I can’t seem to get my husband to listen to me. I complain and complain and he just tells me I’m nagging him and need to back off. I feel like I’m complaining to the wind. Yet, how can I be heard if he just tunes me out?
To be listened to, and more importantly, heard and understood, is one of the basic ingredients in a happy, healthy relationship. It is not a luxury but rather a staple of relating.
I believe the most important question I can ask you is this: “Are you able to approach your mate with the confidence of being heard, understood, and attended to?”
Think about that question and parse the pieces. Can you approach your mate with the confidence that you will be heard? Many are in relationships where they walk on pins and needles/ eggshells, fearing reprisal for bringing up a concern. In this atmosphere individuality is stifled, self-esteem erodes, and emotional distance ensues.
Do you have confidence you will be understood? You may be heard in your relationship, but you don’t feel heard. Your mate hears the words you’re saying, but he dismisses you, talks over you, or in some way fails to appreciate fully the message you’re trying to send.
Finally, are you fully attended to? Does your mate set aside his/her own agenda, needs and concerns, to fully embrace your needs? “Your problem is my problem” is one of the mottos we espouse at The Marriage Recovery Center.
Most likely you’d say you’re not heard, understood, or attended to. Subsequently there’s been a breakdown in your emotional connection with your husband. Perhaps you’ve become resentful and bitter, and have resorted to complaining. You probably don’t see how you’re contributing to this dysfunctional dance.
Since you admit you “complain and complain,” your husband may be tired of your repetitive words. Your repetition may actually evoke a sense of disrespect in your husband for you.
Scripture teaches: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9), While I don’t believe that verse suggests you cannot voice concerns to your mate, it does suggest there’s a better way to bring concerns to him. Here are some suggestions.
Approach your mate caringly. We all want to be approached with care and compassion. Studies show that a conversation started gently and slowly goes much better than one started with criticism and complaint. He’ll pay more attention to gentle words than harsh or antagonistic ones. Start with an attitude of seeking solutions rather than criticizing character.
Approach your mate with conviction. Ask him if you can discuss an issue of concern. Let him know you’re serious about it. You need to share that you mean business and expect change. Don’t focus on what your mate does or doesn’t do, but what you require for your life.
Approach your mate with consistency. You can’t expect change if you’re serious one day and drop the topic the next. While this doesn’t mean you become a nag, it does mean your message is consistent. Push for clear agreements, filled with accountability.
Approach your mate with consequences. Be prepared to invoke consequences. While you cannot impose consequences on others, but you can say, “If change doesn’t happen, I will feel compelled to . . . . I cannot control you and your choices, but I can tell you how I will live my life.”
Most people are reasonable. If you are clear, concise, and filled with conviction, your husband will take you seriously. While he may push back a bit, if you’re firm in your resolve, he’ll usually respond accordingly.