What stops an emotionally abusive man listening?

28 Oct 2013

One of the – many – damaging things you learn in an emotionally abusive relationship is that an emotionally abusive partner doesn’t listen. He never really listens.

manlisteningsmall It’s not that an emotionally abusive husband is that kind of stupid. He may well hear you.  If he appears to be listening intently – especially early on in the relationship – he may, indeed, be listening intently, but not in any constructive way.  Most likely, he’s listening for something in particular. He’s listening for information he can use to manipulate you, and ammunition he can use against you, further down the line.

But he’s not listening with a view to having a deeper, respectful understanding of who you are.  He’s not listening so he can understand and relate respectfully to your feelings. He’s not listening to learn who you are, so that he can honor who you are.

He’s not, is he?

Can you remember a time when he ever – not just acknowledged but – honored you? For showing up as you.

To give you an example of how that works, for me, the last few weeks have been challenging, in the extreme.

As my elderly mother deteriorates mentally at alarming speed, I can’t say it has made me a nicer person. I’ve raged often about the idiocy of people who have been careless of her best interests. (Much as I would have loved to rage at them, I haven’t, as this would not help the situation.)

My lovely partner has supported me, quietly, and uncomplainingly, through these storms. (Not something an emotionally abusive partner does, is it?) Each time I’ve made headway, he has told me how well I’m dealing with the situation, and been more pleased for me than I am myself.

There’ve been NO gripes about meals not being on the table at the correct intervals, or him not getting his demands for attention met.  He doesn’t demand my attention.   Ever.   He doesn’t do the routine that you and I know so well, whereby when things get rough, an abusive partner gets rougher, by going into overdrive and doing his Priority Needs Routine. That’s the one that goes: “Hey, I require round the clock attention. You’re not putting me first.  It’s only your family, for allaboutmesmallChrissakes.  Don’t you know, your stuff is NEVER important enough to inconvenience me for…”

An emotionally abusive man’s agenda is very simple: he gets his needs met first, last, and everywhere in between.

So, why would he truly listen?

What’s in it for him?

From where he stands, it’s a waste of his time – and yours.

There is nothing that he will learn that will, in any way, affect his point of view.

You’d think that, after yet another damaging fight, he might want to learn how the two of you could avoid future conflict.

You’d think that he’d want to support you through tough times.

That’s what you’d like to think.   It’s easy enough to grasp why you’d like to think that.

BUT…. that’s your standpoint. It’s not his.

Remember his agenda? His needs must be met first, last, and everywhere in between.

What would be the point of listening to you? What’s that got to do with his needs?

Your needs, wants, and demands get in the way. They are not going to help him to carry on getting what he wants. So, he treats them as noise, and he tunes them out.  (He’s heard them all before, anyway.)

brat with hands over his earssmall

If you’re going through a major crisis, he might make the right noises – short term. But nothing fundamental will change long-term. It will still be All About Him. You’ll still need to keep on walking on eggshells, putting yourself last, and doing everything you can to service his monumental ego.

And it still won’t work.

An emotionally abusive husband is never going to truly listen to your wishes. Which means you can look forward to a thankless life of being – essentially – invisible in what is meant to be your most intimate, and meaningful, relationship.

If you can accept that that is the truth – and it is the truth – why bother to stick with that man, and that toxic relationship?

Dorothy Parker famously said; “You might as well live.”


You might as well heal, too.



Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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