Ask Wendy

How Do I Stop Him from Interrupting?

Friday, March 13, 2020
Hey Wendy,

I have been dating a man for over a year. Somewhere around month two, I told him his continuous interrupting would be a deal breaker unless he figured out how to tone it down. He does it with a lot of people, apologizes, says he doesn’t realize he’s doing it, or he didn’t want to forget his thought, and then does it again. I have tried a “code word”, holding my hand in the stop position, saying, “please wait until I’m finished”, going silent until he finishes interrupting and then picking up where I left off, even walking into another room and giving him the silent treatment, but it continues. Now, a year later, I have given up on him breaking that habit, so I ended the relationship. He cried, apologized, said he f’d up, that he doesn’t want to lose me, that he loves me, but the words have lost meaning without action behind them.

I made an appointment with a couple's therapist and I don’t want to see him until our appointment. He isn’t happy about that and says he needs to see me, touch me, look into my eyes, make love to me and I can gag him so he can’t interrupt (haha).

I want to see results before I go back into a relationship with him but not sure what else to do. Your thoughts?

Donna D.

Hey Donna,

That one is hard. For most of us, interrupting is a bad habit that can be trained out of us. For some, it’s the wiring of the brain (ADD) and sometimes medications just don’t prevent it from happening—so it’s hard to say what’s happening for your guy, what’s possible with sheer will and training, and what’s never going to change.

It’s frustrating to be around someone who’s constantly interrupting those around them, I feel you! Especially if your communication style allows for plenty of silent space to hear your partner out. What feels like communication to him can feel like total disrespect to you. Also, interrupting being one of your deal-breakers is totally valid, so don’t apologize to anyone for that.

If you two give it another go, I’d align on one method (like the hand up) and refrain from walking out of the room/away from him. You’re pissed, and I understand—you feel disrespected and frustrated. But walking away fosters resentment on both sides.

If you can’t get past the resentment and bitterness, definitely move on. Being annoyed by your partner from time to time is inevitable. But to be truly happy for the long haul, you two need three components. You both need to:

1) Mean well

2) Maintain high integrity

3) Love each other

My readers hear that a lot from me, but these three elements are consistent in any good relationship. If you’re walking out of the room, withholding participation, giving him the silent treatment—even if he’s the one instigating the poor communication and you’re trying to effect positive change—that’s kinda not meaning well, that’s responding to the person you love in a passive-aggressive way.

Don’t get me wrong, what you’re dealing with is awful, and in your shoes I’d be tempted to do the exact same things. But I think we both know in our heart of hearts that these approaches don’t work. So, let’s hope your recent breakup is a wake-up call for him, and that he has the ability to transform his behavior. And perhaps there can be some give and take. If he improves but still goes off the listening rail from time to time, you might decide, “this is who he is, and I love him anyway.” That choice is up to you.

Good luck to both of you as you find your way around and through this.

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