How do I get my husband to listen to me?

I'm always listening to my husband, but it feels like he never listens to me.

How do I get my husband to listen to me instead of me listening to him all the time?

Toni Genovese
Toni Genovese
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Thanks for reaching out. This is a great question. Communication is definitely a 2-way street. One person cannot participate in a discussion. It takes a talker and a listener. Furthermore, communication will breakdown if each party is only focusing on his or her agenda and is not open to what the other person is saying.  since I can't ask you questions about what is going on, I am going to make a guess at one situation that comes up a lot when I work with couples. One person focuses more on solving the issue, than listening to their partner.  This can be frustrating for the partner who wants to just be "heard."

I understand that you are working really hard to listen to him and he might not be putting as much effort into listening to you. That can be really frustrating and difficult and I want to acknowledge you for wanting to improve your relationship.

One of the best strategies to gettting heard, is actually to BE A GOOD LISTENER to someone else. I know you are probably already a good listener and for you to work on listening skills may seem counterintuitive, right? You want to get heard and now you are the one doing the listening. But this can really create more effective communication if you invest time working on doing some active listening in your relationship because then you get to model those skills for your husband and allow him to see what it feels like to be listened to and then you can even teach him some of those skills. In other words, you practice specific techniques that you can use and then teach later on. 

Here are some skills for you to use consciously and then you can teach:

  • Pay attention and use your body language to convey that you are in the conversation. No texting or distractions. Lean in. Focus.
  • Listen for content and for emotion. Clarify what you don't understand. Try to understand the person's underlying emotions. 
  • Don't rush to judgement or to changing what is going on with the person. Sit in a place where you are really curious and want to understand what is going on. 
  • Encourage the other person to continue speaking, Nod and vocalize that you hear what they are saying.
  • Ask questions to get to understand the other person's point of view.
I believe when we can model these kinds of listening skills, and the other person feels heard, they will be more likely to listen to us. If you don't find that this doesn't spill over in that way, then have a discussion about what you are practicing and that you are learning these skills to be a better listener so you can understand him better. Then explain how it might be helpful if you both tried it. If there is push back from him, set up a trial period to just try the skill, perhaps for 2 weeks and see if it helps. If communication is really breaking down, then it might be time to work with a counselor who can help with these skills.

Best of luck to you!
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Anna McElearney
Anna McElearney
Helping Couples Build Stronger Relationships

It's hard when you feel as if you're the only one that's taking the time to listen to your spouse. But, I would look at this as an opportunity to see if you can become aware of what exactly is happening between you, when you try and talk with your husband. 

Sometimes, it can be in the way dialogue is approached. I would suggest paying attention to the way you begin dialogue with your husband. See if blame and criticism are present. When blame and criticism are included, bids for connection, can quickly go off track. This can sometimes start off with something like: "why don't you..." "you aren't..." "you don't..." Partners can quickly go into defensive mode if they feel they are being attacked and sometimes starting off like this can feel like an attack.  

Also, become aware of the time of day or evening when you approach your husband. Sometimes, this can make a big difference for couples as far as when they can truly be present for one another.  

If you find this pattern continues, you might consider seeking professional help through couples therapy. A trained couples therapist can help you both understand more about what's happening between you. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Does your husband want to listen to you?

Find this out by asking him the question!

This way you know whether the goal you'd like to reach is even possible.

Some partners prefer that one person is the rule maker or the only one who is entitled to talk about themselves.

If your husband tells you he wants to listen to you, or even that he does listen to you, then you can explain in detail the way you define "listening", which may be very different than his definition.

Basically, no one can directly change someone into being more openminded.

What is possible is to tell him your wishes, your willingness to be patient while he develops the habit of listening to you and point out that a relationship is more fulfilling when both partners feel they are receiving from the other one.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Catherine Hodge
Catherine Hodge
Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Unfortunately you can't directly change another person's behavior. However, you can give him feedback on how his not listening impacts you. The best way to provide feedback is in 3 parts. The first part is telling him the emotion you are experiencing when he doesn't listen, such as hurt, sad, and unloved. I would stay away from feelings such as frustrated, angry and irritated and use a more vulnerable emotion. The second part is what he does specifically to make you feel that way, be specific! Example: when I get home and tell you about my day and you don't look away from the tv. Be objective as possible when you describe his behavior. And the last part is the most important, tell him what you want him to do, and again be specific! Example: I would rather you turn off the tv, give me eye contact and reassure me about my day. Here is an example with all 3 parts together: I feel hurt when you don't say anything to me when I tell you about my fight with my friend, I want you to hug me and tell me you understand how I feel. Hope that helps!!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
I tailor my therapeutic approach to each client's strengths and goals

Thanks for writing. There are many different house of things that may be helpful here. I can give you some general ideas, but if some of these things don't get you to where you would like to go, consider seeing a therapist who specializes in couples:

  • Remember that you can only guarantee change in yourself. You can ask him to make changes, but you can't control whether he does or not. You can control your reactions and what you do about your own thoughts, feelings, and actions in the relationship.
  • If you're going to talk about something important or you really want him to listen, first ask whether this is a good time.
  • Try to talk to him without blaming, finger-pointing, or asking him to change (this can be difficult, but it also opens a lot of doors for effective discussions).
  • Be mindful of your packaging. By that, I mean that you may have a very important message that you're trying to get across. If you able to say it in a way that is clear and wrapped in such a way that he can hear what you're actually saying, that is helpful. If you are talking in ways that are angry, or as I sometimes say, wrapped in spikes, that can be difficult to hear and receive. Rather than hearing what you're actually trying to get across, he may just hear the fact that you are angry.
  • If your husband is able to listen to you and/or restate what you are saying and get it right or close to right, let him know what that feels like to you and how important it is.
  • If you're asking questions, try to avoid "why" question and use "what makes, how, when, where, who" instead. Questions starting with "why" can not only be difficult to answer, but can also trigger a lot of emotions that some people are not ready to deal with right away.
  • Also, keep in mind that listening and being able to reflect what you are saying does not imply agreement. This may be something that would be good to discuss with your husband – just because he is hearing what you're saying doesn't mean that he's agreeing with you.
  • Lastly, but importantly, some people really don't know how to listen effectively. There are people who just are not taught to do that until much later in their lives. Sometimes listening to someone can actually be very vulnerability-producing. It may be helpful to ask your husband if he knows what makes him struggle with being able to listen if you notice that he's really struggling.
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal, as if you want to hurt or kill yourself or someone else, or are in crisis, call 800-273-8255 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), call 911, or proceed to your local emergency room.
Dr. Bonnie Howell
Dr. Bonnie Howell
Dr. Bonnie Howell Coach and Counsel

Have the two of you ever discussed how you feel?  I know given the nature of your question that's probably not likely, but I'm going to suggest it any way.  He needs to understand that how you feel about this issue equates to not being as happy in the relationship as you could be or he thinks you are.  So start there, that may be more of an attention getter than "you never listen to me" yes I do etc.  Direct opener:  I'm not as happy in this relationship as I think we both deserve.  Pause, and if you won't let me talk about it then it's only going to get worse.  Then explain you don't feel listened to, you try to be a good listener but you don't feel you are getting the same in return.  If he interrupts put your hand up in the sign of a stop, then say please just let me finish.  You are right to raise this subject with him because a good marriage can't exist in a communication vacuum. In fairness to him, he needs to understand the seriousness of your concern and have a chance to do better.  If he refuses,  tell him you want to seek couples counseling then do it, with him or without him.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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