“When I watch something on my laptop or something happened to me… I want to share it with my husband, but he says ‘I don’t care.” That isolated feeling. No one to share it with.
For example, I was watching this funny YouTube video and tried to show it to him. Well, so what if he doesn’t care. At least he could have shown interest or don’t throw me out in the cold. I almost feel like crying sometimes. Am I wrong? Am I just being emotional?”
First of all, you’re not being emotional and what you’re feeling is valid given your situation. You want to share something that delighted you with your partner, you were hoping that somehow he would show some interest. It’s normal for married people to call their partner’s attention about something that interests them. It is normal also to expect a response in a form of acknowledgment or him to share your reaction. However, in your situation your husband outrightly told you that he doesn’t care and didn’t give any effort to respond to what you shared.
I can imagine how this can hurt you. If the acts of ignoring and dismissing you happens consistently, it could make you feel insignificant and unimportant. It feels like your interests and thoughts don’t matter, and on few occasions, you may feel like YOU don’t matter at all. This could then lead you to feel hurt and angry.
What you were doing — calling your partner’s attention about something that interests you — is called “bids of attention.” One of the qualities of a satisfying marriage is that couples respond to each other’s bids of attention MOST OF THE TIME. For instance, you shared what happened to you at your work, and he responded by listening or empathizing with you. Or, he told you about his new man toy and you answered by listening attentively. You can then say that both of you responded to the bids of attention.
They say that it’s the everyday small things that count for a satisfying marriage, and not the occasional big gestures of affection. The exchange of giving and responding to bids of attention is one of those small things that makes a relationship happy and healthy. It makes the partner feels seen, heard, and loved which makes the relationship safe and calm.
If failure to respond to attention bids is a long-standing characteristic of your marriage then it signals a weakness in your relationship.
Here are my suggestions:
Request a specific behavior change with your husband.
Talk with your husband about what’s bothering you. Tell him how ignoring your bids of attention makes you feel. And ask clearly the specific behavior change you want to see the next time you share something.
You can say something like, “I noticed that whenever I share something with you, you focused on what you were doing and didn’t hear me. It feels like you’re not interested on what I share. Can you please show some interest the next time I share something? You can listen or nod.” Remember not to attack your husband’s personality such as saying “you never listen to me” or “you were never interested on anything that I say.” This type of approach will surely backfire. To learn about the effective ways of airing your grievance to your spouse you can read my articles Hurt and Angry at Husband: How to Let Him Know? and Why Your Husband Fights, Walks Out, or Ignores You When Confronted?
Analyze your behavior as a spouse.
Are you using contempt, criticism, stonewalling, and defensive in your communication? Women usually engage with the first two while men with the latter two. These four negative communication styles can predict marriage dissolution. It is in the best interest of your marriage that you replace these styles with their corresponding antidotes. Read the article on antidotes to negative communication styles.
Meet with a professional.
If you think you have done the best that you can to address this issue and nothing positive happened, you may seek to meet with a couple counselor. There is probably more into your marriage or into your personalities that are causing this problem in your relationship.
Giving and responding to attention bids are everyday occurrences. They maybe little gestures of communication, but when failures to respond pile up, it can leave the spouse feeling insignificant, worthless, and unloved. That is why it is important to address this issue in order to make your marriage a satisfying and nurturing one.
Gottman, J. S. (Ed.). (2004). The marriage clinic casebook. WW Norton & Company.
Van der Kolk, Bessel A. “The body keeps the score: Memory and the evolving psychobiology of posttraumatic stress.” Harvard review of psychiatry 1, no. 5 (1994): 253-265.