I need some help. And some peace and quiet. My husband has what appears to be a vendetta against silence. First of all, he’s a talker. He tells me stories about his day, about his co-workers about whatever political thing happened that day. He goes into extreme detail about his favorite hobby that I have only a passing interest in. Mostly, that would be okay. I like to hear about his day, and I can tolerate some political talk (but not much). Except he isn’t done.
He reads me entire articles or Reddit threads on his phone. Sometimes he finds them so funny, he’s laughing too hard to read them, and makes me read them, even if I say I’m not interested. In fact, he does the first part even if I say I’m not interested either. He’ll start reading a thread to me, and I’ll request he not, a couple of times now by saying “if I wanted to read the whole article, I’d go read it” That makes him grumpy. I admit I read him the occasional funny comment or picture, but never every comment in a topic. It’s just overkill.
It doesn’t help, probably, that we have a toddler who himself is a source of endless noise, but he’s two, so even playing by himself envolves lots of noise, which is to be expected. I tolerate that much better than the endless chatter from hubs.
It’s getting to the point I dislike being in the same room with him for very long. Even if he’s not talking to me, he’s watching videos on his phone, with the sound all the way up. He does this even while lying in bed, winding down to sleep. Sometimes he keeps talking when the lights are off and I’m actually trying to sleep. I once got so fed up I asked him if he ever shuts up. It was mean, and I felt bad, but he finally did and I went to sleep. He was fine in the morning and continued with his usual way.
Disenganging doesn’t really deter him. I can say “that’s nice” and “oh cool” for hours. I can straight up say nothing, and he keeps going. Is there a nice way to say “Sorry honey, I missed that actually important thing you said because I ignore almost everything you say because you say a lot of everything”? If I say I need time to myself, he has before grumped that I never want to spend time with him.
I should note, that I don’t think it’s an emotional labor thing. I’ve watched him to the same thing to male friends of his, as well as in group settings. He’s just always got so much to say.
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The guy you fell in love with was presumably a gregarious dude with a lot to say and this isn’t totally new behavior, but clearly things have gotten very unbalanced. Like, when do you get to talk? And, when you say “Oh, I’m not interested in that” why on earth do you end up feeling like you have to sit and listen to internet comments read aloud? You have learned that not engaging at all doesn’t stop him, noncommittal non-answers don’t stop him, yelling at him stops him temporarily (but no lessons are learned). So, the time for hinting & gentle requests is long over.
There are several levels & kinds of conversations to have here. I don’t know which order or priority works best, so I’ll give you all the strategies that occur to me and you see how you want to use them.
The big overarching conversation (possibly one to pursue over time with a couples’ counselor) is to tell him what you told us, “Hey hon, I think that by sharing alllllllllllll the stuff you read online and allllllllllll the stuff about your hobby and your day, you want to connect with me. That’s great, I want to connect with you, too, and hear about your day, but a lot of the time lately it feels like I’m being talked at and talked over. Like, you don’t really check first to see if I’m interested in something, and when I say outright that I’m not interested or talked out for the day, it’s like it doesn’t matter – you act like you don’t hear me at all, you just keep going. I’m starting to check out a lot of the time, which I don’t want to do, but it’s too much, and I’m starting to get really upset and annoyed by the dynamic. It’s hurting our relationship. How do we work on this?”
A counselor will, if nothing else, referee things so that your husband has to give you equal air time during the sessions and not interrupt you, and also signal that this is a very serious problem that needs attention. A good couple’s therapist can build in some accountability and help you practice better communication over time.
The smaller, more specific, more ongoing conversations have scripts like this:
- We’re taught not to interrupt people because it’s rude. It’s also rude to use social conventions against interrupting to natter on at people forever without regard to their interest level, and to steamroll them when they say outright they aren’t interested. INTERRUPT HIM. “[Name], you’re monologuing again. Please stop talking now.”
- “Yep, politics is very scary and annoying. But I spent my politics anxiety budget already today, so, can’t absorb yours!”
- “I have like, 10 minutes of Hangin’ With Reddit in me today, so, lay it on me, but when the 10 minutes are up, they’re UP.”
- “I do not want to listen to you read internet comments to me, please stop.”
- “I’ve told you before – I don’t really want to hear the comments. Why is this still a thing?”
- “I said I wasn’t really interested in hearing about this. Did you not hear me?”
- “Ok, you heard me, so, why did you keep going?”
- “It’s okay for us to read different articles, I don’t have to read everything you read.”
- “Sorry I missed [important thing]. You’ve been talking nonstop for 3 hours and I kinda tuned out there. What did you want to tell me?”
- “If you’re going to watch videos with the sound on, please put on headphones or go in another room – the noise of that really bothers me.”
- “I’m trying to wind down for the day and go to sleep. I need bedtime to be quiet time, so if you’re still wanting to stay up for a while and watch videos, that’s fine, but please go in the other room.”
- “Thanks to [Beloved Toddler], I’m kinda talked out right now. Can we watch some TV together or read quietly or do something else that doesn’t involve talking?”
- Edited To Add: “I really don’t want to read the article, but I want to know what you thought was interesting. Can you sum that up for me in a couple of sentences?”
If you set a boundary and he won’t stop, or take it to another room, then maybe you go in another room and shut the door. Also, I think you are already saying a lot of this stuff just fine, and he’s not listening, but here’s something I spotted in your question (bolding mine):
“He’ll start reading a thread to me, and I’ll request he not, a couple of times now by saying “if I wanted to read the whole article, I’d go read it” That makes him grumpy.”
When this happens in the future, where you kindly ask him to Please Not, and he gets grumpy, LET. HIM. BE. GRUMPY.
Do not soothe his feelings about it. You’re allowed to say “no thanks, I’m not into it!” in your marriage. You’re allowed read what interests YOU on the internet, when YOU want to, you’re not an empty vessel for his recitations of other people’s witticisms from 7 hours ago. YOU DON’T LIKE IT. YOU ALREADY TOLD HIM THAT. It’s okay if he feels grumpy – you’re feeling pretty fucking grumpy when he doesn’t listen to you. So if you ask him to stop and he flounces from the room or goes all “fine I guess I’ll never talk again, then” or “I guess I’m just not an interesting person” or plays whatever the hell sulking & reassurance game that has kept you pretending to listen in the past, let him do it. Don’t fix it. Hold fast. You told him directly what you needed. You weren’t mean or unreasonable. You’re allowed to be annoyed and angry and to want it to stop and to have an argument about it if it won’t. “Do you ever shut up?” isn’t how you want to talk to him and it felt mean and like you were not being your best self when you said that, but let’s be real: It did get him to actually be quiet (when nothing else did). If you lose your temper a little or express how actually angry and frustrated you are, that doesn’t make you the asshole. The default can’t be that he gets to talk all he wants until you get angry about it, like it’s your job to police him about that and not his job to listen to you the first time/respect you/self-modulate/self-soothe. One way we learn to stop our own maladaptive behaviors: We piss off people around us and they tell us to knock it off and/or they start avoiding us. Your anger & exhaustion here is justified and if he were smart he’d pay attention to it. He’s paying enough attention to get mad at you when you don’t want to spend as much time with him, but, reasonable consequences, dude!
There are other things to try here:
- “No phones” date nights.
- No phones near bed (I’ve banished my own phone from the bedside table recently, it’s great).
- Dropping the chatty toddler in front of chatty Dad and walking away, to a different room or the local library or coffee shop or a friend’s house. Let them wear each other out. (Like kittens). And let me gently suggest that if one parent of a toddler still has a bunch of reading-the-internet & talking about it energy at bedtime and the other parent is exhausted, something in the parenting/childcare workload could use a serious rebalance. He also needs to help you get some time to yourself if that’s what you need, not take it as an insult to him. You’re a parent of a young kid, OF COURSE you need some time to yourself. It sounds like it’s time to do a re-balancing of leisure time and who gets it in your house, and make sure you get your share of time when you don’t have to take care of or listen to anyone.
- Husband finding a group or a league or some buddies who share his hobby, going to do that thing with them on a weekly basis (you can’t make him do that but you can suggest & make room in the schedule if he wants to).
- Ritual check-ins where you do give each other your full attention for certain part of the day, but, you know, alternating, so everyone gets to talk. Like maybe seeking him out right after work and tuning in hard for a little while can pre-empt the thing where he’s chasing you around the house all evening with all his stored-up thoughts.
Being chatty, enthusiastic, a little lonely, hungry for adult conversation, or a bit oblivious doesn’t make your husband a bad person, but you need him to become a lot less oblivious and actually listen to the words you are saying if this is going to work. He has choices about how he treats you, and this choice to ignore you and keep right on blabbing when you say “I don’t like that” or “I don’t care about this” is not a happy one for your relationship and does not show him in a good light.
- Some people like reading the internet out loud to each other. If this is you, and it’s fun and consensual and everybody gets equal air time, then nothing in this letter is about you and you don’t need to explain to us that you & your partner actually enjoy it sometimes.
- We’ve got some new readers, so this bears spelling out. There are neurodivergences like autism and ADHD that make monologuing more likely and monitoring others’ reactions to same more difficult, especially when one is enthusiastic about a topic. This is a reminder that we don’t diagnose people through the internet on this site, and also that when we’re talking excitedly about something and the other person is saying stuff like “I’m not interested in that” or “please stop talking now” or not answering at all or physically moving away or tuning out completely, that it’s not a mysterious rune that needs a team of codebreakers and archaeologists or mages to decipher. It means “Wind it down, the other person is not that interested in what you’re saying.” “Take turns sometimes in conversations.” “Check in occasionally with your audience to make sure they’re with you.” “Your romantic partner is not your excess word-dumpster.” Social skills can be learned, consent is important within social interactions, and neurodivergent people are often far better at checking in and monitoring this stuff than neurotypical folks because they know they struggle sometimes and they care about not being That Person. They do also tend to appreciate and not take offense to direct “Hey, I’ve heard enough about the Titanic for one day, can you wrap it up now” boundary-setting.
- If you are a monologuer or reformed monologuer, I’m interested in hearing what worked to help you curb this habit, but any “It sounds like your husband has ______ condition” comments will be BALEETED. Even if you were correct, there is no mental health condition or neurodivergence that is treated or accommodated by the people around you being endlessly compliant and patient listeners to the detriment of their own well-being and happiness. So, as always, let’s focus on behaviors and conversations that can help the situation.The husband in this letter is steamrolling the Letter Writer when she does speak up and that is the problem. Thank you.