10 Signs That Your Partner Isn’t Listening To You

by | Oct 8, 2018 | Communication, Marriage counselling, Stronger Relationships

10 Signs That Your Partner Isn’t Listening To You

by | Oct 8, 2018 | Communication, Marriage counselling, Stronger Relationships


The Fool-Proof Guide to Living Happily Ever After with a Self-Absorbed Partner


et’s be honest, being married to someone who is self-absorbed and more pre-occupied with their own life than yours would be a lonely proposition.

I know this because my own father was self-absorbed and that didn’t end well with my mother.

Indeed, I can’t really think of any relationship in which a partner with unmet needs is able to stick it out for the long-term.

I witness in my work with couples that when unmet needs creep into the relationship loneliness and isolation quickly follow.

However, if you find yourself in a relationship with a partner who is self-absorbed and lacks the thoughtfulness you deserve, then is all hope lost?

Do you just pack it in can call it quits?

Is there nothing that can be done about a self-absorbed partner?

I say no.

There is hope. There is always hope.

That said, how can you tell if your partner is not listening?

How can you get your partner to pay attention to you for just a minute?

And, probably the most important question you can ask is, can you have a gratifying and satisfying relationship with them?

The first thing we need to do is figure out if our partner is listening to us.

I mean really listening to us.

Here are the 10 ways to tell if your partner is listening to you or not.

Ten Signs That Your Partners Isn’t Listening To You

1. They dictate what you talk about

When it comes to having a conversation with your partner, if you find yourself talking more about your partner’s life, interests, or day than your own, then chances are they are dictating what you talk about.

The flow of conversation should be like a tennis match – back and forth.

In his book The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships, Michael Nichols reveals that when people are setting the agenda, they are more concerned with making their world right and yours wrong.

They are not letting go of their own needs and forsaking ours, and that needs to change.

2. They Interrupt You

If your partner is listening, and I mean really listening, then they should be able to let you finish your sentence without interrupting.

They shouldn’t have difficulty holding their place in the conversation while you finish your train of thought.

If your partner can’t have a conversation without interrupting you, then that’s a good clue that they aren’t listening to what you say when you do get the chance to speak.

3. Ask Them To Repeat What You Just Said

Although it should be easy, sadly a lot of people can’t repeat what they just heard.

I know this because I’m guilty of it, too, especially with my wife.

That said, if your partner can’t answer your simple ‘What do you think about what I just said?’, then that’s a good indication that they weren’t listening.

If they were, they’d be able to comment on your views towards the post-modern art of the 20th century.

Oh, did you catch that?

I was testing you, too.

Let’s be honest, your partner should be considerate enough to at least hear what you have to say, even though they may not be interested in your graduate dissertation.

Here’s where it hurts: the moment you realize your partner isn’t at all interested in what you are talking about.

But, regardless of how little they listen, this is also the point at which they need to change.

Because, by not listening, loneliness and isolation are going to creep into your relationship and, as John Gottman, founder of The Gottman Institute, asserts, that’s not a good thing.

4. You Don’t Feel Good About Yourself After Talking With Your Partner

When we walk away from a conversation with our partner feeling listened to, we feel good, understood and heard.

If you find yourself disengaging with your partner only to feel like none of the burdens you carry are in any way lighter than before your conversation, then chances are your partner didn’t do a good enough job listening to you or giving you the kind of empathy you need.

And, I’ll make a point here to say that to keep our relationship healthy, long-term, we need more empathy.

5. Your Partner Responds To You With Defensive Emotions

Going back to John Gottman’s work, defensiveness belongs to the group of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and is characterized as a typical response to criticism.

If your partner is getting defensive and feeling attacked, there’s a good chance that they are only hearing and processing criticism.

Now, I won’t let you off the hook because there is a chance that you are being critical of your partner.

But, if you are trying to have an honest, productive discussion without overtly trying to blame your partner, then the odds are that they are responding to the ‘negative’ words that they hear.

According to Michael Nichols, author of “The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning To Listen Can Improve Relationships”, there is a good chance that your partner is filtering what you have to say and is predisposed to hearing what is wrong rather than remaining open to what is going well or the positive aspects of your interaction.

Thankfully, there is something we can do to turn around these interactions with our partner to bring out more of the positive than negative interactions.

6. Your Partner Seems Bored

Odds are that if your partner looks bored, then they are bored.

That’s simple.

Do they look tired?

Do they try to respond to what you’re saying?

What does their body language say about them?

Does your partner appear to be drifting off into a world of their own?

Well, these are all good indications that they are not making an effort to listen to you.

7. Your Partner Seems Distracted

As a parent, I know how hard it can be to have a conversation with your partner without being interrupted.

It’s frustrating and discouraging.

There are weekend plans to sort out, schedules to agree upon, and meal plans to decide about.

But, there are also moments when the kids aren’t around.

They (kids) have to sleep.

And, let’s be real here, no matter how hectic your life is, there is always time for a quick conversation with your partner.

But, do your discussions get set aside for a quick email?

Does your partner find it difficult to give you five uninterrupted minutes?

Is there always a phone they ‘have’ to answer or look at?

If so, then chances are they’re not interested in listening to you.

8. They Don’t Ask You Questions About What You Just Said

It took me 42 years to really and truly know myself.

And, if there is one thing I know about myself, it is that I don’t suffer people who show no interest in me as a person.

If someone doesn’t ask me questions about my life or even about what I just said, then chances are our friendship will never make it past the stage of being acquaintances.

I think that all of us like to have questions asked of us, to be asked about our day, our thoughts and feelings.

I don’t believe I’m unique in that.

You could argue that there is a narcissistic quality about feeling the need to be asked questions.

But, I would argue that we all share that quality.

What I’m talking about are the people who show very little interest.

You know, the ones that you need to initiate all the conversation or pry words out of their mouth.

If your partner (or anyone really) is not trying to get to know you and your lived experience, then it’s likely that they are disinterested.

And, disinterested people tend not to listen.

9. Your Partner Plays Dumb

I think you know what I’m talking about here.

You and your partner agree to plans, schedules, or deadlines and when the time arrives to make good on those arrangements, your partner acts like they don’t know what you’re talking about.

Now, I’m not talking about miscommunications here.

Rather, I’m referring to the kind of behaviour that turns the miscommunication around and attempts to either accept no responsibility for the miscommunication (which should be 50%) or attempts to lay the blame squarely at your feet.

If that’s happening, then your partner isn’t motivated to listen to you and input their half into your relationship bank account.

They’re more interested in withdrawing than depositing.

10. Your Partner Pays More Attention to their Phone Than You.

I thought I’d save the best of the 10 signs that your partner isn’t listening to you for last. That’s because phubbing – phone-snubbing – is one of the biggest problems facing couples today and is doing a good job at making us feel alone and causing issues in our relationship.

So, what is phubbing exactly?

Phubbing is that annoying behaviour we all get to be on the receiving end of when our partner glances at their phone while talking to us.

It’s the kind of behaviour that makes you wonder if your partner is going to completely descend into an Instagram black hole.

That, in a nutshell, is phubbing.

I don’t think I need to tell you how commonplace phubbing has become for many people today.

In fact, it’s so commonplace that more and more news outlets are reporting on the pervasiveness of cell phones and the effect that phubbing behaviours are having on our relationships.

Studies like this one published in the New York Post show that people living in America check their phones 80 times per day.

Another study published in Today showed that more than 46% of adults in a relationship say they have been phubbed by their partner recently.

Since we’ve all been there, watching a movie with our partner or getting ready for bed, if your partner is checking their Facebook newsfeed instead of engaging in whatever it is that you two are supposed to be doing together, then you’re being phubbed.

And, as a consequence, not being listened to.

What can you do knowing your partner isn’t listening?

I could go on and on about what relationships are like with partners who aren’t listening, but that is a black hole that will suck you in and not let you out.

Just because a partner isn’t listening at the moment – notice the keywords ‘at the moment’ – doesn’t mean they can’t listen to you in the future.


Well, chances are your partner listened to you in the past.

Chances are they worked hard to connect with you in the past.

Isn’t that logical?

I find it hard to believe that, if you decided to couple with them long-term, they have always been this way.

I am therefore left with the conclusion that, in the past, your partner has communicated and listened well enough to have led you to agree to be with them in the first place.

So, what was it about your partner that you loved so much that you chose them?

What is it about them today that makes you stay in your relationship?

What are the other great qualities about them and your relationship that you would like to continue to see happen tomorrow and the day after tomorrow?

See where I’m going?

I’m leading you down a path toward you and your partner’s strengths.

Your successes.

The things you do well.

You may be wondering why I’m taking you down this path.

Well, firstly, this is where I go with all my clients – to where the strength in the relationship is.

That’s because if we don’t hit pause on the momentum of what isn’t working, then our complaints, problems and emotional distance are only going to grow.

Secondly, if all you see is your partner’s self-absorption, then you’re painting them into a corner they can’t get out of.


If you can’t look past what they are doing well – and even self-absorbed people have some good qualities – then you’re going to miss out on all the wonderful things about them.

And, to that end, to help you train your lens on what your partner does well despite their negative qualities, I’ll leave you with this example.

Remember my own mother?

Well, my dad was self-absorbed.

I will offer that my father could see no blame in himself and spoke often about his needs, wants and attributes instead of those of his loved ones.

But, despite my father’s own self-absorption, he loved.

He loved his children and while he didn’t spend a great deal of time with us, when he did, he always let us know how much he loved us.

Because he told us. Often.

He also taught me to how to kiss my children, and how to hug my children. How to hold my children.

Most importantly, through his own behaviour, he taught me how to show my children how much I love them.

If, as his own son, I had only seen his narcissism, then I would have missed an invaluable lesson and, as such, would not be as nearly connected to my children as I am today.

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About the Author

Jonathan Van Viegen is a full-time online couple therapist and relationship mentor helping adults and couples improve one of the most important relationships in their life – the one with their partner.

Jonathan’s approach has helped 100’s of clients struggling to maintain a lasting, loving relationship while navigating the challenges of parenting. Jonathan’s goal with this blog is to offer you a behind the scenes look at his life to show that it is possible to create the kind of relationship you desire – using simple skills that anyone can learn.

About the Author

Jonathan Van Viegen is a full-time online couple therapist and relationship mentor helping adults and couples improve one of the most important relationships in their life – the one with their partner.

Jonathan’s approach has helped 100’s of clients struggling to maintain a lasting, loving relationship while navigating the challenges of parenting. Jonathan’s goal with this blog is to offer you a behind the scenes look at his life to show that it is possible to create the kind of relationship you desire – using simple skills that anyone can learn.


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