My husband of over 30 years, who I love, has many positive attributes. However, while he's always been a fast, loud talker, he’s developed a habit of now speaking incessantly in conversation, seldom listening to what others are saying.
He may pose a question then tunes out, thinking his own thoughts or waiting for an opportunity to cut in. He’s very accomplished so has interesting things to contribute, but often goes on and on.
While he gives a play-by-play of every personal encounter, nobody wants to hear it all, but no one knows how to stop him.
Our three grown children have noticed that he's not engaged in what they're saying. He doesn't nod, ask follow-up questions, or appear to be interested. His own day-to-day activities seem to crowd out everything else.
I’ve spoken to him about this, gently, but met a lukewarm reception.
This has affected our children and their partners' relationships with him. And our relationship too, as I often don't feel listened to. What to do?
Concerned and Frustrated
Have you considered that he could be losing his hearing and not admitting it, covering up instead? If he fights you on getting a hearing test, tell him that you want him to hear how his conversation and delivery have changed and don’t allow for anyone else to be heard.
I recommend your asking his doctor, or a psychologist (available online) if this type of change in communication reflects a particular disorder or other reason for intensified self-preoccupation.
Meanwhile, urge your adult children and spouses to be forgiving. You both put up with their quirks and habits when they were young. Now, you need them to be patient while this curious change in their father needs to be explored.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the man who wrote that he’s “Married and Miserable” (January 22):
“This poor man cited clear and obvious examples of emotional abuse, emotional blackmailing and manipulation on behalf of his spouse.
“She yells at him to restrict and control his leaving the home. She threatens his reputation with his parents. She ignores his request that she move out. Eventually, she threatens self-harm to ultimately blackmail him into a marriage he didn't want.
“How could you not address the toxicity of this woman? I imagine that if the gender roles were reversed, this case might sound much like “Battered Wife Syndrome.”
“The advice you give is that this husband should potentially seek a diagnosis and counselling for his emotionally abusive spouse in regard to a traumatic event, one that occurred long after the pattern of her abuse was already established.”
Ellie - You omitted her extreme trauma in 2018 from being innocently present during a mass shooting that killed two people and wounded 13 more and publicized on annual anniversaries since.
Yes, she’d been a manipulative girlfriend who wouldn’t leave his home. Yet he caved in without saying why. She yelled; he drank in response. He married her without wanting to because she threatened self-harm.
He could’ve sought help instead to extricate himself. He’d have had my sympathy and everyone else’s as a victim of domestic abuse.
Now, her PTSD from the shooting is real and must be addressed for her to get strong enough to be on her own - essential to a separation. To walk away before that is cruel, despite that she’s been difficult. That’s my opinion, and it’s not gender bias.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the letter-writer’s wife who left after 25 years (January 27):
“My ex and I had a great life for nearly a decade - combined we made over $300,000 a year, had a great house, travelled the world annually, climbed mountains, canoed white-water rivers, etc.
“I finally left her because she said No to marriage and No to kids, which I wanted really badly.
“It turns out that she was a lesbian who, due to parental pressure (they’re Catholic and thought she was the most perfect person in the world), couldn't reconcile with that. So, she tried hard to have a "normal life" with me.
“I'm not saying that happened in this case, but it might be a possibility.”
Reader #2 – “Your wife’s a lesbian or bi-sexual and is hiding her own humility towards breaking up the family.”
Ellie - Anything’s possible, but after 25 years of marriage plus kids, still unknown.
Tip of the day:
Unusual changes in communication should be discussed with a psychologist for possible diagnoses, even if a relative has to initiate this.