Not Feeling Heard Hurts (And what to do about it)

There are times in marriage and love relationships when partners try to say something important to the other and don’t feel heard and understood.

There are other times when partners talk to each other in a way that is
difficult to hear.

This usually happens when the message is delivered with criticism,
judgment, blaming, shaming, yelling, or stone silence. The important message is not expressed effectively and is often misinterpreted.

In the end, both partners are frustrated because they don’t feel heard or

What’s worse is after the communication breakdown from the conflict, the
the couple is flooded with negative feelings leading to distance and

Sound familiar?

Feel familiar?

In this article and the ones that follow, I am going to share with you the key elements of what usually goes wrong during a conflict that reflect the best and worst communication skills of couples.

The problem is most couples don’t know what they don’t know about how they impact each other during conflict.

A couple I’ll call Frank and Faye is a perfect example. They have been
married for over 25 years and are what some call “Empty Nesters”.

With their parenting responsibilities ending, a new chapter in their lives is in full swing. You would think that this would be prime time for them to spend more quality time together after work.

Yes, they do have a little more time together, but to their dismay, it’s not the
quality of time they were looking for. They complain that they were
having more arguments than enjoying a fun time together.

Here’s an example of what happens between them that reflects their level
of communication skills that foster and sabotage their desire for deeper

One night Frank and Faye were driving home from having a fun dinner with friends. Both are sharing what a good time they had.

Then, after about 10 minutes of pleasantries, Faye says:

“Did you notice how affectionate Oscar and Olivia were with each other? They have been like that since they got married years ago and they have been married longer than we have. I wish we had more of that.”

Frank keeps driving and doesn’t say a word.

After about 3 minutes Faye says:

“Frank, did you hear what I just said?”

Frank snaps back and says:

“There you go again, comparing us to other people, telling me what I am doing wrong. I just can’t please you. I’m sick of this!”

Stunned, Faye replies:

“That’s not what I said. I said Oscar and Olivia were affectionate with each other, and I wish I had more of that with you.”

Frank retorts:

“See, you just said it again. You’re always criticizing me!”

Well, clearly, what Faye said was not what Fred heard or wanted to hear.
Frank was listening more to his interpretation of what Faye was saying, not
her message. He heard, “I wish we had more of that” as a criticism.

In Faye’s mind, she was sharing a reasonable desire.

I have three questions for you based on Frank and Faye’s story:

1. What did you notice it was like for Frank and Faye when neither one
of them felt heard or understood?
2. Have you ever felt that way when you didn’t feel heard or
3. Based on your experience, why do you imagine they felt what you
described in question #1?

In the meantime, I am inviting you to join the free Overcoming Barriers to a Long-Lasting Relationship Facebook Group for more tips and support for your relationship.

Melva Johnson