Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Oregon Coast
| | Should MC teach H how to listen?
We have been in MC for nearly 9 months, 1-2 times a month, including a retreat toward the beginning. My original concern at the outset was the classic, "Seriously--my husband does not know HOW TO LISTEN." And after all this time and money, it isn't any better! (Just for the record, the H stated that he wanted "to feel more connected.")
During the MC we have worked thru numerous issues and I would say that yes we have successfully enriched our relationship in some useful ways.
But my original concern is still driving me crazy. And I am not convinced that the MC sees it as something where we have to STOP and TAKE ACTION. Like, an emergency.
It seems like several times a week with the H, I reach the boiling point and have to leave the scene because I feel so crazed. He does not make eye contact. He tunes me out while I am talking. He gives zero feedback to confirm that he is listening--let alone has paid attention to what I am saying. He changes the subject to something random and unrelated. Often, later on, he'll say, "You never told me that." But I thought he was listening the whole time. Now I mostly just stay silent which is creating bigger problems.
Today I was gratified when the MC said to the H, "I suggest you try really hard to make eye contact with her when she is talking." OK, so now I get to go a month trying to remind him and teach him--of course all the while I'm feeling emotional or trying to explain something--"Could you please look at me when I'm talking?" IOW I will feel (as usual) like a nag. In fact he has already said "Gee you're not very forgiving!" And I said, "Holy heck, honey, I've been 'forgiving' this for 9 months of counseling and for five years before that! I told you my fuse is getting kinda short! Could you PLEASE just look at me when we're having a conversation??" IOW he turned it into "my fault" again!
It seems to me that the MC should be rigorously training us both to pay attention in appropriate ways and maybe even recommend a course, or a program, and a way of practicing. But just finally hearing the H get told "Oh, yeah, you might try looking her in the eye" after 9 months--my god I don't think I can hang on much longer.
For example: I got brave after today's MC session and decided to confide in my H an uncomfortable experience I had recently whereby one friend said to me that another person in our group was "more valuable" than I was. I said to the H, "I don't believe in putting relative values on friends, I think we all have our gifts and talents to offer," and he said, without looking me in the eye (he was staring at the peanuts in his hand he later told me), "Well, she has a point, I think the other friend really is irreplaceable, blah blah blah." When I objected (that wasn't my point, after all), he continued to pursue this line of thinking. If he had been looking at me he would have seen what damage his comments were doing. But he just kept going on explaining why the offensive statement was perfectly reasonable, while eyeballing the peanuts in his hand. To me it felt as if he was changing the subject to why this other friend is so wonderful, whereas the real topic was how hurt I felt by being compared poorly to that friend. I felt like I was being wounded all over again rather than understood and soothed, and he never "checked in" to see the effect his comments were having on me even as I tried to move the subject away from what I knew was going to cause damage if he kept it up.
I mean, where do we begin? I don't think I can go on getting older with a person who does this stuff. It is just too painful and I feel so lonely. I think listening to someone, and listening kindly and sympathetically, is the greatest gift of a relationship and if I can't have that going into old age I don't think I can risk going on in this marriage. If he, or we, cannot find a way to LEARN to listen I don't see how we will make it.
By the way, at different times both the H and MC have suggested that my talking style is the problem. I talk too much (I was told). "Just get to the point and stop talking." (So I learned to talk in telegraphic, blunt sentences, maximum of two. Didn't work either. They tried to turn me into a robot.) Or, I'm not choosing words that interest the H. One other thing I learned in MC is that the H doesn't listen because he thinks what I'm saying "isn't important." Yes, he actually said that. I have changed my behaviors to try to accommodate him and it just feels as if the whole onus of this is on me (since I'm the one with the complaint?). I end up feeling broken and defective--it's all my fault that the H thinks I'm boring, long-winded, or irrelevant. I don't think that's healthy, either. And as I said, I am now largely simply keeping silent with the H and turning to other people for the relief of conversation. It's like a hunger that is growing in me.
Why doesn't the MC see the H's seeming inability to listen to me as at least part of the equation? Like, maybe I'm telling the truth? Maybe he really just doesn't know HOW to listen?? and this isn't easy for him?
Some background: My H grew up in a family of 3 boys; he has a classic "Mars" brain full of sports, math, and "logic." He also would have been (according to the MC) diagnosed as attention-deficit if he were a kid in today's schools.
Of course overall we're compatible, generally, and he's perfectly wonderful the way he is.... unless he wants to have a wife who doesn't feel ignored and pissed off. I really, really want to know: How can a guy learn to listen in a way that is good for his marriage? Is it possible? Or is this as good as it's going to get? What is the MC's job in all this? I am at wit's end.
We met in 1990. Married other people. Divorced at the same time, 2005. Married in 2007.
It was meant to be, but what does it mean?