It happens in all relationships. There are times when things are going great and communication seems effortless, and there are other times that communication feels like a boulder you are trying to push up the hill.
There are reasons for both the easy and great times and the difficult times. While we may think the effortless just magically happens, it doesn’t. The couples that communicate well do specific things and don’t do specific things.
What are they?
If I had to sum it up, I’d say there are five reasons (there may be more) that your spouse doesn’t listen to you or ignores you. While many people may read this and think of just one gender in a relationship, my guess is that in most marriages both people are doing these. Remember, if a relationship is struggling, it is because of both people. No one bears 100% of the blame. It’s the same in communication.
1. You nag them about the same thing. Have you ever heard someone say, “I feel like a broken record saying the same thing all the time?” That’s because you are, and you get tuned out. Many times if you nag someone enough, they’ll stop listening. Especially if you nag them about something, and when it doesn’t happen you do it yourself. Do you know what you’ve just told your spouse? If you don’t do it, I’ll eventually get around to it. I’ll be angry, ignore you, give you mean looks, but I’ll do it.
How many times should you say something to your spouse about doing something? It depends on what it is.
I would say that if you have to repeat yourself, the issue is not what you are repeating yourself about but that your spouse is not listening to you. Deal with that, not the garage being a mess or clothes being left out. That is no longer the issue; it’s just what revealed the issue.
2. You bottle up your feelings. One reason a spouse ignores the other is because one doesn’t express themselves. They can’t help but ignore you because you don’t say anything, you don’t share anything, you don’t let them in.
This is easy for me to do. I’m a mental processor, and Katie is a verbal processor. When I’m convicted about something, bothered by something or someone, I think on it. If I see an issue in my life or job that needs to be fixed, I think about it and work it out in my head. Katie is the opposite of that. This can lead to her not feeling like I let her into my life or share what is going on. I’ve had to learn to start processing things out loud, but she’s also had to learn to ask questions.
The sad thing is when couples think that whatever the issue is, it will be fixed by one person doing something. You are a couple. It will take both of you.
In the same way, if you are upset about something and your spouse asks you what is wrong, don’t say, “Nothing.” Or, “You should know.” Maybe they should know, but they don’t.
Many times one of the battles that women and men have has to do with women wanting to express their feelings about something and their husband wanting to fix it. A woman asked Katie once, “How did you get Josh to stop fixing things when you talk to him?” Katie chuckled and said, “Before I tell him something, I let him know my expectation. Do I want him to listen, give feedback or fix it. Then he does.”
I know what you’re thinking. I should just know, and so should your spouse. But they don’t, and I don’t. Yet we make it hard, almost playing games with our spouse, and then we wonder why they ignore us.
3. You talk about your marriage to all your friends instead of your spouse. Too many couples are venting to their friends instead of to their spouse. Now I think you should have a friend or friends that you confide in. Someone when you are at the end of your rope you can call and vent to. However, this friend should be a real friend and not a cheerleader in your corner for your cause. The worst thing you can say to your spouse in an argument is, “I was talking to ____ and they agree with me.” You just brought another person into your marriage, and now your spouse is playing defense.
These friends that you confide in, they need to challenge you and your sin. Yes, they can affirm that your spouse dropped the ball because that may be the case, but it wasn’t all their fault, no matter how much you think it is.
4. You feel like it is no use talking. This is when you stop trying. I’ll admit this is easy to do when marriage feels hard. It feels easier to not say anything, to not try. What’s the use? The moment you feel this coming on, that is a sign to press in. The moment you think about taking a break or pulling back, not saying something, that is when you need to push into the relationship.
5. You want peace more than intimacy. One of the reasons people don’t express themselves in a marriage is because peace is easier than intimacy.
When any couple chooses peace over intimacy, they have chosen a lesser marriage. Is it easier in the moment? Yes, but in the long run it will suffer. This can come from legitimate fear of an argument, a fear of being rejected or something else. Often when peace is chosen over intimacy, it is because of something in our past that is still broken. Maybe you grew up with a shouter and you don’t want that, so you learned silence fends that off. But silence also doesn’t bring closeness in a relationship.
Let me close with this. Often what your spouse is ignoring in a conversation is not the issue. You want to make it the issue, but it is only what is revealing the issue, that they ignore you. That you aren’t connecting to them when you talk. Focus on that.