10 Ways to Talk So Your Husband Will Hear

by | Jan 10, 2017 | Resolving Conflict, Uncategorized | 26 comments

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Feel like your husband doesn’t listen? Maybe you just need to learn how to talk so he will hear!

This week at To Love, Honor and Vacuum talking about how to talk so that he can listen. Last week I wrote a post on what to do when your husband refuses to talk about something important, and so many people asked for follow up that I’ve decided to dedicate this whole week to it!

Yesterday I looked at how to begin with the right foundation–make sure you’re at least letting him know what you need if you feel like he doesn’t understand you.

Now we’re going to assume you’ve done that–but he still doesn’t seem to be hearing. Now what do you do?

Today, for Top 10 Tuesday, I’m going to give you 10 tips on how to have fruitful conversations so that he CAN hear you!

Feel like your husband doesn't listen to you? Here are 10 ways to change how you talk to help make conversations more productive--and help you feel heard! Tips for better communication in marriage.

1. Try Talking Side by Side

One reader wrote this:

I have found that when we are walking side by side – in the dark – , or driving side by side in the car (preferably in the dark!) – he is often much more open.

Looking into someone’s eyes is very vulnerable, and can be uncomfortable. It’s often easier to have difficult conversations while you’re driving or while you’re in the dark!

2. Set up a regular connection time

The scariest words to a guy are often “Honey, can we talk tonight?”

But if you have a regular time when you already check in and chat about the day, then it’s not as intimidating. Try taking 15 or 20 minutes everyday and sharing your highs/lows. That helps you feel understood, and helps both of you feel connected. And then you have a natural time to bring up other things if they need to be discussed.

3. Respond to HIS cues

Start listening–and probing–when your husband opens up! When he starts to talk about something important, make it a habit to ask follow-up questions so that you draw him out, help him to process his own thoughts, and help him to feel understood.

For instance, if he says, “what a busy day today! Totally stressful.” You can ask, “oh, no! What happened?” And as he tells the story, keep following up with questions. Then, after that, it’s often quite natural to start sharing some of your own frustrations.

4. Ask him his long term goals

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own version of what makes a great marriage that we forget that he may have a different one! Ask him what he wants the marriage to look like in five years. Ask him what he wants the kids to know in five years. Brainstorm together about your goals, and then you can start asking, “okay, if that’s what we want, what are we going to do to get there?” Problem solving mode is a healthy conversation model–and often quite a fun one.

Want more help with this? Download my visioning together printables!

5. Ask him what he feels about the situation

Don’t rush in and give him your whole opinion and analysis of the situation. First ask him what he thinks, and really listen. This doesn’t mean that your opinion isn’t important, or even that it’s less important. It’s just that often we’ve put a ton of thought into something that wasn’t even on his radar. If we begin the conversation and say everything that we’ve already thought about it, we run the risk of steamrolling him.

Instead, let him talk and give his ideas before you unload everything you’ve been thinking.

6. Want him to listen to you? Ask him what’s most important to him!

Let’s say that you’re really super frustrated because he never seems to be fully “there” when he’s at home. So you feel like he doesn’t care about you (or maybe even the kids).

You could launch into a conversation about how much he’s disappointed you. But honestly, that’s not likely to result in him listening to you well or you feeling heard, because it will sound like an attack.

But what if you could find a win-win?

What if you said something like,

I feel sometimes like you’re not fully here when you’re home, and that makes me sad, because I want you to feel like home is really a haven. So what are two or three things that I can do to make our home feel more like a haven to you?

And after you’ve talked about that, then you can say, “Great! Let me start to do that. Now, here are two or three things that would really help me: how about if every night we spend 20 minutes having a cup of tea together and talking about our day? Or how about you do the bedtime routine with one of the kids every night, so they have special Daddy-kid time?”

Now you’ve each listened and you’ve each valued each other.

Feel like your husband doesn't listen to you? 10 tips on how to communicate better--and feel heard!

7. Feel hurt? Ask him to clarify!

What if you’re having one of these conversations, though, and your husband comes out with something that’s really hurtful?

One woman wrote this last week:

Similarly, as a wife who often doesn’t want to talk because lately my husband seems to discount my opinions on the little things so how can I trust him to have a real conversation? When I tell him what I want for Christmas and he rolls his eyes and thinks it’s silly, it hurts, but it’s bearable. If I tell him how I feel about something important and he has the same reaction, it breaks my heart. :-(. I’ve told him this a hundred times, but he still doesn’t get it.

Explaining that you’re hurt isn’t working. But let’s back the truck up a second.

Let’s say you explain how you’re feeling and he rolls his eyes. You can feel hurt and explain how he’s made you feel (and you’ll likely be emotional while you’re saying this), or you can say this:

I notice that you’re rolling your eyes. That gives me the impression that you think what I just said is silly. Do you think I’m being silly?

Before you accuse him of thinking you’re silly, then, just check in with him if this is what he does think! Chances are he’ll say, “No, I’m sorry if I gave you that impression,” and he’ll realize that he had just been impolite.

8. Don’t justify your position

Here’s a strange dynamic that often happens with men and women. When women ask for help, we often feel guilty. And so we need to show that we actually do need help. It’s how we ask our friends–“I need to run Jenny to the doctor’s appointment and at the same time Jeremy needs someone to walk him home from school. I’m so sorry to ask, but do you think you can walk Jeremy home tomorrow when you pick up your darling Michelle?” 

But if you talk like this with your husband, it can sound a little insulting. “I’m trying to make dinner, honey, but it’s really hard because Jeremy is talking non-stop and Jenny is crying. Do you think you could just talk Jenny off of my hands, just for a minute, while I try to get dinner on the table?”

That sounds perfectly reasonable to us. But many men, when hearing that, will simultaneously hear a guilt trip.

How could you not notice that I am trying to get dinner while YOUR two children are driving me nuts? How can you not hear your child crying? Why are you still on your butt on the couch and why haven’t you come and helped me yet?

There’s an easy way to avoid this. Just ask with no frills:

Honey, can you take Jenny for me, please?

When we justify every single request, it can actually sound like a criticism to him, even if we didn’t mean it that way, and it can take a simple, everyday situation and put a negative spin on it.

9. Talk about what you need, not what he’s doing wrong.

Let’s say, for instance, that you’re married to someone who plays video games six hours a day, often not coming to bed until the wee hours of the morning, and not getting enough sleep.

You could lecture him on video games.

Or you could say,

Honey, I feel as if we’re not connecting and I’m feeling really lonely. I miss going to bed with you every night, and I miss making love to you. Can we talk about how to help me feel less lonely and more connected to you?

It’s just a different dynamic. And remember–guys tend to like to fix things. So if you present a problem he can fix, that’s often better than presenting a situation where he’s doing everything wrong.

10. If your husband just won’t listen, stop talking and start acting.

Finally, sometimes it’s time to stop talking and start doing. The original letter writer who started this whole conversation had this problem: Her husband had no clue how the female body works when it comes to sex, and wasn’t interested in pleasuring his wife at all. Sex was rough and not arousing at all.

Talking to him wasn’t working. 

And in this situation, sometimes the best thing we can do is to say:

I so want to enjoy a great sex life with you, and I do want to make love! But I’m not willing to do that until we start learning how my body works and focusing on making sex for both of us.

I write more about this for frustrated women on this post, “Is this the last straw?” Sometimes we’ve talked so much and bent over backwards trying to win him with kindness and it isn’t working, because people don’t change until the pain they feel from not changing is greater than the pain that change will bring. It’s called boundaries; we need them, and sometimes setting a clear boundary will do more than a multitude of words.

Whew! Okay, that’s a lot of points!

So let me sum up, and then tell you what we’re going to tackle tomorrow:

  • Create the right environment to talk
  • Approach each conversation as a time to connect and hear his opinion, not just to give yours
  • Move into problem-solving mode

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about the biggest revelation I’ve ever had about resolving conflict–it changed everything!

But for today, let me know: what one of the ten points really spoke to you? Or what one do you have the most trouble with? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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26 Comments

  1. Emily

    Love this.
    Especially the bit about “often we’ve put a ton of thought into something that wasn’t even on his radar.”
    I used to do that All. The. Time.
    And then he’d feel ambushed when I tried to talk to him about it, because I had already worked it all out and he hadn’t had a chance to figure out where he stood.
    Now I say something like, “We need to make a decision about (whatever). I need to know by the end of the week, so when is a good time to talk about that?” Then he has a heads up as to what’s on my mind, and time to think about it before we talk; and I know we will talk about it, so I’m not stewing about it until then!

    Reply
  2. Molly

    I think at this point i just want ways to get by without talking about things. There is no way to talk to my husband. I’ve been asking him for weeks now to talk about life in general. We’ve gotten in more than a few fights about it and I’m realizing its pointless to try to talk. Just pointless. There are countless books about how to be the perfect wife and mother. If i could just do what those books say i wouldn’t need his help.
    In sorry this sounds so depressing, but seriously every book i read says that i just apply myself, i can do it all. And i shouldnt rely on my husband because all this housework stuff is beneath him.

    Reply
    • Angie

      Molly, those books and authors are full of crap. You are a human being that is JUST as important as your husband. I believe those “miracle” stories of changed marriages are made up to sell those books. Or the wives are finally on some reaaalllly good meds.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Molly, I’m so sorry! But maybe you’re reading the wrong books. 😉 In my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum I explain why it’s so emotionally and physically exhausting for a wife to feel like she’s responsible for everything about the kids and the house–and how we can act and think differently so that it’s more of a team effort. Maybe that will help you more? Because it is really emotionally exhausting. I get it.

      Reply
  3. Angie

    I have to go with number 10 now. I have truly done ALL the other points to no avail. Setting boundaries is hard because I was not allowed boundaries at home growing up. He has a timeline now. 6 months to start treating me like a wife instead of mommy. And yes, he has called me Mom accidently a few times. Yuck.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that is a big YUCK! How’s your new job going? Are you starting to feel like you can breathe again? And I hope that you have a counsellor or someone to help walk you through this, because I know what a tough time you’ve had, Angie.

      Reply
      • Angie

        Thank you Sheila. No job yet, but lots of prospects so it shouldn’t be long. This area is great for job hunting.

        Reply
  4. FollowerOfChrist

    There are some great points here. Let me share another thought or two, as a husband. If you are going to start out with the attitude that you are right and he is wrong, don’t bother saying word one. As Emily stated so well in a comment on yesterday’s post, different is not wrong. It is OK to do things differently and we should be able to appreciate those differences, as long as it is not something that violates scripture. Thinking that something has to be your way only breeds criticism, and that will cause division between the two of you. And yes, just because you have different opinions or ways of doing things doesn’t make you wrong either. It just makes you both human. God has a purpose for each of you.

    Second, men are generally problem solvers. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk to your husband just to be heard and just to express your thoughts. However, don’t get upset if he suggests ways of fixing the issue. It’s what we do.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great thoughts! Thank you!

      Reply
    • Lisa

      Women are problem solvers, too. We usually solve our own problems.

      Often, when a wife tells her husband about a problem that doesn’t involve him, she already has a pretty good idea of what she’s going to do. She’s looking to share her life with him. My husband will often describe a football play that I just saw. I was sitting next to him when it happened. But I don’t shut him down with, “I’m sitting right here, I saw it, you don’t have to tell me Aaron Rodgers just threw a hail Mary.” I realize he’s connecting with me via something that was really exciting for him.

      Offering a solution when your wife needs you to listen to her is basically telling her, “stop trying to connect with me. Find someone else to share your life with.”

      Reply
  5. ByGrace

    This is really good. Highlights some of the ways men and women tend to think and communicate differently. Many times throughout our marriage of 8 years, I have “unloaded” on my husband in an attempt to “connect”, which to him is just a verbal attack telling him how horrible he is. It’s kind of a cycle that we go through time and time again, getting no where. We have an overall good marriage (he’s very committed, and the stable type), frequent/satisfying sex life. But here’s the deal: We are completely opposite in our love languages. His is, hands down, acts of service, and then quality time (He comes home and sweeps the kitchen every day, takes out the trash, and loves me to hang around with him while he works around the house). Mine is very strongly words of affirmation, and then physical touch (which I do get loved on in that way some. Sex helps fill that). 🙂 However, I’ve told him over and over again how much I need affirming words; I feel like I’m starving for it, and when he does ever compliment me (like twice per year) I feel embarassingly giddy. It makes my day seem so so bright, and my outlook completely changes, and I become wonder-woman getting stuff done at the house 🙂 Like, how can it mean so much to me? So motivating. He’s been more open to trying use words more recently but it might be like 2 compliments the day after we have a discussion about it, and then he completely forgets. How could I better approach the topic of my need for verbal affirmation, without it going something like: “I wish you would tel me I’m beautiful.” “I DO think you’re beautiful.” (insert defensive tone of voice) Not the results I’m looking for. Or else, back to the dump all my feelings on him, and make him feel like a failure. I’ve been the happiest when I manage to focus on feeling loved the way he’s expressing it, cause he DOES, but times like right now, with a newborn and 3 other kids under 5, I get really burnt out really easily, and the lack of love in my language takes a serious toll on me. Any thoughts or similar experiences?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Okay, this may sound weird, but what about him putting a reminder in his phone? A daily reminder to text you something nice or say something nice when he gets home? I know that makes it sound not spontaneous, but I find a lot of times these tools really help!

      Reply
      • ByGrace

        I love that… he actually did that once, and I happened to pick up his phone when it beeped to see a reminder that said “compliment (me)” at 10am. He said it had been on there for nearly a month and he ignored it most days, and forgot when he got home. (It worked for a few days) good intentions, but old habits die hard. ? I get that he simply doesn’t crave that kind of thing. Maybe I should set a reminder for him again, that went off right before he would usually be coming home ?? Another thought I’ve had, is that I should focus more on using verbal affirmation on him, even though he doesn’t “like” it. More as a reminder that that’s how I work?

        Reply
        • Becky

          My husband and I are the exact same as you and your husband! He views words of affirmation as “fake” and “insincere” and I should just “know that I’m always amazing and beautiful without him having to say it” haha. I have been trying to love in his language (acts of service) lately, and while he notices and is appreciative, still no sincere compliments. How can I explain to him WHY I need to hear words of affirmation from him?

          Other than this area we have a fantastic marriage and he is getting better at meeting my nonsexual physical touch needs 😉

          Reply
          • ByGrace

            Oh my goodness Becky we should go out for coffee or something! (While our collective 10 kids wreak havoc in the cafe!) Lol! Based on this and your comment on yesterday’s post, we have definite similarities in our relationship/stage of life right now! I confronted my husband about him not telling me I love you soon after he wedding, and he was like “I married you, of course I love you!” And truly, literally didn’t think it was something that needed to be said now that the knot was tied! HAHA. he now tells me daily ? I laugh about it now.

            But you say : “How can I explain to him WHY I need to hear words of affirmation from him?”

            I don’t know WHY I need words! Why do we? Other than it’s just the way I am! Our families had totally different dynamics. There is some truth to the “words can be insincere” thing though.

          • ByGrace

            Oops Becky, I thought you were the “Brenda” from yesterday’s post comments. Never mind on the ten kids in on coffee shop thing. Haha! ???

          • Becky

            Haha! We don’t have any kids yet so that wouldn’t work anyways 😉 I’m glad to know someone’s in the same boat as me! Family dynamics are huge… His parents were super hard blue collar workers so I think that’s where he gets his acts of service love language from. My family was a little more dramatic and I had a verbally abusive parent so that’s definitely why I thrive on words of affirmation! It’s just hard for him to understand because his parents were very “pull yourself up by the bootstraps and don’t expect any praise” and that’s NOT how I am at all. He’s super humble and hates when I compliment him. For example, I’ll say “thanks for doing the dishes!” And he says “don’t thank me, it’s just as much my job as it is yours”. For that I am thankful but I do wish he could take and give a compliment once in awhile 🙂

    • Dean

      I think husbands often “think” compliments, but do not speak them out. I was doing that too. I have no idea why. Talking about my wife’s positive qualities to her felt to me like a strange thing to do; I felt like she knew them already. It took practice to change that habit, but it was definitely worth the effort.

      Reply
  6. Nicole

    Oh wow! I find I am sooo guilty of doing Number 8 all the time. ? My husband is a little ADD, so he doesn’t always catch what’s going on, or if he does, he doesn’t feel the need to act right away. Sometimes I’ll be in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he will be zoning out on his phone while our kids are running in and out of the kitchen, which naturally makes me more irritable and on edge. Then I find myself asking him for help but asking in an accusatory tone like, “I’m trying to make dinner and your kids are driving me crazy! How am I supposed to get dinner made when they’re getting into things and pulling on my legs?” And then, he feels attacked because of the way I ask. I’m really going to work on that starting tomorrow! (He has to work late tonight doing inventory.) I’m fortunate to be married to such a patient and helpful man, but boy, do I take him for granted sometimes! I really need to change the way I talk to him when I’m asking for help! Thanks for keeping it real, Sheila! ?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So glad that little tidbit worked for you! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Sonia Yvette

    I’ve done all these… for 28 years. We were even pre-marital mentors. He would advise one thing and do the opposite. Well. . unfortunately… he was complacent. We married very young, and I was always there for him. I made the mistake to handle everything… from finances, bills, kids, home, food, etc etc etc… I married a boy who was selfish and emotionally unavailable, unless it was one of HIS interests. And for 28 years, he remained that way… no, WE remained that way..

    Eventually he had several affairs. Of course I suspected, but I turned a blind eye to it. We now are empty nesters… and recently I confronted him (and left home) regarding a text fling he was having in pursuit of another woman. I now gave ultimatums, either her or me… he can’t have us both. I told him that I loved him so much that I would let him go to have the life he is pursuing and would “shackle” him down no longer. Them or me. He chose me. Believe it or not, I was shocked.

    We are now dating NEW.. not starting off where we left off… it has to be NEW or NOTHING.

    He has asked if I would go to counseling with him, I consented. He is a different man. I can’t seem to put my finger on it. Maybe he just grew up (at 50). He says he wants to earn back my respect, trust and confidence… to be the man I want and need, and to be the man GOD wants him to be. I granted him that opportunity and came back home.

    We are working on things. I have more attention from him now in the last 3 months than in the whole 28 years of marriage… sometimes I feel annoyed since I never had it – so I’m not sure how to receive it. Yet I CRAVED IT ALL MY LIFE… and I am learning to adjust. Refreshing.

    I am not completely convinced (yet) and have guarded my heart. It’s hard to love when guarded! I pray God continue to work in him and in ME.

    I continue to love on him… and he’s baffled, firstly for not noticing all these years what he had and secondly I can still love him. BUT GOD…

    It wasn’t until I BACKED OFF being his parent, book keeper, chef, maid, etc. I gave him the space he needed to reflect and decide what he wanted. And if he wanted me… it needed our relationship to be NEW; I need to know that he loved me as Christ loves his church: Christ loves so much that he pursues us, he protects us, he comforts us, he provides for us, he wants and desires a daily connection with us… THAT is how a man is to love his bride… THEN I can be a helpmate, and soulmate, til death do us part.

    Love does conquer all… I always have loved and honored him… and I still do. But now he vacuums (and makes the coffee)!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Sonia, THANK YOU for sharing your story! I think it will really help so many people. I love how you’re starting new. That’s perfect. And what you say is so true: It’s only when we start establishing real boundaries that people often change. And boundaries aren’t always about how “you can no longer treat me this way.” Boundaries are also about what WE will do. Quite often WE are the ones violating boundaries by doing things that really other people should be doing. We don’t see it that way; we think we’re just being nice and kind and responsible. But enables all kinds of bad behaviours. And when we stop, he starts growing up. I love that!

      Reply
      • Sonia Yvette

        let me add something… I let myself get “lost” in pleasing and serving everyone else, starting with my husband. That’s what I do, serve. I give of myself 110%. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? right? Sort of, this is what happens when we do not set boundaries as two WHOLE INDIVIDUALS upfront. I just wanted to make him happy, my little family happy… and became unhappy when everyone took from me and left me wanting.

        I remember reading somewhere (I like my paraphrased version)… that God did not make the woman from the mans skull for her to rule over her mate… nor did He make her from the mans foot bone(s) so that her mate to step all over her. He made her from the mans rib cage (the part of the body that protects mans most vital organ – his heart), and under the mans strong arms so he can hold her tight … thus making her feel close and protected as she hears/feels his heart beating for her.

        We each have our spot in life and in love… we each have a life to live (for a purpose and on purpose)… separately and together. We are to ADD and compliment each other, thus making us stronger as a union/unit.

        I wish I would’ve taken this stance much sooner in our marriage… but I am glad we still have a chance to change things and make it right.

        Sheila, I have done much reading and studying trying to keep sane through all of this… and I truly believe it was your sight that helped me the most even though there were times I thought “BUT I’ve DONE THAT” and perhaps even got mad at you… but your consistent stance on love and honor resonated with me.

        Who knows… maybe I will start writing? lol

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          You SHOULD start writing! You’ve got some great insight and a great story. I’m so glad I could help you! 🙂

          Reply
  8. Brooke

    Hey Sheila! Thank you so much for your blog posts! I have been married for almost a year and can’t say how many times I’ve come to your blog to get advice. Every posts has helped me! Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Tony

    Or maybe it is the other way around.

    When you hear him speak, put down the damn phone, get of Facebook, turn off the Housewives of…. and listen to what he says. You don’t have to agree. But if you don’t listen, you really won’t know what he’s sharing.

    I’ve taken very well to #10. I’ll try twice, if she can’t or won’t disconnect, I’ll go do something else. I’ll go to the gym, ride my bike, read a book. I can do something I enjoy while being ignored.

    It’s not always the man who isn’t listening. It is just as likely to be her from what I’ve seen.

    Reply

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