Feeling Unheard in a Relationship? Here’s How to Transform Communication

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Feeling Unheard in a Relationship? Here’s How to Transform Communication

Dear Lisa,

I’m reaching out because I feel stuck in a frustrating cycle with my husband and I’m not sure how to break it. I don’t feel heard in my relationship and I don’t know what to do.

Here are the main issues that we can’t seem to resolve:

  1. Imbalance in Responsibilities: We both work full-time, yet I end up handling most of the housework. No matter how much I ask him to help out, he never takes the initiative to do an equal share unless I pester him.
  2. Prioritization Issues: I get upset about how often he chooses to spend time with his friends over me.

When I try to talk to him about these issues or anything else that’s bothering me, he makes me feel like I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Even when he gives in and says the right things in the moment, nothing changes in the long run, and we end up having the exact same conversation again in a week or so. It’s like the way I feel in our relationship is irrelevant to him.

All of this is affecting how I feel about him, and even how I feel about myself. I’m starting to feel like a stereotype — the nagging wife — which is not only upsetting but is also impacting my self-esteem. I love him and he’s wonderful in many ways, but I just don’t feel heard in my relationship.

What can I do to improve our communication and make him see that these issues are important, not just to me but for us? I want to stop repeating myself and start feeling like a partner again, not a caretaker or a nag.

Thanks for any advice you can give,

Unseen and Unheard

Grow Together

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Dear Unseen and Unheard,

I’m so sorry you’re having this experience with your husband. It’s so hard to feel unheard in your relationship, and it can indeed weaken your bond over time.

Not feeling heard is a very common issue that I see in couples counseling and relationship coaching. It’s an important one to resolve because everything good in your relationship is built on healthy, respectful communication. If you can’t talk about things and productively solve problems together, it will ultimately cause your relationship to fail. I’m glad you reached out.

Common Communication Patterns

In relationships like yours, there’s a pattern that I often see called the pursue-withdraw dynamic:

  1. Pursuer: Increases intensity to get through to the partner, often perceived as nagging.
  2. Withdrawer: Shuts down further, using the pursuer’s intensity as justification for disengagement.

Ask yourself if you’re approaching these conversations gently and with vulnerability, or if your husband might be experiencing you as “coming at him” in a way that sends his limbic system into overdrive. I know it looks like he “just doesn’t care,” but I would bet money that he’s actually feeling quite emotionally flooded in these moments when you’re upset with him — so much so that he has to disconnect from you, minimize the problem, and carry on as if there is no problem.

Strategies for Improving Communication

What does creating emotional safety mean?

  • Express your vulnerable feelings rather than just anger and frustration.
  • Affirm your care and commitment to the relationship.
  • Communicate your needs clearly: “I need us to divide the chores more evenly” or “I would like us to spend more quality time together.”

Practical Tips for Better Communication

  1. Use “I” Statements: Focus on expressing your feelings rather than blaming. For example, “I feel overwhelmed when I handle all the housework” instead of “You never help around the house.”
  2. Be Specific About Your Needs: Clearly state what you need from your partner. For instance, “I need us to divide the chores more evenly” or “I would like us to spend more quality time together.”
  3. Schedule Regular Check-Ins: Set aside time each week to discuss your relationship and any issues in a calm and structured manner.
  4. Seek Professional Help: Consider couples counseling or relationship coaching to get to the root of your communication issues and make lasting changes.

Use Active Listening to Help Both Of You Feel Heard

Research shows that effective communication is crucial for relationship satisfaction and longevity. A study by the National Institute of Health found that couples who practice active listening and empathy have significantly lower levels of conflict and higher relationship satisfaction​ (Greater Good in Action)​​ (Frontiers)​. By optimizing your approach and using these strategies, you can improve communication, reduce the feeling of being unheard, and strengthen your relationship.

Common Questions and Answers

Q1: How can I make my partner understand the importance of these issues?

  • A: Share how these issues affect your emotional well-being and the relationship. Use specific examples to illustrate the impact.

Q2: What if my partner continues to dismiss my feelings?

  • A: Emphasize the importance of feeling heard for the health of the relationship and suggest counseling to work through these issues together.

Q3: How can I avoid coming across as nagging?

  • A: Approach conversations with empathy and vulnerability. Express your feelings without assigning blame.

The Power of Positive Relationship Coaching

Positive and effective relationship coaching can help both partners make significant changes to their communication patterns. By working with a relationship coach, couples can learn new skills to communicate more effectively, understand each other better, and break negative cycles such as the pursue-withdraw dynamic. Coaching sessions provide a safe space to explore and resolve underlying issues, fostering a deeper emotional connection and mutual respect.

If you’re ready to make meaningful changes in your relationship, I invite you to book a free consultation with a Growing Self relationship expert. Our experienced coaches can help you and your partner build a stronger, more satisfying relationship through improved communication and understanding.

Wishing you love, luck, and deep connection,

Dr. Lisa

PS: I have so many more resources for you to help you improve your communication. If you’re not ready to jump all the way into relationship coaching, at the very least, please take my totally free two-part training “Communication That Connects.” It will give you a crash course in highly effective communication plus activities you can both do, to help you feel heard in your relationship.

PPS: I have so many more resources for you on my site! Start with these:

Additional Resources

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

  • 00:00 Introduction: Feeling Unheard in Relationships
  • 01:09 Understanding Emotional Invalidation
  • 04:28 Free Resources for Better Communication
  • 05:55 Unresolved Conflict and Communication
  • 14:16 The Importance of Feeling Heard
  • 18:17 Practical Steps to Improve Communication
  • 27:09 Join the Live Q&A Session
  • 28:37 Conclusion and Final Thoughts

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Lisa Marie Bobby:

So I think we can all relate to what one of my listeners shared. Dear Lisa, I am feeling so unheard in my relationship right now. I try to talk about how I feel, but I’m just not getting through. It seems like my partner is just either not hearing me or not understanding me, but I feel so lonely. How do I change this situation?

 I’m  Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed psychologist, a board certified coach. I’m the founder of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching, and I am on a mission to help growth oriented people just like you create more  love, happiness, and  success in the most precious  and important parts of their lives.

 Feeling like your partner isn’t listening to you, is not understanding you,  or perhaps hearing you, but maybe not caring is beyond frustrating and it’s incredibly hurtful.

  But the good news is that you can fix this.

 First of all, this is usually the suspect number one, is that you don’t feel heard because your partner is engaging in  emotionally invalidating communication.  And this happens when you are trying to talk about how you feel. And your partner is perhaps without even realizing it, doing one of the following things that will very predictably lead to emotional invalidation.

 For example, jumping into fix it mode. You’re talking about a problem. They have a solution and that’s where it ends. Or they’re trying to make you feel better by explaining to you why you’re wrong about how you’re feeling and why.  They could  also be vigorously disagreeing with your perception of reality.

 They could also be a little bit emotionally tone deaf and truly not know what to do with the type of perhaps emotional content of your disclosure, which is something that happens in people who have low emotional intelligence or low EI. They may not know how to actively listen. Another possibility is that your partner is kind of self focused.

Like, Oh yeah, that happened to me once too. It all started when blah, blah, blah. And all of a sudden we’re talking about them and not you anymore. And you don’t feel heard. Quick disclaimer here. You may be listening to this, and particularly if you follow a lot of self anointed relationship coaches on TikTok, might be thinking right now, Oh, that’s narcissistic behavior.

That’s gaslighting. And I’m here to tell you,  All kinds of people do these things. They are not necessarily  narcissists. You’re not necessarily being gaslit. This is normal garden variety, communication issues, and low emotional intelligence. These are all growth opportunities for most relationships,  not necessarily a sign that something is terribly wrong and not an indicator of extreme psychopathology.

Because, if you are actually with an abusive sociopath, you will have other  red flags on your radar  besides these. But if any of these things are feeling familiar to you, the answer to, why do I feel so unheard in my relationship, is that you need to focus on communication that connects the two.

particularly around skills that develop emotional intimacy and emotional validation. The super good news here is that this is a  solvable problem because  both of these things are highly coachable if someone wants to learn them. These are all skills that can be acquired and practice. And  when you do, you will have a different experience in your relationship.

And probably both of you will start feeling better about how you’re connecting.  Because these types of relationship skills are so vital to know, and also because so many couples struggle with this, honestly, I actually put together some free resources to help with exactly this. I have a. new free two part training series called Communication That Connects.

This is totally free. All you have to do is come to growingself. com forward slash communication, sign up, and you will instantly get two free two part training series called Communication That Connects. 45 minute long communication skills training sessions with me, plus a 30 page workbook that is filled with exercises and activities to help you learn and practice these new communication skills.

You can take this either on your own or or together and start practicing these new ways of talking with each other, listening to each other that can help this situation start feeling better immediately. I hope you get this. I made it for you. It is totally free. There are no expenses. Excuses Growing self.com/communication.

Listen, watch, learn, apply, and this could start feeling a lot better soon, but it’s also true that emotional invalidation might not be the only reason. That you are currently feeling unheard by your partner. There are other issues with different solutions, quite honestly, that can contribute to this. And one of them is honestly unresolved conflict.

conflict. And what we’re talking about is if you are feeling unheard, if your partner is actually hearing you just fine, but they disagree with you and they are not in alignment  with whatever it is that you are advocating. Like, maybe you want to do something differently than what you’re doing right now with regards to  parenting or  finances  or with your sex life  and your partner is not on board with whatever that is.

 So when you say, my partner isn’t hearing me, it might actually mean they’re listening. They’re just not complying with what I want to have happen in this situation. You are not in alignment and the subconscious mindset is that if my partner really understood my point of view, which is the correct one, then they would see this from my perspective.

They would understand why they are wrong and I am right and we will do things my way and then everything will be better. My friend, there is absolutely no judgment here. I have personally been married for a really long time and I am a professional marriage counselor. And I still sometimes find myself trying to convince my husband of something that I really want to have happen.

And then I realize what I’m doing and I need to coach myself. through this, like, okay, I need to make some space for and seek to understand his perspective instead of just trying to continue jamming mine down his throat, which is easier said than done. Am I right? If you and your partner have competing goals and you’re trying real hard to get them see your point of view and they’re not getting in the pool, it turns into power struggles.

You feel unheard because your partner has a different perspective and you’re butting heads. Nobody is actually feeling heard in this kind of situation. The solution here is to  seek to understand,  put down the battle flag and your shining sword of justice  and get back to some relationship basics like there are two people in this relationship and my partner’s needs, rights and feelings are actually just as valid and important as mine are.

to say things like, I really want you to hear me, but I actually also haven’t been doing a great job of hearing you either. So we’re butting heads right now. Instead of continuing to push my agenda, I’m going to get curious about your position. And let’s see if we can build a bridge to the center. It is amazing how well communication goes   when you can bring love back into the conversation.

 And come into these conversations with a vibe of, I care about you and your perspective. You are seeking to understand, you are being the change you wish to see in your relationship when you approach your partner with genuine curiosity and willingness to listen. In my experience as a marriage counselor with this kind of energy, your communication problems stop feeling combative, like someone wins and someone loses, and instead starts to feel like a collaboration.

What are our shared values, our shared hopes and goals? And how can we make this look like what we both want and deserve? Some free big sisterly advice if your big sister was a professional marriage counselor she might tell you that if things have been feeling so hard in your relationship that that kind of goodwill is non existent if trust and appreciation of each other, willingness to tolerate each other’s point of view has eroded to the point that it feels impossible to get there together.

That’s a pretty clear sign that it’s time to get some professional support for your relationship, working with a good marriage counselor, meaning a licensed marriage and family therapist like me, who employs Relationship coaching psychology can help you both understand yourselves and each other in a really different way.

You can learn how to listen with love and respect and find common ground to make positive changes that feel really good for both of you. It’s important to know that this is different than going to a conventional Therapist. Almost no therapists who offer couples counseling have the type of specialized training, education, and expertise of licensed marriage and family therapists.

It’s a totally different skill set. Conventional therapists know how to diagnose and treat mental illnesses, not conduct relationship coaching to help your partnership flourish. Couples who accidentally wander into somebody’s therapy office, not knowing what they’re getting into, not understanding that they have connected with the wrong type of provider, often do not have a good experience.

Especially if you’re trying to get health insurance to pay for this, one of you is going to get diagnosed with a mental health condition that will be viewed as the source of the problem, because that’s what therapists do, and health insurance only pays for medically necessary treatment of psychiatric conditions.

And as I’m sure you understand, this kind of approach can create way more problems for your relationship than they create solutions, particularly if there is not a diagnosis warranted. It’s also important to know that very few marriage and family therapists Psychotherapists are knowledgeable in the art and science of coaching psychology.

So even couples therapy can turn into this rehashing of the past and doing sometimes unnecessarily deep dives for the purpose of gaining insight, which is good. Nobody’s mad at insight, but insight is not enough to create real and lasting change in the way you each operate, how you behave, how you respond.

bond and what you do. Therapy doesn’t do that. Coaching does. But for the love of all things holy, stay away from anyone representing themselves as a relationship coach who is not also a qualified therapist, ideally a licensed marriage and family therapist, because coaching is a completely unregulated profession.

Anyone can and does call themselves a relationship coach you Because they’ve been divorced three times and they know all about relationships and they have so much to teach you this situation that you’re in feeling unheard and needing to have powerful, courageous and constructive conversations about doing things differently is way too important to get mixed up with a wrong kind of helper because the consequences can be dire.

Feeling unheard or misunderstood or like you’re just not getting through to your partner is a very common issue, but it is also a very serious issue, particularly if this turns into a pervasive pattern that you experience over and over again. Let’s talk for a second about why simply feeling heard and understood by your partner is so powerful and so important, and also what happens in relationships when you are not having that experience.

At its core, feeling heard is really code language for emotional intimacy. Feeling truly known, understood, respected, seen, loved by your partner is what happens when you feel authentically heard. Heard and received by them. And if you don’t have that, it’s like the center of what makes a relationship a relationship is missing.

Over time, you can start to feel lonely, resentful, frustrated, and like you can’t connect with your partner on any kind of meaningful level. You can’t talk about things that are really important to you. You can’t solve problems together. And most concerningly, after a while, you might start thinking, understandably, What’s the point?

I would actually go so far as to say that in my experience as a marriage counselor, this is actually the real reason why people get divorced. They cannot connect. They don’t feel understood or heard for so long that they start to lose hope that change is possible because they just can’t get through. So they stop trying.

The topics of the conflict can be all over the place. They could be having fights about money, how we handle finances, parenting differences, sexuality, uh, fights about communication styles, different priorities, fighting about, uh, equitable division of labor. And all of those are problems, but none of them is the real problem.

The real problem is that when one of you is in pain, is not okay, is unhappy, and is trying to get it. other person to hear that, and there is no understanding or receptiveness or responsiveness over and over and over again. Each time this happens, it’s like a nail in the coffin of your relationship that death by a thousand cuts experiences.

This is how relationships fail. I’m not trying to be scary here, but it’s important for you to understand that this is a very big deal. And if it’s happening in your relationship, you have to fix this ASAP because it will only get worse over time. This does not get better on its own. And when this happens, and it evolves and metastasizes, disconnection grows.

resentment grows, frustration grows, trust dies, and it turns into this really crappy downward spiral. So you need to know how to fix this. I’ll be giving you a bunch of tips and strategies to practice and throwing a ton of free resources at you, but If you choose to go the route of getting connected one on one with a therapist, choose wisely.

Not all therapists are the same. That said, there are also a lot of things you can do to change this dynamic on your own. So let’s talk about things you can do to change this dynamic and get your partner to listen to you and understand you. The first step here is knowing how to approach the situation with confidence and compassion.

And the first thing to do here is simply name the problem. To say, what We have an issue. I feel like when I try to tell you how I feel, you have this reaction to me in these moments that leads me to feel unheard. I would love it if we could work on this together. The second step here is to step away from the content and talk about the process.

Stepping away from the content helps you keep from rehashing the argument again and instead talk about the experience of feeling unheard specifically. So to say things like when I try to talk to you about this situation, my perception of what’s happening is that It feels like you don’t want to have that conversation with me.

I feel like you don’t understand me in those moments. And this is turning into a big problem for me. I’d really like to work on this together because I know this can’t feel good for you either. And then step three is to listen first in order to start an upward Cycle, a positive relational dynamic. So you might say something to your partner, like, how would you like our communication to be different in these moments?

And you need to be ready to listen and take in what they are saying about their experience. Now, if that turns into a crap show, either you will not allow in what they are saying about how they are feeling, or if they are refusing to participate with you in a meaningful way in having this conversation, it is time to get help from a true relationship expert.

expert. If you’d like to work with one of the best of the best marriage and family therapists who practice coaching, you are invited to book a free consultation with Growing Self to discuss your hopes and goals and how we can help. And just following these steps could also help you have a really productive conversation about how you can probably both do a better job of helping each other feel heard, understood, and respected.

through just improving your communication. This could be the start of a beautiful new chapter. Now, I know that there are many dimensions of truly healthy communication that connects and I go into a bunch of them in my free two part communication that connects training that I told you about previously, which you can take for free.

Go to growingself. com forward slash communication, access it, get the workbook, and you will be on your way. And in the meantime, here are some other strategies that you can start practicing today. For example, one of the most important things that you can do in order to be heard by your partner, it sounds paradoxical, but this works really well, is to start by setting down your agenda and start getting really curious about them.

and their perspective. When you are practicing healthy communication skills, when you are listening for the purpose of understanding, it starts an upward cycle. So for you to be committed to hearing them will be a really powerful and positive first step in changing this. Also, staying out of the content, focusing on the process is always a good strategy.

Additionally, communicating love and goodwill very overtly, saying with a lot of positivity, I really appreciate these things about you and about our relationship. When you communicate love and goodwill very overtly, in a positive way, it changes the tone coming into conversation saying things like, I want you to feel more loved and respected.

Affected by me too. What is this like for you? How would you like for things to be different? I wanna have a stronger relationship with you because I love you so much. Like who’s gonna say no to that? But it requires. Finding a more positive and hopeful mindset, which can be challenging. If there’s been a lot of resentment or broken trust around communication, but try to make contact with this part of yourself, because if you do, the communication will go much better.

Additionally, Offering solutions that are constructive and focusing on strengths will really help. Talk to your partner about times that you do feel heard. Don’t make it like a giant wall of criticism. You can say, remember that time when you asked me how I was feeling and we sat on the couch and I cried and you just sort of nodded, that was perfect.

They might be like, Really? They might honestly not know. And so providing examples of what solutions look like can go a long way in helping you both actualize the reality that you would like to see. You can also focus on improving specifically emotional validation and emotional intimacy, and really get focused on creating collaborative alignment around any unresolved areas of conflict in your relationship.

Because when you do that, it opens up lines of communication, you will feel Over the course of that, both experience feeling heard and respected by each other. And just wanting to say this out loud, these are oftentimes relationship skills that need to be learned. The reality is that nobody teaches us how to have healthy relationships.

We find someone we like, we get married, and then we wing it until problems like these arise and we are in these situations where we literally might not know what to do to fix it. And that is a thousand percent okay. That is where we all start. start. This is a growth opportunity that just signifies there’s some work to do here.

Do I listen differently so that my partner feels heard by me? How do I speak differently so that it is easier to hear me? How do we speak differently? solve problems together constructively without it turning into a conflict? How do we intentionally build emotional intimacy in our relationship? Because that’s the core.

None of these things are necessarily natural or intuitive. And that’s why I created free resources to support you in this journey of growth. So right after you finish watching this podcast or listening to it, your next stop needs to be taking advantage of all these free resources that I put together for you so that you can continue to learn and grow and start practicing some of the things that we’ve been talking about today.

The first thing is to go to growingself. com forward slash communication and download the free 30 page workbook and watch the two free trainings that I put together for you on how to do the things we’ve been talking about today. Be a better listener, have more emotional intimacy in your relationship, communicate differently so that it is easier for your partner to hear you.

All of this will become clear through this training. So I hope you take advantage of it. Additionally, let’s talk. I am doing a live stream Q and a session every single Thursday. So if you happen to catch this podcast this week, join me this coming Thursday. I want to talk about your questions. If you have been feeling unheard in your relationship or like you’re not getting through to your partner, maybe there are specific circumstances that you feel need to be discussed, or maybe there’s like a different.

issue that could be contributing to your experience of feeling unheard. I want to know all about this. So Thursday, 12 p. m. Mountain or 2 p. m. Eastern. You can come to any of my socials. So find me on YouTube, Dr. Lisa Rebobby on YouTube, come to Facebook, find me on Instagram and tune in for the live stream.

You can ask your questions in advance by going to growingself. com forward slash dear hyphen Lisa. So let me know what’s going on. Also, Speak to it on the live stream, whether or not you’re there. And also, if you, you go through that form to submit a question, you can also sign up to get email reminders of when we’re about to go live so that you don’t miss it.

And you’ll also, we’ll send you a recap of the video so that if I speak to your question, you’ll have the video sent to you so that you can watch it after the fact. Um, because I really want to know what’s going on. on with you. So I hope that today’s episode gave you clarity about what might be going on and some of the solutions to try.

You now have free resources to continue going. But again, I’d love to hear more about what’s going on with you so that I can speak to your situation specifically. So I hope you join me on Thursday. Thank you so much for tuning in today and joining me to talk about what to do if you’ve been feeling unheard.

I hope this was helpful for you and I will talk to you again next week.

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