When Your Spouse Won't Listen

Man explaining situation and woman not listening to him
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What can you do when your spouse won't listen to you? If you think your words are falling on deaf ears, it can take its toll on a marriage.

Listening—Is the Door Closed?

Think of a marriage as two connecting hotel rooms with adjoining doors. Openness in a marriage is keeping both doors open all the time. This type of openness comes from a willingness to share from one's heart. If your partner closes the door to his/her room, you can't open it. Only the person in the other room can open the door.

If your spouse has blinders on, won't listen, or admit to a problem in your marriage, then keep knocking on that door, slip notes underneath, and keep your own door open. If you are being emotionally hurt or physically abused, however, then you may have to distance yourself from that doorway.

Can You Make Your Spouse Listen?

People want to know how to make a spouse listen. Bottom line, there's not a whole lot you can do to get your spouse to listen if he or she doesn't want to. You cannot change anyone but yourself. You cannot force your mate to hear what you are saying or to understand how you are feeling if they don't want to. Forcing or manipulating someone into counseling doesn't mean that they will truly listen to what a counselor has to say either.

Getting Counseling When Your Spouse Won't Listen

It can be beneficial for marriage for just one spouse to seek counseling, even if the other refuses. Developing an understanding of both the positive and negative dynamics of the marital relationship, gaining knowledge of one's self, and learning coping skills can help a couple, regardless of the decisions made regarding their marriage.

The Eye-Opening Moment May Come Too Late

It is sad that often a spouse doesn't begin to listen until divorce papers have been filed. Then there is an experience of an eye-opening "aha" moment. It's often the crisis that finally causes these folks to accept personal responsibility for their hurtful behavior in their marriages.

A downside of having an "aha" moment is that a person may then start expecting everyone to immediately forgive and forget past actions. A mentality of "look how I've changed" is greeted with suspicion and mistrust. It is important to realize that it takes a great deal of time and patience, and living out the changes before trust can be rebuilt. It doesn't happen with a snap of the fingers; people need time to heal and forgive.

Beginning Again

It is also important to realize that you can't go back to what was. You can begin again, but what was is gone. You will need to start a new journey to rebuild communication.

By Sheri Stritof
Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book.