One of the most frequently asked questions I get from the women I work with is:
How do I get my husband to actually listen to me and understand where I'm coming from? When I start talking about my feelings he just wants to solve the problem. It doesn't help! He just doesn't get it!
Now, I don’t like to assign traits to genders, but from my work with couples this is a pattern I have seen. Women like to feel understood and men like to solve problems - therein lies the issue. When you get advice without feeling heard, you end up feel dismissed.
Understanding has to precede problem solving.
Unfortunately, we are not always good at asking our partners for what we need, especially when it comes to emotional matters. However, a little bit of direction and self-advocacy in this area can be a major game changer in your communication and relationship satisfaction.
5 Ways to Ask Your Husband for an Ear, Not Advice (and Actually Get it)
1 | Remind yourself that your partner is not a psychic
He may not actually know that what you want is to feel understood. Your husband is probably thinking he is giving you exactly what you need by solving the problem. Keep in mind his intention is positive - he's not trying to be dismissive.
2 | Set a time
I know you want to talk NOW, but what if your partner is not ready? Or he is tired? Or he had a hard day? You aren’t going to get what you need if you catch your partner at the wrong time and ignore his needs. You want him to be in an open and receptive place for a conversation. Ask your partner, “is now a good time for us to talk?” If it is, go ahead. If not, set a time within the next 24 hours.
3 | Say what you do need
State what you want to get out of the conversation in a positive way. For example, “I’ve had a hard time with something lately and I really just need to let it out. It would be most helpful if you could listen and help me make sense of my feelings.” Stay away from criticizing what your partner has done wrong in the past - instead give them a clear idea of what "doing it right" looks like.
4 | Explain that empathy is the solution
Guys love concrete solutions! However, the idea that empathic listening is the solution can be a very novel concept to your significant other. Explain that feeling understood is what is going to help you in the moment.
5 | Use I-Statements
Talk about your feelings, thoughts, experiences, and observations using the “I” perspective. Try to paint your partner a vivid picture of your internal world on the issue. The more you can give him, the more he can learn about what's going on. It will make it easier for him to validate and empathize. Do your part to get the most out of an emotional conversation.
I'd like to hear how this works for you. Try these five simple steps this week and share your story below - I'll be checking and offering feedback.
Marina Voron, MA, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Co-Founder, and Clinical Director of Nassau Wellness. Marina believes all couples have the power to form a loving and lasting relationship given the right tools. Marina specializes in couples therapy, sex therapy, emotional affairs, anxiety, and communication issues. Read more...