Feeling unheard in a relationship is an incredibly frustrating experience.
Even though you’re trying your best to communicate clearly, you’re left feeling like your partner doesn’t understand — or more upsettingly, that they don’t want to.
Relationships are made up of two equal parts — with both sides entitled to respect and validation. If your significant other is behaving in a way that makes you feel insignificant or unheard, it’s important to know how to move forward in order to save your relationship.
Without effective communication, it can feel like your partner isn’t listening to you.
Feeling unheard is more than your partner occasionally getting distracted or tuning out during a conversation. It’s whereby you feel consistently disregarded intellectually and emotionally by your partner — where they refuse to pay attention to what you’re saying or even take it into consideration.
There are varying degrees of feeling unheard in a relationship, but if it’s not dealt with it can become a bigger issue that overshadows the strength of your connection.
“From time to time, one or both partners might feel unheard in a relationship,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“This could often be a trigger for a fight, or lead to a moment of disconnection. In an ideal relationship, these moments of disconnect do not last long, and the couple feels confident to know how to reconnect. A part of reconnection for most couples is feeling heard, validated, and understood.”
In many cases, partners may feel unheard at a certain point in their relationship if they are going through a busy or difficult time. However, if this is expressed in a non-confrontational and constructive way, both partners can work together to improve their listening skills and work towards better communication.
Without resolution or a willingness to change, this breakdown in communication can have a lasting impact on the relationship.
“Relationships where one or both partners feel unheard often lead to resentment, contempt, or one person going to find a place where they do feel heard,” says Seeger DeGeare.
If these feelings of resentment grow, it can lead to an avoidant response — whereby one or both partners give up on communication in their relationship and seek respite somewhere else.
“By seeking validation elsewhere, it’s just a way to avoid the problem — as they may believe nothing will change the situation anyways,” says Seeger DeGeare.
This defense mechanism only serves to make things worse, with a complete breakdown of communication bringing the relationship to a standstill.
We may sound like a broken record, but healthy communication in a relationship is key to its success.
“The main reason someone does not feel heard in a relationship is that the couple lacks the ability and skill to communicate in a healthy manner,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“For example, one or both partners are indirectly expressing wants and needs. Or one or both partners are not actively listening or paying attention to what their partner is saying.”
When you’re conversing with your partner, it’s important to actively engage through eye contact, body language, and committing to being a good listener.
Bad communication skills leave your partner feeling unheard. A lack of communication makes it easier to detach from your partner’s response in favor of defensive strategies or to push your own point of view.
“Couples often complain of not feeling heard in an argument,” says Seeger DeGeare.
"Although there could be many causes of this, often we feel that we know our partners so well, that we default to thinking we know what our partner will say or do. This can prevent us from paying attention in the current situation — therefore missing the point entirely.”
Feeling unheard in a relationship is an incredibly frustrating experience, especially if your partner is doing things that make you feel disrespected or invalidated.
There are a number of red flags to look out for that indicate your partner may be disregarding you in this way.
We all want to feel heard in our relationships.
Even though it can seem like the logical approach to strive to be heard in your relationship, this only works if both sides are working towards the same goal. Without this cooperation, it can feel like you’re just screaming into the void.
“Firstly, it’s important to remember that we can’t control what other people do,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“However, we can do things that will set us up for success. If you feel like your partner is not hearing you, slow down and try a few of these techniques.”
Think about what your internal voice is telling you and why you feel like your partner is not hearing you. Is that story all true? Is it based on something real? Something fact-driven?
Once you have worked this out, it’s easier to start a clear and logical conversation with your partner — that won’t simply cause the cycle to continue.
When your partner responds in this way, it becomes clear that there was no bad internet behind the behavior, but just a lack of understanding.
“In many cases, partners do not even know that their loved one feels this way,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“After working together, they discovered that this was entirely untrue, their partner just did not know they could or should be responding in a different way when their loved one was talking.”
However, if the desire to improve communication is one-sided, these conversations could go in a different direction — with defensiveness and an unwillingness to see your perspective.
This can be a difficult subject to broach with your partner, as it can be hard to put into words exactly how you’re feeling or how your partner is making you think.
Before you raise the subject, it’s essential to set your intentions about the outcome of the conversation and be very clear about the message you want to be understood. For example, if you’ve brought up the topic before it could easily descend into an argument — when that was not your intention.
For example, say something like “Is now a good time for us to have a conversation on our communication? I would like to share something that is feeling frustrating for me. When we talk about that I feel like we are not getting to a satisfying place in the conversation.”
Bringing it up from this point of view can help guide the conversation in a more productive way and encourage your partner to engage in what you’re saying.
If you feel that a lack of communication is holding you back, Seeger DeGeare recommends asking these questions to get you back on track.
How would you like me to show you that I hear you?
How do I know you are listening to me?
Do these methods of communication work for both of us, if not what can we try out?
In order to have a healthy relationship, both sides should feel like they’re being heard. Therefore, active listening should be inherent in both partners. So how do you make sure that your partner feels heard?
This can be achieved by using your emotional intelligence — making yourself aware of your partner’s insecurities and working on making them feel heard and validated.
“In American football, they have a phrase that says “Be where your feet are” and I feel like this is such a great reminder for couples working on hearing each other,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“Be present to what is happening right now, and be responsive to this moment. Not a moment in the past or one that you are predicting will happen in the future.”