When you are in the middle of doing something, do you like it when your partner interrupts you with a question and demands your attention, and then gets upset if you don’t immediately focus on them?
And there’s a good chance your partner feels the same way.
Couples in our Relationship Coaching practice have been describing this scenario and the resulting arguments and hurt feelings. These days, with increasing demands on our time, and more people working from home, this issue is getting even more prevalent.
Fortunately, there is an easy solution for this Interruption Pattern that will help things flow much more smoothly and harmoniously between the two of you.
The Interruption Pattern
Let’s say you are excited about some good news or have a question and, without checking in with your partner to see if they are busy, you burst out with what you want to say.
Your partner’s brain has been focused on what they are doing. The sudden interruption might cause them to feel overwhelmed, not considered, irritated, disrespected, unsupported, or angry. They may express those negative emotions by snapping at you, rolling their eyes, or ignoring you and not responding. They are defending their personal space.
From your perspective, all you wanted to do is share some good news and you got a dismissive response. You might feel hurt, rejected, unimportant, unsupported, invalidated, disrespected, or angry. You express those negative emotions and….
You see where this is going.
The opposite of what you want
You want your partner to hear you and support you, but when you interrupt them you make it less likely that they will be open to what you have to say.
When this pattern happens a lot, your partner may start shutting you out even more. To their subconscious mind, you have become the intruder and they need to protect themselves from you by walling you out or verbally attacking you for disturbing them.
If you feel that your partner doesn’t listen to you and pay attention to you, there’s a chance that the two of you are co-creating this problem.
Here’s the easy fix:
Before you start speaking with your partner, check in with them by saying something like:
Can I ask a question?
Is this a good time to speak?
Do you have a few minutes?
When you have a moment, I’d love to ask something.
I’d love to share something—are you free to talk now?
2. Listen and respect
Listen to what your partner says and respect what they say. If it doesn’t work for them to speak immediately, don’t try to wiggle your way in, saying something like, “This will just take a sec…”
When your partner feels that you support their timing and what is important to them, they will have more space to be present to what is important to you.
3. Find out when you can talk
If your partner doesn’t let you know when they’ll be available to talk, ask them. That way you can move forward on other things and not be stuck waiting.
And when your roles are reversed:
If your partner wants to ask you something while you are busy, instead of just saying “No” or “Not now” (which has your partner feel shut out), give them a sense of your timing:
I’d love to hear what you have to say but it doesn’t work right now. Can you check back with me in 15 minutes?
Let me finish this and I’ll let you know when I’m done.
I have a big deadline. Can this wait until tonight?
And then don’t forget to follow up with your partner when you said you would!
But they need to pay attention to me NOW!
Okay, we may not want to admit this, but sometimes we all feel “I want your attention now,” don’t we? Yet if you regularly feel hurt if your partner doesn’t show up for your instantaneously, this may mean that a subconscious childhood wound is getting triggered.
As babies and young children, we often demand constant attention, and when that doesn’t always happen, we can feel abandoned, unloved, and alone. These emotional patterns can carry forward so that when we are adults, we may be subconsciously expecting our partner to fill those emotional needs.
Yet just like it is impossible for a parent to be there for their child every single second, your partner can’t always respond to your every need as soon as you want them to. And it wouldn’t be healthy for either of you if they did.
Eventually, children need to learn to self-soothe, and your adult self may need to learn to self-soothe in this area.
If your partner says they need time before they can listen to you, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you aren’t being rejected, they are merely completing something they were doing before you made your request.
The positive results
As you and your partner start doing this simple, healthier communication pattern, both of you will feel more respected for your space, time, and priorities.
When your partner doesn’t feel inundated by your needs and expectations, it makes it more likely that when they do speak with you about what you want to discuss, they will be more present, open, and available to you.