Are you listening?

A frequent common denominator among my clients is partners being surprised by the depth of the other’s unhappiness. I often here the following exchange from clients: “Why didn’t you tell me how unhappy you were”? “I did, I told you repeatedly, and also suggested that we go to couples counseling”. A partner’s request to go to couples counseling should be seen and heard as a warning sign, an emergency about the health of the relationship. Even if you think everything is fine or that your partner is making a bigger deal out of something than it deserves, you still need to take his feelings seriously.

When a partner’s request for change goes unheeded by the other due to denial or outright refusal, the unhappy partner grows even more unhappy and resentful, and often becomes emotionally checked out of the relationship. While we all fall short in our relationships from time to time, but if your partner specifically mentions any of the following, you need to pay attention:

  • If your partner says you seem down, stressed, on-edge, or are being short with her, you should listen and ask what she changes she sees in you.
  • If you partner says you seem depressed and should go talk to someone, ask him what he is noticing about you that is concerning to him.
  • If your partner says you don’t seem like yourself, ask for specifics.
  • If your partner says a particular behavior is hurtful, stop doing it.
  • If your partner says that teasing him about his physical imperfections is upsetting to him, stop doing it.
  • If your partner says he is concerned that you are drinking too much, you should take him seriously. Ask him for examples and details about your behavior when intoxicated.
  • If your partner is frequently frustrated by your lack of participation with the kids or with housework, take notice and help out more.
  • If your partner regularly backs down and disengages during arguments, she may feel bullied, or be tired of feeling as though you think she is always wrong.
  • If your partner complains about the lack of affection, sex, or emotional intimacy in your relationship, make it a priority to discuss these issues in order to get things back on track.
  • If your partner feels that there is something wrong with your relationship, then something isn’t working for him, and by extension, it’s not working for you either.

Listen and take action. You’ll be glad you did.