My Husband Doesn’t Listen to A Word I Say!! By Linda Lipshutz, M.S., LCSW

Sherry K. writes: “No matter what I do, I just can’t get through to my husband. He’s in his own world and completely tunes me out. I don’t have any trouble getting along with anyone else, but somehow Ted always blows things out of proportion, taking issue with everything I say. Lately, he’s been so moody and critical. I can always tell when there’s going to be an argument because he comes home scowling and muttering under his breath. Every time I tell him that we need to sit down and talk, he either gets hostile and tells me to get off his back or retreats into the den and watches the game on television or checks his email.

I know that he’s been under tremendous pressure at work. Apparently his company had some layoffs, and even though Ted’s team was unscathed, they’re all pretty shaken. You would think that my own husband would have told me what was going on! But, no! I had to find out from my friend who is married to his colleague. I was furious at Ted, but that’s so typical of him because he never fills me in on anything. I blasted him for not trusting me, but instead of him telling me what happened, he got very nasty, and said HE couldn’t talk to me about anything. I tell him all the time that he’s just like his father and you should see what my in-laws’ marriage is like!

I love my husband with all my heart, but we can’t seem to break away from this pattern of name calling and criticizing each other. I would do anything to feel closer to him again.

Dear Sherry:
Conflict is inevitable in every marriage, but the way that each person approaches the disagreement dictates how it gets resolved.

It is clear that you are very distressed that you and Ted have fallen into a negative cycle of blaming and retreat. Ted is obviously under tremendous pressure at work and might be trying to protect you from worry. Very likely, he is concerned that he will be diminished in your eyes if he were to face the humiliation of losing his job.

Intense conflict causes our bodies’ “fight or flight alarm systems” to rev up, whereby stress hormones are released into the blood, causing breathing rates to increase and hearts to race faster. It may feel like everything is happening at once, making it hard to pay attention or to address important issues. . That’s why so many spouses shrink when we approach them and ask “Can we talk?!”

To avoid such intensity, many people tune out their partners and withdraw. Not only do they avoid talking about stressful topics, they begin to avoid meaningful conversations as well, which increases emotional distance.

So how can you create a climate where your husband LOOKS FORWARD to coming home to be with you and trusts you with his most troubled secrets? What can YOU do to end this vicious pattern?

I know it’s probably hard to feel positive when you believe that you have been slighted or criticized. But, let’s be BRUTALLY HONEST:

Are you careful with your words and tone of voice? Are you willing to listen to him patiently, creating an atmosphere where he feels safe to confess his most troubling concerns? And where he feels free from judgment? (To be fair, if Ted were here, I’d ask him the same questions and would have the same expectations!)

When you greet your husband at the end of the day, let him know that you are genuinely happy to see him. (Even if this takes a huge effort!!)

Make a concerted effort to begin your conversations with a pleasant, accepting tone of voice. The way that we speak to loved ones sets the tone of the conversation. Too many people barrage their spouse with negatives the minute they enter the door, often attacking their character or personality, and putting them immediately on the defensive.

One of the most powerful ways to lessen estrangement is to acknowledge the efforts made by your partner and to express sincere appreciation. Compliments don’t have to be elaborate or flowery. Frequent, positive statements make a huge difference.

When a relationship is struggling, it is only natural to read negativity into the most innocent of comments. If you can shift into a mindset where you give your partner the benefit of the doubt, you are less likely to act defensively and you will be more likely to head off upsetting miscommunications.

A sense of humor lightens the mood and promotes tremendous good will. Teasing your partner playfully can make all the difference when both of you are not in a good place.

Couples can take important steps to restore closeness. We just have to be willing to take responsibility for our own actions, admitting when we are wrong, and have to be willing to initiate efforts to make amends.

Linda Lipshutz, M.S., ACSW is a psychotherapist serving individuals, couples and families. A Palm Beach Gardens resident, she holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia. She can be reached at her Gardens office at 561 630 2827 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              561 630 2827      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, or online at

Author's Bio: 

Linda Lipshutz, MS, LCSW, ACSW is an Individual, Marriage and Family Therapist in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. She can be reached at her office at 561 630 2827 or online at