Two ways you can begin to feel heard in your relationship
What can I do when my partner doesn’t listen to me? How can we communicate better?
Most of us can relate to moments when we didn’t feel heard. What a frustrating and discouraging feeling that is—especially when it happens with your partner whom you love. Couples who come in for couples therapy often say things like: “He doesn’t listen to me” or “She makes it all about herself.”
Sometimes, when we don’t feel heard, we can end up yelling at, criticizing, demanding, ignoring and withdrawing from the person we love. Unfortunately, all of those coping responses can escalate the situation and we don’t feel heard by our loved one. While providing Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, I teach couples how to share and listen so t feel heard. We practice slowing things down, listening, and tuning in to each other.
Here are two creative and novel ways to connect with your partner so you will feel heard. They are not easy, but they can be truly effective if done sincerely.
1. First, Give Away Your Turn to Talk
If you want to feel heard, you need to listen first. Unsurprisingly, only after truly connecting to your partner’s feelings and unmet needs, and really letting your partner know that you “get it,” can you expect to be listened to. When your partner trusts that you sincerely care about his/her feelings, he/she can start listening to you.
This so difficult to do! It seems as if it is easier to withdraw or defend yourself than to listen. However, I would encourage you to experiment with this concept a few times and journal about how that changed the situation and whether or not your partner started listening to YOU.
Next time your partner is upset with you, let them let it all out. Before saying anything, connect with her feelings and needs. Share what you understand about his feelings and needs and see what will happen. It is important to remember: no excuses, no defending, and no deflecting. You might just find that giving away your turn to talk first will ultimately get you the experience of being heard that you crave.
2. Don’t Hear What They Think
Yes, you are reading it right! Marshall Rosenberg, an expert in Nonviolent Communication, talks about this shocking concept in his clip from the documentary film BEYOND BELIEF. Marshall explains that his recipe for creating peace is listening and connecting with what people feel and need, instead of what they think. In Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, we do listen to what people think. However, we help couples focus on the feelings and longings underneath the thoughts.
For example, your spouse is yelling at you, saying how inconsiderate it was of you to forget to buy the milk from the store. On top of that, they bring up how you forgot about your anniversary last month. In order to create peace in this situation, you need to connect with your spouse’s feelings (most likely of disappointment and hurt) and needs (most likely around needing reassurance that they are your top priority and special to you).
You might say something like: “Of course you are frustrated with me! I forgot the milk and I forgot our anniversary. I wonder if you doubt my commitment to you since I forgot about our anniversary? If that is the case, you must feel so scared to think that I might not care about you and us. You are so special to me!”
3. Get some help from an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist
In couples therapy, I often help partners connect with one another from their “needs level,” not from their “head level” and “criticize/demand level.” We all need to feel important, special and secure in our close relationships.
This technique of connecting with people’s needs when they may come packed together with anger or frustration is not easy. In couples counseling, we work to slow things down, validate that anger or frustration, but also uncover the need for reassurance and comfort that we all have as human beings. Doing so will calm things down so your partner can listen and you can begin to feel heard.
I would love to hear how this experiment may have improved your communication! Contact me today to start feeling heard in your relationship. Call Marta @ 303.898.6140 for a Free 30 min. Consultation!
If you want some support to jump start your relationship and finally feel heard, consider contacting us for couples therapy.
Marta Kem, LMFT provides Couples & Marital Therapy/ Counseling in the Denver and North Denver Metro Area (including Denver, Northglenn, Westminster, Thornton, Lafayette, Louisville, and Broomfield). She uses Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) with couples. Allison Rimland, LPC provides Marriage & Couples Counseling in Denver and Greenwood Village locations.
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