I am having a problem communicating with my spouse and sharing responsibilities. We have two children and have very busy careers. When we talk to one another I think we are listening but we are not. We are so distracted by so many other things that we are not truly listening at all. I feel like we have started to just tune each other out, kinda like you tune the kids out after the 10th “MOM.” I don’t want to tune my husband out and I don’t want him to tune me out. How can we really stop and listen to one another?
Dear Tuned Out:
Well, you picked the right person to ask for marital advice, because I’ve been married for a 100 years.To the same guy, even.
Okay, not really, but sometimes it feels like that, especially when he starts farting in his sleep while I am drinking my tea in bed next to him, reading my Nora Roberts novel and waiting for my hair to dry in curlers.
Fine. I’m exaggerating about that, too. At least about the curlers part. Nobody does that.
My point is, I totally get what you’re feeling, and I am willing to bet a new pair of Uggs that there are a few married people reading this who get it, too. When you’re together for a long time, sharing your lives, your cutlery, and childrearing duties, you can start to take each other for granted. Kids tend to be louder and all up in your business, while you expect a little more decency from your grown-up spouse, or at least for him not to be tugging on your shirt while repeating “Wife, wife, wifey, wife, WIFE…” until you finally scream “WHAT?!” in his face.
I often hear women complain that they’re always the ones making the effort in the relationship.
Since your husband has the burden of maturity, you have the burden of actually paying attention to him. He can’t afford to be the squeaky wheel, but he does have the right to fall back on the vows you took when you got married, that you’d listen to each other even when the kids are driving you crazy and taking all the energy that you don’t use for your career. (That was in your vows, right?)
The only person you can change in this situation is yourself.
Recommit your effort to pay attention to your husband. As impossible as it may seem, set aside time for him, even the tiniest bits. Bring him a cup of coffee in the morning, look into his eyes, and say “I love you.” After years of familiarity and a laundry list of things to do, that may seem silly, but try it.
Check in with him — really paying attention — every day. Set a daily alarm on your phone or your online calendar. When it goes off, wherever you are, drop everything and call him, or go sit down to have a little chat with him. (Agree in advance on a daily time that works for both of you.) Even if you just talk for a few minutes, make it obvious that you are interested in what he’s saying.
I often hear women complain that they’re always the ones making the effort in the relationship. Yes, that might be true. But you gotta suck it up, honey, and lead by example. We think about these things more than the men do, so it really is up to us.
So take a deep breath, and do what you need to do to muster up the energy to make yourself available for a chat, an extra long hug, or a rejuvenating roll in the hay after the kids go to sleep.
Hint: this might include taking better care of yourself. I KNOW — yet another thing to add to your already busy day. A little nap so you won’t be so sleepy, a shower to refresh you, or some exercise to keep your energy level up — these things are necessary for your own personal well-being. Without it, how can you have any energy left over to give?
You may feel frustrated or resentful at first, but trust me. Your efforts and actions will have an impact on your husband. He’ll feel important, and maybe without even realizing he’s doing it, he’ll start to do the same things for you.
Don’t keep living life tuned out of your marriage. Your worry is a code red alarm that you and your spouse are becoming disconnected, washed to separate shores by the stormy waves of a busy life. As exhausting as it seems to add one more thing to your to-do list (“Reconnect With Husband”) don’t lose sight of your priorities. He is your husband and the father of your kids. He’s got to be up at the top! Treat him with the same respect and love that you want him to show to you.
Before long, instead of tuning each other out, you’ll both be singing the same song. Together. And that’s how it should be.
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