How Do I Get My Spouse To Listen To Me After He Had An Affair?

By: Katie Lersch:  I sometimes hear from spouses who aren’t feeling heard after their spouse has cheated or had an affair. Often, they want to have long and difficult conversations about this. And they want for their spouse to listen to them. Unfortunately though, many cheating spouses will resist this because the difficult conversations make them feel guilty and awkward. Often, the faithful spouse has no idea how to get their spouse to listen, but many know that he’d better start listening soon because they are aren’t sure how much more of this they can take.

I heard from a wife who said: “my husband had an affair with one of our friends. To say that I am devastated is honestly underestimating what I feel. I am crushed. I feel betrayed by both of them. My husband insists that this was a one time thing and that if I give him a chance, he will make this up to me. I hear his words, but I have my own terms. I want for him to go to counseling. And I want a complete overhaul of our marriage. If I don’t have these things, then I am never going to feel secure. I want to talk to my husband about this and explain what I need, but when I attempt to bring this up, he changes the subject or he will listen briefly and then say that we can’t solve all of our problems with just one conversation. I am not expecting this, but if we are going to make it, then we are going to need to have a lot of conversations in our future. If he is unwilling to listen to me, then I am not sure if I want to hang around only to be ignored. Is there any way that I can get him to listen to me?”

Well, there are certainly some things that you can try. And I absolutely agree that this situation is unacceptable and a bad way to start to recovery process. But it is important to understand why a husband will seemingly refuse to listen. Often, he is posturing in the hopes that he can shut down your communication. Listening to you tell him how hurt you are or how he has disappointed you is painful and uncomfortable to him, so it makes sense that he is going to at least try to force you to back off of your stance. The good news is that if you can show him that this isn’t going to work, then he will usually have no choice but to back off of this strategy, especially if your marriage is important to him.

Getting Him To Understand That You Won’t Accept A Refusal To Listen: So how do you make him see that you just aren’t ever going to accept being tuned out? Well, you have to speak up and you have to be very direct and resolute. Here’s an example or suggestion. The next time you try to talk him about this and he tries to change the subject and obviously isn’t listening, then you may want to say something like: “if now is not a good time, then let’s schedule some uninterrupted time for us to sit down, talk, and listen to one another. Because if we are going to even begin to save our marriage, then you are going to need to listen to me and you are going to need to do it soon. I am never going to give up on my need to be heard. If it helps, we can schedule some time when both of us are free so that neither of us are rushing out of the door. Whatever works for you is going to be fine with me, but we are going to need to schedule this time. Because until I feel heard, then I am going to question your commitment and your willingness to do what is necessary to save our marriage. We can’t even begin to restore the trust if you don’t even have enough respect for me to sit down and listen. I know that you may feel as if all we talk about are the negative aspects of the affair, but we need to open up the communication if we are going to move past this. If you think seeing a counselor to facilitate this communication would make things easier, then I am more than willing to do this. But no matter how it happens, we need to sit down regularly to talk and to listen. When would be a good time to schedule this? Because I won’t accept being ignored. I can’t commit to working on our marriage if you won’t even commit to listening to me.”

Be Flexible But Firm: Know that your husband may not suddenly become Mr. Agreeable after this conversation. But he should concede to listen to you, especially in the short term. Understand why he may be reluctant and be willing to work around it. Most of the time, he is reluctant to listen because he is afraid that every time he does, you are going to criticize him and express how much he has hurt you. Even though he likely knows that he is at fault, this is still painful and uncomfortable to him, so try to pace it so that he knows that this isn’t going to happen every day. Neither of you should feel that you have nothing to look forward to. If it’s easier on both of you to have a counselor or someone else facilitate this, then be proactive in making that happen. Be willing to work with him to determine whatever is most agreeable to both of you, but make it clear that this is non negotiable when he wants to save your marriage.

But to answer the question posed, a couple of ways to make him listen to you is to make it clear that if he wants to save your marriage, this is going to be required. But be flexible enough to make this a process that is as painless as possible for both of you.

It became clear to me that I had to be careful about when and how my husband and I discussed the affair in the beginning.  Emotions were running so high that we couldn’t have these discussions continuously.  Once the healing began though, both of us had much more tolerance for talking and for listening.  If it helps, you can read more on my blog at

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