Why Won't My Husband Listen to Me

Why won’t my husband listen to me? How many times have we heard each other say something like this, that our husbands don’t listen to us? Sometimes it’s a flippant comment, and sometimes it’s a desperate plea for help, but regardless of the circumstances, it’s been a source of frustration for all of us at one time or another. What can we do about it?

Before we jump in, single ladies, listen up. Keep these things in mind not just for the future but in interactions with your dads, brothers, and boyfriends or potential suitors. There’s a lot in here about the male-female dynamic, and you probably already struggle with some of the mental and emotional issues that prevent effective communication between husbands and wives. This is for you too.

Before trying to confront the situation, consider what you actually mean when you say your husband won’t listen to you. Here are five possible and very different scenarios for this problem, all of which have different (but sometimes overlapping) solutions.

  1. He doesn’t agree with you and you’re choosing not to accept that. You’re struggling or outright refusing to submit because you think, or even insist, that you’re right. 
  2. He doesn’t agree with you on a matter, but you haven’t talked about it enough and don’t understand each other, so it feels like he doesn’t care.
  3. You charged at the situation with an accusing attitude, feeling very justified in your thoughts. You thought if you were upset he would listen, but instead he seems to have completely ignored the problem.
  4. Usually when you complain to him about things and he suggests corrections or solutions, you tell him you just want him to “listen.” You just want to “vent.” But this time, this time, you need solutions, and he doesn’t have any you like.
  5. Your heart is right, you’ve spoken to him rightly, and you know your concern is legitimate, but he won’t make any changes.

What’s in your power to help solve these issues?

No matter what the situation is, be in the Word continually, and make sure you’re intentionally and specifically praying about what’s going on. Pray that God would rightly order your thoughts, attitudes, and feelings. You can pray for your husband’s too, but make sure yours aren’t in the way of progress.

Don’t go around bad-mouthing him to everyone or complaining about all the problems you’re having. That’s not the way to fix anything. It will make you bitter and provide opportunity for others to sin in their thoughts toward both you and your husband.

Realize you’re probably wrong about something. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re completely wrong or that your husband is completely right, but be humble enough to acknowledge that what you think about the situation might not be accurate. 

There’s a great line in the John Wayne movie McClintock! in which one woman tells another, “We have to learn to forgive our husbands, usually for things they didn’t do.” Granted, we can’t actually forgive people for sins they haven’t committed, but this little quip brings to light one of women’s major stumbling blocks. We very often see things through our preconceived notions and take on accusative attitudes. We tell ourselves stories about what our husbands did and why they did it, but we should be going directly to them and humbly asking them about it. Have you ever noticed that something has happened, assumed your husband did it, and gotten all out of sorts, only to find out that not only did he not do it, either you are the one who did it or it didn’t even happen? Think about that before you get bitter again.

Now that you’ve got these things in mind, consider these solutions to the situations we mentioned at the beginning.

What can you do about submission problems? You’re just sure you’re right about this, but your husband is just sure you’re not. Remember that he’s your head, and sometimes he will make mistakes.  It’s his right and responsibility as head to be wrong but our duty to submit. Is the decision he’s making or proposing sinful? If not, then you can be a help to him but you need to trust him. If you have trouble trusting your husband (which, of course, you should pray often about), at least trust God Who, in His infinite wisdom, gave you this leader of your family. Pray that you would cheerfully submit to his leading, and pray for faith. Besides that, a wise woman I know has said more than once, “Even when he’s wrong, it usually turns out he was right.” It’s amazing how God works out things when families are doing what they’re supposed to do.

If you don’t think you and your husband are understanding each other, give the situation a little more time, and then ask him if you can talk about it again. Make sure he knows you’re not trying to defy what he’s saying but rather that you want to understand better why he thinks the way he does on this subject. Be calm even if it makes you emotional. Slow down. Lower your pitch. It’ll be okay. 

At the end of the day, you don’t have to completely understand before you can obey your husband.  Remember that the Apostle Peter said Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him Lord.  There are many times when we don’t have the complete picture but the Lord Jesus still requires our obedience. Think of how how often you ask your children to do something without explaining everything to them.  You don’t expect your them to completely understand your reason why or to even agree before you expect them to obey.  Why then would you have to agree or understand everything before starting off with a posture of submission to your husband?  

1 Peter 3 says that God finds a quiet and gentle spirit precious. If you’re prone to blowing up, take a different approach. If you have an assertive personality, this will feel really awkward, but it really does make all the difference. When the atmosphere is not already heated and you’re not already about to blow a fuse, ask your husband, “Can we talk about something?” before diving into the problem.

Do you remember in elementary health class when we talked about conflict resolution? We were told to use “I” language, to say things like “I feel…” when talking about an issue. That’s not altogether bad advice. When you let your husband know you’re feeling a certain way about something, you’re admitting to him that you realize you’re a sinful human who could be wrong, because that’s what feelings very often are--wrong. If you need to, verbalize that concept. Rather than starting off with “I feel” or “It feels like,” you could go a step further and say, “I realize I could be wrong about this, but I’ve been feeling like…” 

But check your tone. Don’t be snarky and try to say these things when you have actually decided that you’re completely right and he’s completely wrong. That’s dishonest and isn’t going to help anything. Before you say any of this, pray that God would help you to believe it.

Can we just put it out there that “venting” (referring to talking about problems without wanting solutions of any kind) is another word for “complaining,” and the Bible specifically tells us not to complain? So stop venting. Nancy Wilson in her book Virtuous says, “Hearing yourself complain just reinforces your bad attitude and makes things seem even worse than they are.” Raise your hand if you have experience with this. 

Does this mean you shouldn’t talk about your problems? Absolutely not. We do need to be confessing our sins and talking about our concerns with the right attitude and in the right context. But as far as constantly hating your husband’s suggestions or corrections and then wanting those suggestions and corrections when it’s convenient for you, you need to stop that right now. That’s not fair, and it’s not godly. It’s worldly. There are some problems that are actually quite small and don’t need to be talked about, and the only reason you need to “vent” them is that you dwell on them and they take so firm a root in your heart and mind that they start budding out your ears. So don’t give these thoughts a chance to take root. Ask God to help you to be more thankful, more cheerful, more humble, more forgiving. 

When you actually do need to talk, be willing to hear solutions. And if you think your husband’s solutions are dismissive, go back to some of the things we’ve already said. Ask if you can explain better, and tell him how you’re feeling--all with prayer and humility.

There’s also a version of this problem in which you don't actually say you don't want solutions, but your husband has heard you complain and reject advice so many times that he doesn't take your problem seriously, even if he did at one time. So again, if you only want “solutions” that are convenient to you and are exactly what you want to hear, what's the point of talking to anyone about the problem? Don’t be so convinced that you’ve thought of everything and are the only right person you know.

This last type of situation is less common than the rest, but it does happen. It usually involves a sin your husband is caught up in. This can be a really delicate situation. But it’s part of the reason you have a church. Ask your husband if he’s talked to the elders or the pastor about the problem. If he hasn’t, you can. Again, make sure you’re being humble and are continually praying both for your husband and for yourself. Ask God how you can be a helper to your husband. Continue in your duties. Don’t use his sin as an excuse for your own sin. But don’t be afraid to seek help.

If you’re not sure which of these situations you’re in, talk to a more mature woman in the church. Tell her the situation as honestly as you can. For bigger issues it might be necessary for you and your husband to go to an elder or pastor so they can hear both sides of the story. But regardless of what’s going on, take heart. Pray and be humble. Keep striving for God’s glory.