How to Feel Heard in a Relationship

Is there anything more frustrating than trying to share thoughts or feelings with your partner only to feel that you are not being heard?

Communication is essential to a loving relationship. Without good communication, a relationship will suffer and likely fall apart.

Good communication in a relationship means you can talk to your partner about anything, whether you're happy or sad, having a good day or a bad day. You're willing to be open and honest with them because you know they'll always love and support you. So, if you talk but don't feel like you're being heard, your relationship may go downhill and become damaged beyond repair.

The good news is that you probably know you're not being heard if you're reading this. And being aware is the first step toward making things better.

Signs you are not being heard

Let's start by looking at signs that your partner isn't listening to you.

  • They act like they care about what you say and take it into account, but they never do.
  • When you try to tell your partner how you feel, they always make you feel like you're wrong.
  • You're always the problem when you try to talk to your partner about something.
  • You're the only one who seems willing to compromise.
  • You always end up doing things your partner's way, no matter what.
  • Your partner rarely asks you about your day or life or asks for your opinion on something.
  • Your partner never asks you more about your feelings or experiences or digs deeper.
  • If you try to talk to your partner about something important, you always end up in a fight.
  • Your partner leads the conversation and says most of the words. 

Why aren't they listening to me?

If you want to find a solution to not being heard, you need to approach it with compassion rather than assuming your partner is being a terrible person and not listening to you.

Is it because your partner is struggling with their emotions?

Are you picking moments to talk about important things when your partner is busy, distracted, or stressed?

Was your partner raised in a family with over-accommodating parents who always let them have their way?

Or perhaps it's a classic passive-aggressive relationship tactic whereby your partner is punishing you for some hurt they feel you have done.

So many possibilities. The point being that feeling you are not being heard could be related to many different issues. In fact, are you sure they even know that you feel you aren’t being heard?

Ten ways that may help to make yourself heard

When you’re feeling that you’re not being heard, there are things you can do to address the issue. Consider the ten tips that follow.

First, ask your partner if it's a good time to talk.

Instead of bringing something up out of the blue, ask your partner if now is a good time to talk, so they'll know they need to pay close attention.

If it's not a good time, be patient and put it off until later. Set up a good time and stick to it.

Second, start the conversation gently.

It's normal to feel angry and frustrated when you don't feel heard, but if you approach the situation with anger, your partner is likely to feel attacked.

John Gottman, the founder of the Gottman Institute and a relationship expert, recommends the "soft start up." In this method, you talk about how you feel about a problem without being critical.

Third, get to the point.

When you start to talk, do you often just go on and on?

Perhaps you should change what you say. Try to say what you have to say in short, clear sentences. Wait for your partner, pause, and ask for feedback. Be brief and pay attention to the most important things.

If it helps, write down a few points before the conversation and then talk about each one in as few words as possible.

Fourth, use "I" statements.

If you want your partner to listen to what you have to say, it's essential to express yourself in a way that focuses on you rather than them.

For example, instead of saying, "You never show me any affection," you could say, "I'd like it if we kissed each night before we go to bed." This clarifies what you want and makes it more likely that your partner will listen to you.

Fifth, focus on your listening skills, not just getting your point across.

If you get angry or defensive, you won't be able to listen and will have a hard time understanding what your partner is saying. Try to be in the moment and keep cool so you can communicate well.

Sixth, ask your partner to repeat back what you've said to them.

Sometimes as a speaker, you will go on and on without pausing.

Slow it down, shorten it, and stop to get feedback.  If you think your partner hasn't heard what you're saying, ask, "Can you say what I said differently?"

When you ask your partner to repeat what you've said, they may realize that they haven't been listening.

Seventh, watch out for power struggles.

If all you do is criticize and attack, it's unlikely that your partner will want to listen to you.

If your partner seems to be getting less interested in what you have to say, you shouldn't keep talking. It's no longer helpful. It will just lead to a fight over who is in charge.

You may be in a power struggle if you see signs like arguing, ignoring, interrupting, denying, blaming, or downplaying. When you see these signs, you should wait and not do anything. Bring the conversation back to what you were trying to say and try not to get upset.

Eigth, be firm on things that matter.

If you want your partner to hear your voice and consider your opinion, be firm and make sure they take what you say into account.

You might think harmony is more important than being heard, but that's not true. Conflict can occasionally be beneficial for maintaining a more harmonious relationship.

Ninth, validate them.

Think about your conversation from your partner's point of view.

They are listening to you go on about something that is bothering you.

Why not turn around and thank them for spending the time? Thank them for caring enough to listen and support you.

Final Thoughts

Anyone can talk. Not everyone can listen.

If you and your partner aren't excellent at expressing your thoughts or concerns with each other, don't give up on the relationship without seeking professional support first.

A couple's therapist could be the answer for helping the two of you listen to one another and understand each other without getting angry.

They can provide a safe space for you to communicate and help guide the conversation so that the most important issues get addressed.

Want to learn more?

Are you interested in learning more about feeling heard in a relationship? If so, we invite you to join our one-day journey, "What to Do If You Are Not Feeling Heard in a Relationship,” a therapist-led, step-by-step video course.

For a preview of the journey, click here.

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