Why Can’t I Concentrate When My Significant Other Is Talking?

Updated April 8, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Relationships are built on communication. While some people are great at listening when someone else is talking, others may have problems dedicating their full attention to a conversation. This can create a significant problem in your relationships wherever you go.

There are many reasons why someone might have a hard time paying attention. If you're asking yourself a question such as "Why can't I concentrate when my significant other is talking?" then it's likely that it's becoming a bit of a problem. If your inattention to your partner's words is starting to hurt their feelings, then you might need to figure out how to change things.

Is your inability to focus affecting your relationship?

To change this situation, you're going to have to first figure out what is causing your lack of concentration. There are several potential causes; this article will discuss a few. After reading this information, you may have a better idea of why it might be difficult to listen when someone else is talking. You may then take steps to improve your attention. If you find that you still have trouble concentrating or connecting with your partner, online therapy may help you find strategies to focus properly.

Are you overly stressed?

If you're going through a very stressful time, then your mind might start to wander during a conversation. Stress can take a toll on people both mentally and physically. There are several mental processes that are happening in your brain at the same time—even if you don’t realize it. If your mind is overwhelmed, it can be hard to feel present in the moment. You may have a harder time focusing on a person talking.

If you've been working long hours at the office and are having a tough time keeping things together, then understand that you probably need some downtime. Someone’s final year of school can mean lots of upcoming life changes that affect that person’s ability to focus. Many people have trouble paying attention to their partners if they've had a rough day.

Traumatic events can cause stress in a person’s life as well. For example, losing a pet or a loved one could make someone feel very out of sorts. This is another potential reason why you might have trouble focusing when your significant other is talking. Think about whether you're currently going through any hardships or stressful situations. If you are, then this could be the cause of your lack of focus.

Stressful periods in life are normal, and it can make it hard to stay focused or engage in active listening. Talk about it and let the other person know that you want to pay attention and care what they have to say. However, you might not have the focus they deserve in that moment. Ask if you can postpone the conversation if needed, promising to pick it up later.  

Sleep issues

Many people wind up having concentration problems when they aren't getting enough sleep. It is recommended that you get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night. The truth is that many people wind up functioning on far less sleep than this. However, they might notice they are not functioning as well and their ability to focus is suffering. The brain repairs itself when we sleep, and this healing strengthens our mental capacity. If you have been sleeping much less than you should, then that lack of sleep could finally be catching up with you. You might feel more fatigued than usual, which could lead to you not being able to concentrate on things.

You might start by trying to get more sleep at night. Change your schedule so that you can get a good night's rest. It might also be beneficial to avoid drinking caffeinated beverages close to your bedtime. Experts also recommend limiting your time on your phone or other devices to help you sleep better. Electronic stimulation, or screen time, exposes people to artificial blue light and makes it harder to fall asleep.

You could have ADHD

The above reasons for your lack of concentration might not fit your situation. If you aren't going through a stressful time and you're getting plenty of sleep, then you might be suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is more common than many people realize. This is a condition that can impact adults as well as children. When you have ADHD, it's going to make it much more difficult to concentrate on things.

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People who have ADHD often lose focus or become easily distracted. You might find your mind wandering when other people are talking to you. It's likely that your significant other isn't the only one you have trouble concentrating on. You may find yourself having difficulties focusing on long conversations with anyone when you're struggling with ADHD symptoms.

Your social skills might suffer if a person feels you don’t pay attention in conversations. They might take it personally if they constantly have to repeat themselves when talking. Or the person might notice certain body language during a social interaction that shows you’ve lost focus such as lack of eye contact. Let’s say your mind wanders and leads the conversation into an awkward silence, the other person might not understand why. However, the attention problem might not come from a lack of interest, but from differences that affect the brain’s neurotransmitters. It’s important to acknowledge that it is a condition, and you can even let the person know what's going on if you wish.  They may be more understanding if you explain what you're feeling.

Thankfully, ADHD is a condition that can be managed. If you think you may have ADHD, consult with your physician. Some medications can help with ADHD to help a person concentrate better, including during conversations. It's also possible to develop certain techniques to limit the impact that ADHD has on your life. 

Tips and tricks for focusing

If you know you are having difficulty focusing when someone else is speaking with you, there are some simple things you can do to increase your attention. 

Try to engage in the conversation

Trying to engage in the conversation can help you to concentrate on it. This might sound like common sense, but it can be helpful to remember. If you're just passively listening to someone else talk, then it's a lot easier to tune them out after a while. Your brain might get distracted if you aren't staying engaged in the conversation. One of the best ways to engage is to practice active listening by asking questions and responding to what someone is saying. If the conversation isn’t particularly interesting, find an appropriate way to redirect the conversation to something you both can relate to.

Watch out for distractions

You also need to be on the lookout for distractions. It can be hard for your brain to listen and process information if it’s being pulled in multiple directions. If something starts distracting you during a conversation, you're going to have a tough time paying attention to what is going on. Many different things can be distracting, and you'll want to do your best to deal with the distractions so that you can continue the conversation. Sometimes it might even be best to postpone the current conversation to a later point when you're feeling less distracted.

If you're encountering some audio/visual distraction, then you could try to eliminate it. It’s difficult to both talk and hear at the same time. For example, you might be trying to talk in the car while your partner is driving. If the radio is on, then hearing the song in the background could prevent you from connecting with the conversation. Turning the radio off could allow you to focus on the conversation fully.

Another good example is when you're hearing noises coming from outside. These can be very distracting, and many people might find this a nuisance. If someone's car alarm is going off or if road workers are using a jackhammer outside, then you might need to move your conversation somewhere quieter to focus. This is going to be true for both loud distractions and more subtle distractions. Let’s say a loud construction noise nearby is impacting your listening skills. Don't hesitate to talk about why the situation is challenging. Suggest moving somewhere quieter when you want to pay attention to a conversation with your partner.

Fidgeting can help

Oddly enough, fidgeting can be very helpful for a person’s focus. You might remember those fidget spinners that were all the rage several years back. They might have fallen out of the public eye quite a bit since then, but they're effective tools that can help people focus and listen during conversations. You don't have to use a fidget spinner either, as using any fidgeting technique can increase your alertness.

If your partner finds it odd that you need to fidget to concentrate, explain to them how helpful it is. There is no need to be self-conscious about your need to fidget. This can potentially allow you to pay attention when a person is talking—which in turn helps you engage in conversations at a much deeper level. Your significant other should understand, and they will benefit from communicating their thoughts to you more effectively.

Is your inability to focus affecting your relationship?

Explore concentration difficulties in online therapy

Remember that online couples counseling, such as that provided by Regain, is always going to be there for you, too. You'll be able to count on professional online counselors to help you out if you're struggling to connect with your partner. Some relationships might need a little bit of help when it comes to learning how to communicate. Licensed professionals can also help you gain better social skills. Through better listening and conversation skills, you can improve your social interactions and build deeper relationships.  Best of all, online counseling with Regain is also convenient. You don't even need to leave your house to chat with your therapist.

An online therapist has the right experience to work with you to ensure that you're communicating with your partner healthily. Even better, research has shown that online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for dealing with a wide range of issues, including those between partners.


Through better listening and conversation skills, you can improve your social interactions and build deeper relationships, including the one you have with your significant other.

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