuing my self-care, including turning to supportive girlfriends, and deepening my practice of the Intimacy Skills (including letting go of expectations) gave me the passionate, playful marriage I’d always wanted. I hear your commitment and know that you can have that too! I invite you to try the 5-Day Get Cherished Challenge at http://getcherished.com

      Reply
  6. I still really struggle with how to make my desire not feel like a complaint. For example, my husband collects “stuff” that he sells in yard sales “when he has time”. The garage is currently full, as is the side yard. He has not had a sale in months, but he still gets more “stuff”. Finally got everything out of the driveway and front entry after the last sale, but now, I am right back to having to navigate through all that “junk” to just walk in the house. Saying that I want to borrow his brain to figure out a way to keep my entry empty still “feels” like a complaint.

    Reply
    • Great question, Lisa! I admire your commitment to expressing pure desires, complaint free! A few things that have helped me do that are identifying the end result I want (is it really an empty entrance or something else?), letting go of expectations, and expressing that desire when I’m feeling like a goddess of fun and light. For tips on how to pull that off without sounding like you’re complaining, check out my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  7. Hi Laura!
    thank you ,thank you
    that resonates so well, I was struggling in finding that perfect way to bring up a sensitive discussion in a surrendered way. I cant wait to put it to use right away!
    As always thank you for coming to the marriage rescue!

    Reply
  8. Great blog Laura, but I have a question. When you say “as far as going along with his suggestion, that’s up to you. You can refine as you go”……my husband gets offended if I come back with another refined “desire”. He says “You asked for my advice, but then you won’t take it, so why did you ask me then?” He then feels like his suggestion was worth nothing, and he gets hurt and then angry. Even if I don’t refine my desire, but I don’t follow his suggestion, and do my own idea, I get the same result. Any ideas?

    Reply
    • Kelly, I’m sorry to hear that your husband gets hurt and angry when you’re making an effort to relinquish control. I admire you for being so committed to finding new ways to restore intimacy. I hear it’s challenging to borrow his brain when he gets offended if you refine your desire or don’t follow his suggestion. My husband used to get offended easily with me too. Practicing other Intimacy Skills in unison with expressing my desires helped them come across in a way that made me feel cherished, desired and adored. I’ll show you how to approach that situation as a goddess of fun and light, full of respect and gratitude, in my upcoming free webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. In my experience, that’s a pretty irresistible combination!

      Reply
  9. hi laura..my boyfriend doesn’t care about my wants anymore.. what should I do even I completely expressing my desire it really seems he has no care for my happiness he just want to be with his friends. I just also want to tell him to limit going out with his female co worker but he get mad and tell me to shut up because he said I don’t have the right to tell him what to do.

    Reply
    • Jenny, I’m sorry to hear that your boyfriend doesn’t seem to care about your happiness and keeps going out with another woman. That sounds painful. I admire your commitment to restoring the intimacy in your relationship. My husband did not respond well when I told him what I wanted him to do either. The 6 Intimacy Skills gave me ways to express desires in a way that inspires so now he is eager to please me. I know you can feel cherished, desired and adored too! For me, it took some practice for me to relinquish control of him and show respect for his choices. I’ll teach you all of those tools in my book The Empowered Wife. Here’s a free chapter: http://getcherished.com

      Reply
  10. Hi Laura
    After 20 years of marriage to a man who is culturally and fundamentally different from me has been a challenge! We struggle mainly to communicate our wants and needs not because of language or love for each other but because we just can’t seem to get our message across without him being condescending and me nagging. These 4 tips seen to be a light at the end of a dark tunnel and I’ll begin using them (can’t wait!)

    Reply
    • Anita, I admire you for being so committed to your marriage and having the courage to try something new! I can’t wait to hear how these tools improve the communication with your husband. If you like those tools, you’ll love my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. I offer other tools that have empowered me to create a playful, passionate marriage. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  11. > You might be surprised just how attentively and thoughtfully your husband listens when you use these techniques.

    Of course men listen to a woman stroking their ego, praising them. But do they also listen if there is no praise? Do they listen to what the woman thinks or do they just lap up ego kibbles?

    Reply
    • Ida, I hear your concern about soothing men’s egos. I do feel heard when I say things other than praise to my husband and others. Gratitude is but one of the 6 Intimacy Skills. If you’re curious about how I supplement that Skill with others, here’s a free chapter of my book The Empowered Wife: http://getcherished.com

      Reply
  12. So a woman may only voice praise, appreciation and suggestions? Well, men should grow a true spine and learn to also listen to advise, critics and suggestions. They should strive to give appreciation to all the women in their lives do for them. I raise my sons to appreciate what the women do, I teach them humility and thankfulness. I teach them to truly listen. Something that does not come naturally to men. But it is something that demonstrated we are truly a higher form of being. It is a culture indicator and I demand utmost attention when they are asked to listen – no matter who.

    Reply
    • Freya, you sound like a wonderful mother! To answer your question, I do voice things other than praise and appreciation to my husband. I share my feelings, which he is eager to hear. I express my desires, which he is eager to fulfill. It’s true that I don’t feel the need to give him advice or criticize him, which does not feel respectful to me. This is what works for me. I feel heard and adored.

      Reply
  13. > But when your husband isn’t holding up his end of the parenting, finances or household maintenance, you end up stuck holding the bag, which is exhausting

    You are not addressing how to address this specific issue. To me it is highly disrespectful of a man to not listen. If he demands respect – he needs to give it as well. I think we need to raise our sons to become truly wonderful men who know how to truly listen to the thoughts and worries of their WOMEN. To take advise and get are into gear. Before demanding ego stroking.

    Reply
    • Freya, I hear you! I agree that the man needs to show respect as well. Unfortunately, my husband did not seem on board, so it was empowering for me to find that I could do something about it. I love your idea of raising more respectful men! Many of the thousands of women I’ve worked with report that the 6 Intimacy Skills are helping them do just that.

      Reply
  14. When I try to talk about certain things he clams up and it has made it harder for me to broach things. I have just had news about my health – I had kidney cancer and nephrectomy 15 years ago, and another operation 5 years ago – and am now worried I may have to have another. I know he is worried about this news but hasn’t said much, even after I said I don’t really want another operation. It would be great to talk about it, but getting him to step forward isn’t easy, when he keeps things to himself and clams up.

    Reply
    • Beth, I’m so sorry to hear about your health challenges and that it’s so difficult just to be able to talk to your husband about them. That is lonely. I acknowledge you for having the vulnerability to reach out for the support to change this dynamic.

      I used to have a hard time being able to talk to my husband too. With the 6 Intimacy Skills, I got the tools to get him to open up. Now I can count on him being there to support me.

      You too can have the support you deserve from your husband. I’ll show you how in my upcoming free Introductory Course on the 6 Intimacy Skills at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/.

      Reply
  15. Hi, excuse my english please! I’m wright in a middle of a marriage crisis. I have fribromialgya and my husband is tired to hear me taking about how bad I feel how frustrated, eventhought i take care of most business at home, including cooking almost every day healthy meals and package hot meal lunch every night for his work, coffe, fruts and snaks. I am the want who fight for my gifted (dotated) child rights in school, i buy groceries most of the time. The cleaning agenda at home is almost mine. I need to recognize that he help me with the dishes a few days in a week, take off the garbage and take care of the doggies. I Know that our sexual relation and intimacy is not the same as it was before. He is complaining for it a LOT, and I know is fair. Its Mostly because my lack of energy, pains, the difference in our best energy hours, economical problems, his own problems at work, etc. He wake up at 3:3) am and works 10 hours a day and when he arrive home he is just exhausted. He don want not to here my experience during the day, frustrations or problems. Its a no ending circle, because almost every day is the same. In his defense I have to say hes a very charming father, he play with our girl even whe his back is in real pain. He don’t like doctors, so he don’t get attention and he auto-medicate himself with very potent pain killers. The point is, this is turning awful and we have already talk about divorce, I Know we love each others but so many situations are affecting us. We are not emotional connected any more. He have bad concepts about massage – therapeutic- and I’m afraid to make and appointment to have on to help with my pains. He dont trust people and use to criticize everybody, I think he suffers from PTSD but he does not accept it and don’t ask for help. God! is so much what is going on… I think is not fair to go out and try to find friends to talk with about my problems, just to avoid him the problem of hearing me and them come back nice chilling and sexy to fulfill his husband desires. We womens are different. We need to feel really love and feel our couples compromise. I’m am very confused. I want my 7 year old to life with his father, this is very important for me… I’m am in my 47 and he is in his 45. I think his having his midlife crisis and i’m and very close to menopause. This is just crazy! Please any advice?

    Reply
  16. Your article is great. Not only is it helpful for some, but it helped me feel like I am not crazy and have already been doing your list of suggestions to try to get a husband to listen. But after ten years… he still won’t listen and it’s never a good time to talk about anything. I’ve just gotten to a point where I ask if I am speaking a language that he understands because it doesn’t feel like it. He doesn’t understand that his lack of listening is disgusting and nothing I’ve tried has even got him close to concisering making a budget with me and actually following it. He just won’t do it. Everything I talk; he changes the topic, shows horrendous signs of “gaslighting”, says “it’s not the time” (it’s never the “time”. Ever. Ten years of trying to make a budget.), and he just yells and picks a fight if I ever bring up anything we need to deal with and he doesn’t want to.

    Reply
  17. None of this is healthy. So basically, the wife is never suppose to complain because of the husband’s fragile ego? Women should just start shutting down and watching TV so people feel obligated to baby us for bad behavior too.

    Reply
  18. Well, what if he never listens? Even when I am appreciating and asking kindly for his time? What if I have waited enough for him to come and sit with me for just half an hour? He always falls asleep when I start to talk, I even cry and he can sleep when I am crying and feeling helpless. I am just too tired of his behavior. I wish I could end everything.

    Reply

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