You Don’t Listen to Me Anymore!

By Keith Miller | November 16, 2009

I’ve recently gotten a promotion and have been traveling and doing presentations to the executives in some of the branch offices of the company I work for, and I’ve come home very excited. But my wife pours cold water on what I’m sharing by barely even listening to me or telling me she’s in the middle of something important. I feel discounted and like she’s bored and not even interested in my succeeding. It’s like she isn’t interested in me anymore. Can you help me with this?

Grapeleaves

Years ago I came home from a speaking trip very excited about the audience’s response to what I was saying. “You don’t listen to me anymore!” I blurted out, right in the middle of a sentence I was “delivering.”

“Why, I do too,” my wife answered in what seemed like genuine surprise.

But I did not believe her. After a week of traveling on a speaking trip, I am usually a highly tuned listener to individuals with whom I have been counseling. And I can usually spot it when someone is not paying attention to what I am saying. When I had first started traveling, my wife had been anxious to hear how things had gone and had pumped me for details about each trip as soon as I got home. Often I had not felt like “replaying” the meeting, but she had wanted to hear, so I had told her about it.

But now something had happened. She still asked about the trips, but then seemed to get diverted by almost any kind of interruption, often just as I was getting into something which was very exciting to me. This really bugged me, and I would get furious. If she didn’t want to listen, then why did she ask… and then not pay attention? Maybe she was getting bored with me. After all, we had been married over fifteen years.

Anyway, I was furious when this happened one day. I had just come home from a seven-day trip. The two meetings I had attended were made up of very sharp couples. Although many of the people did not agree with some of the things I was saying and doing, they gave me the great compliment of listening to me. In counseling sessions and social visits between larger meetings, people who came to see me could not have been more attentive, and I was conscious of being very open and receptive to each of them.

But when I got home, here was this seeming indifference. Being a neurotic, I conjured up reasons for my wife’s behavior, all of which boiled down to the facts that (1) she was not interested in that which I was doing and (2) she was not interested in me any more. After a couple of hours of unexplained resentment and cutting remarks—which had the desired effects of making us both miserable—I let my problem out in the open.

Following the initial expression of feelings back and forth, we began to talk about what had happened. And being so mad at her, I had a hard time hearing what she was saying. But one thing echoed in my mind as I drove toward the office later: “When you come home from these speaking trips you act like a spoiled king!”

That hurt! Particularly because I had the sneaking feeling it just might be true. But until she said those words, it had not occurred to me that my behavior and attitudes about myself and what I was doing had changed. I was now associating with very attractive and successful men and women about our age while she was stuck at home taking care of three little girls.

As I thought about this, I wondered how many lay speakers, ministers, doctors, bank presidents begin unconsciously to behave like spoiled kings and queens without even knowing it is happening. I wondered how many other men and women begin unconsciously to expect their mates and families to hang on their words and attend to their needs with the same speed and solicitousness their hosts at meetings or their secretaries do? I started not to write this because it is difficult for me to accept this about myself. Since I consciously want it not to be true, I would like to deny it to myself, and especially to you. But I am afraid it is true.

I realized that one of the things which makes it so bad—and I think may even exaggerate it in the eyes of a husband or wife—is the fact that important unshared experiences often separate people. That is, when I have been off to a stimulating seminar alone, I often make the mistake of coming home and very excitedly telling my wife about a “fantastic place” or person or group which has changed my life. In one sense she is glad. But in another sense, the experience she did not share separates us, because I am implying that I am “going on” away from her due to what happened to me. And since she was not present, there is an implication that I am leaving her behind—or perhaps an unconscious fear on her part that I might—even though that is not what I am saying and thinking.

But if I am really honest I must tell you that my demands for my wife’s total attention on demand has been more about my own feeling that I am not lovable. And it’s only been as I’ve decided to surrender the results of my actions to God and trust Him with my life and relationships that I have felt loved by the people close to me.

All this does not mean that I am suddenly going to quit talking about trips and conferences when I come home. That would really cause problems. But I am going to attempt to be more thoughtful concerning the way I talk about them. I hope I will not forget to find out first what has been going on at home to laugh or cry about while I have been away and to tell my wife how grateful I am for her and all she does for me. And I am going to try not to expect a busy, involved woman to suddenly stop the world in which she has been operating alone for a week to cheer at my recital of the great time I have had (away from home responsibilities) as as “honored guest” somewhere.

“There is in the human heart an inexhaustible need to be loved, and a continual fear of not being loved. Consequently, in all our relations and in all our activities we look for proof of love from the other person. …we seek others’ reassurance. Those who doubt their own worth have a particularly insatiable desire for marks of affection because they just as continually doubt that others could love them.”  – Escape from Loneliness, Paul Tournier

Lord, forgive me for my self-centered blindness to my own insensitivity and to my own doubts about being lovable. Give me the insight to see the effect of my real behavior on other people and on You. And then, Lord, please give me the courage and strength to trust your love and confess my sin and change my actions. Thank You, God, that You are in the life-changing business. In Jesus’ name, amen.

You’re blessed when you care: in the moment of being ‘care-full’ you find yourself cared for.”

Matt. 5:7 THE MESSAGE

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on You Don’t Listen to Me Anymore!
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