In any relationship, there are going to be things that one person wants or needs that the other doesn’t quite understand. This can lead to a partner feeling unheard or unimportant, which can be really damaging to the relationship as a whole. When someone feels unheard, they feel like their partner doesn’t care about what they have to say and it can cause them to pull away from the relationship and not want to spend as much time together. Everyone wants to feel like their partner listens when they speak, but it isn’t always easy to make that happen. If you are in a monogamous relationship with your partner, it is even more important than ever that you make them feel heard. Here are 5 reasons your partner doesn’t feel heard and how you can help them feel understood.
You try to fix the problem
Have you ever been upset about something, and someone plays devil’s advocate right in the heat of the moment? Or maybe they offer solutions, like “maybe you should talk to your boss.” If so, you know how frustrating that can be when you just want to vent.
One of the most common reasons that someone feels unheard is that their partner tries to solve their problem instead of hearing their feelings. The listener goes into their logical brain, while the talker is in their emotional brain. Bad combination!
What’s tricky about this is that the listener BELIEVES that they’re being helpful, so they don’t understand why their partner feels dismissed, and like you don’t care to hear what they have to say.
You tell your partner what you “meant”
When you’re having a conversation about something important with your partner and they tell you about something that hurt their feelings, you may want to tell them that you “meant” something different. I tell all the couples I work with in marriage counseling that meant-ing causes argue-MEANTS.
Your partner might feel like you don’t care about what they have to say, but instead, you want to correct the conversation so it reflects what you were trying to say or do. When you correct what your partner is saying or thinking, they aren’t likely to feel that you are validating their feelings. Instead, they’re going to feel like you’re trying to prove them wrong, and you’re dismissing the emotions that they have.
I know it can be tempting to heal your partner’s hurt by explaining what you “meant”, but the problem is this-your partner has already told themself a story and is already feeling the feeling, so even if you were misunderstood, it really doesn’t matter. The only thing to do at this point is to listen to your partner’s feelings.
Apologies come at the end of a conversation…after your partner has expressed themselves. When you apologize too soon, you’re cutting your partner off and robbing them of the opportunity to get their feelings off their chest.
Let your partner talk about why it was hard, even if you already know. It doesn’t matter if you understand if they don’t feel understood. The goal is to understand AND have your partner feel understood. Never apologize until both things have happened.
When you’re listening to your partner, you don’t have to agree with what they’re saying in order to hear it. This is probably one of the hardest communication tools I teach in couples counseling because it feels like you’re agreeing to what your partner is saying with the act if listening.
Here is the most important thing I can say about this…you don’t have to agree in order to listen. You can disagree, but this is not the time to do it and will only come across as defensiveness. Here’s the bad news, you have something to say, but you’re going to have to wait and revisit your topic after your partner feels understood by you.
You mistakenly believe you’re having a conversation
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make in a relationship is to assume that you are having a conversation with your partner when you actually aren’t. You might be trying to talk about something important with your partner, but if they don’t feel heard, they probably aren’t going to feel like having a conversation with you.
When it’s time to talk about hard feelings, you’re NOT having a conversation. You’re either the listener or speaker, but you can’t be both. Most people mess this up because no one has ever given them the rule book and they start conversating. Since this sets a person off who has hurt feelings, a conversation usually won’t end well.
Instead, let your partner finish what they need to talk about and have a conversation about it at a separate time. If they feel like you only talk to them when you want something from them or you want to fix a problem, they are going to feel like you aren’t really listening to them.
The Bottom Line
When you feel like your partner doesn’t listen to you, it can be incredibly frustrating. It is important to remember, though, that everyone is different and everyone communicates in different ways. If you feel like your partner doesn’t listen to you, you need to make sure that you are communicating in a way that they can understand. You may need to learn to speak your partner’s language or they may need to learn to listen to you in a way that is helpful to them. If you want to make your partner feel heard, you need to make sure that you are really listening to them. You need to let them finish their feelings before you start talking, you need to avoid trying to correct them or apologize to early, and you need to make sure that you are having real conversations with your partner.
Knot Counseling LOVES all things relationship. We’re experts in communication tools and getting to the root of the problem. Learn more about couples counseling or join us for a 1-day couples workshop where you learn how to move from conflict to connection.