An issue of mild contention between S and myself is that, be it justified or not, often I don’t feel listened to. I could be relating a completely trivial anecdote from my day or bringing up something important to me. And often there’ll be about fifty different indicators that as I’ve just ‘stated with emphasis’ to S are,
‘….All the very many tiny ways you tell me that I am not worthy and that what I have to say is of no value!!!’
Not listening to me directly impacts me
I mention this now not just so I can whine about my relationship to the public in a bid for sympathy. (I’m fairly sure that’s how some will construe it.) Rather, it has a direct impact on my mental health and is therefore highly relevant to this blog.
Often when I’m attempting to talk to S a number of things will happen:
He’ll pick up his phone and start checking emails
Begin something work related
Answer his phone
Turn his back and begin a task
Start talking and interacting with the kids, especially the youngest who interrupts more frequently and has less reservations about the repercussions of such rudeness than the eldest
Walk out of the room to go and do something or check something
Laugh at something unrelated to what we’re discussing
Withdraw eye contact (start looking at the TV or similar)
Is generally distracted
Don’t get me wrong, everybody does these things at one time or another and I’m pretty damn sure this is common in most if not all relationships to varying degrees. (And if somebody claims that their ‘bae’ would never dream of such things you can bet your ass they’re either lying or not divulging their darling love’s character flaws.)
Is what I say of no value?
I’m not trying to imply that this is the worst thing ever! It’s not. But it happens a lot. And it’s upsetting.
Maybe it’s the depression talking and maybe I’m overly sensitive, but it chips away at my self-worth. To me it implies that what I have to say is of no value to him. That it’s not important; that it’s not worth his attention. It’s as if my thoughts, feelings and general musings are completely insignificant. I’m left feeling wrong footed and cheapened.
Now I do not think for a minute that it’s a deliberate show of disdain on his part. We all get distracted, have varied attention spans and we don’t always give our full attention. And goodness know there’s a lot for him to be distracted by, what with the intensity of work and the kids. But this is frequent. Or it seems to be (perception is tricky when you’re standing too close, as remarked upon in a previous post). But knowing these things does not stop me from feeling like this.
Regardless of the intention, it is hurtful and damaging.
For a couple of years I’ve let it be known that I find this type of behaviour upsetting. But I now suspect that this has been understood by S as simply ‘annoying’. This evening, for the first time, in the midst of the intense hurt and anger and feelings of being unworthy I was experiencing, I managed to wade through those murky waters to clearer thoughts and to finally state in a coherent manner,
‘…..All the very many tiny ways you tell me that I am not worthy and what I have to say is of no value!!!’
This was met with a faint look of surprise. It occurred to me I’ve never actually told him that. For reasons unknown, I’ve always used lesser words and phrases such as: ‘You’re not listening’ or ‘It’s so annoying’ or ‘It’s upsetting’.
But it was always so much more serious than that. I did myself a disservice.
As far as I can tell it is only with S I feel such things. I don’t feel hurt or angry should somebody become distracted when talking to me when I’m out socially. Rather, I’m more inclined to begin to fret whether I’m boring them or dominating the conversation too much. And I become embarrassed, ‘Oh no what should I do? How can I make up for this?’
(…..it occurs to me as I write that, that it is simply another manifestation of feelings of being unworthy.)
Showing those you love that you value them
I suspect I feel this way when S behaves in this manner because of the nature of the relationship. We have certain expectations of our spouses. They are the ones we to turn to at the end of a long day. They’re the ones we’re supposed to feel emotionally safe enough with to divulge our innermost thoughts and feelings, and our half-baked, wild and even idiotic ideas, without fear of judgment or derision. When the person we are closest to indicates (deliberately or not) that the deepest workings of our minds are insignificant to them then it will affect us deeply. Especially those of us whose sense of self-esteem is already vulnerable. We just don’t have the resilience to bounce back from such things.
It is vital that people with depression or otherwise delicate self-esteem are made to feel valued by their nearest and dearest. I cannot stress enough how big an impact this behaviour has had on my mental health. It is not about ‘being the centre of attention’. It’s about courtesy. And being mindful of others. It’s about showing your loved ones that you value them and are interested in what they have to say.
Come to think of it isn’t that how we should all be treated??
Reproduced with permission, originally posted on whatkirstydid