Deaf and Hearing Relationships

When One is Deaf And The Other Is Not

Although most deaf people marry other deaf people, many have relationships with hearing people. Those relationships, which may have begun before the deaf partner lost hearing, often become preoccupied with issues such as sign language (SL) communication. Forum members advised each other on deaf-hearing relationships (snippets follow):

  • "I'm married to a hearing man who won't learn sign to talk with me he makes me lip read him after 6 years i'm tired of lip reading him."
    -LAFUN69

    "husband...finally getting around to doing the fingerspelling occasionally ...and a little bit of sign here and there. He's not comfortable with it and never will be..."
    -FUZZYPEN
    "...husband is very difficult to lip-read...promised before we were married to learn signs but after we married, that was the end of his learning signs because it is easier for him to talk...

    ...would marry him again...not marry him until he mastered it...my skills made it too easy once we were married. This is a common problem in "mixed marriages." ...sit him down and tell him that he has to learn because you guys aren't communicating. It is easier for him to learn signs and impossible for you to learn to hear..."
    -BLUIZJUDY
    "...he wouldnt learn SL...wasnt that hard on me but...sometimes I couldnt understand him. What I did to make him learn SL was.. Start talking to him in SL and act like you cant understand him at all if he tries to talk to you without signing or make him repeat all the time and eventually he would get tired of repeating himself and then he would ask you for some help in learning the SL.

    If he gets mad or makes excuses then he is not right for you..."
    -DEE72072
    "married to a hearing woman...didn't start losing my hearing until I was 15, so I didn't need to sign while I was growing up. Since losing my hearing...made a point of learning some SL..

    ...She does get irritated with me when I don't understand something right away.

    If she has to repeat something more than once it can be very embarrassing, especially if we are in company, because she starts to get irritated with me and I start to feel flustered, making it even more difficult for me to concentrate and understand what's being said..

    very hurtful...to have my own wife shouting irritatedly at me does not make me feel any more secure in myself..."
    -ROWLANDT1
    "married to hearing guy, he use the only communication with me in SL but sometime I use my voice...important to tell your husband how do you feel...maybe give him few options like lipreading test/Speech reading, if you said the following phrases with no voice. See if your husband think you said I love you, Elephant Shoe, Olive Juice, island view, I'll have two...sign with your friend, if your family ask you what you just talk with your friend, tell them none of their business. They will realized how you feel...Now I never feel left out when I eat dinner with my family..."
    -CILJ
    "wife who is hearing and she can sign very well.

    She took some SL classes in order to communicate me better. She loves me so much that our communication is very important for our relationship...

    If he love you so much and so devoted to you, then he need to learn. It is not fair for you to work harder to understand him...Buy a SL book and give it to him and see if he learn anything. If he leaves the book on the coffee table, bring the book to bed...If he is mad then tell him why and how you feel. Sign it to him.

    ...bring some of your deaf friends over your house and sign. If he want to know what going on...then give him the SL book or class brochure. And say, "If you love me this much then meet me half way."
    -WAR78MAN
    "husband has done the shouting thing too...have to ignore it...turn the tables...husband used to yell for me if he needed help finding something...stuck his head in the linen closet...yelled for me to come help. He got really annoyed a few times because I seemingly ignored him. When he had time to cool off and I needed him for something, I would sign behind his back; then touch his shoulder and sign with more emphasis - letting him know that he'd ignored me. He'd say...he couldn't see behind him and I'd said that I couldn't speech read him when he had his head in the closet either. It took time, patience, laughter, and tears but we worked it out and we've been married for 26 years now."
    -FUZZYPEN
    "..bought him a book of SL so he can learned somewhat something is going wrong he didnt after all just wee bit just brief talk...It does annoyed me hubby aint not bother sign guess he may be so jealous to see alot of friends whom deaf and he doesnt have one for himself, now he s startng to hard of hearing (HOH), losing his hearing. When I commucate with deaf he wants to know what we were saying...impatience with him when he speaks not sign..."
    -DEAFBABE42
    "married to hearing man for more than 19 years. When I first met him, I told him, he had to learn asl...was not going to read anyone's lip for the rest of my life. He surprised me by attend SL class...

    sorry to see others who had to force themselves to read their spouses' lips. Many deaf people predicted our marriage fail because he is hearing and I am deaf..."
    -JAZ16
    "HOH...he refuses to learn SL as well...very frustrating situation for us both. He's a "mumbler". I'm having to constantly tell him to LOOK at me, and repeat what he had just said...We have both talked it over, and he finally realized how difficult it is for me, and how frustrating it is for us to rely on lip readng alone.

    We have decided that as soon as our daughter is old enough we will teach her SL, he's decided to learn as well."
    -KRS10
    "He never made an effort to learn to sign...Fortunately, I was able to lip read well but in group settings, it was very frustrating for me...he was being disrespectful towards me by not learning "my" language or caring about my feelings or requests. I even bought him a SL book but that didn't work...broke it off..."
    -MISSYB26
    "She wants me to learn to speak...with out signs which i cant do. We use pen and paper and a little lip reading to communicate. It is getting frustrating"
    -HO1234
    "...at frist i had to write everything then I got better at lip reading him but there is still time when I just want to say forget it and leave but I can't do that cause I love him...like asking you to hear when she knows you can't she married you knowing your deaf and that you can't talk."
    -LAFUN69
    "He does sign a little...

    we had communication problems... sadly, we are divorced now so keep up with him and teach him..."
    -SOFTSUMMER37
    "Why do deaf marry hearing people?...they believe love will take care of everything...at the time it wasn't important....love was....Now that time has gone by for a while...did love fade? Is language now more important than the love you had in the beginging?

    Many older couple will say...should not expect someone to change after the marriage....but then again others may say if he loves you, he will do anything for you...."
    -DDDD86
    "...if they really love you they will want to do what is best for your relationship and learn how to communicate as well as possible. My husband was so afraid when we were dating that I would leave him as soon as I realized the extent of his hearing loss and the possibility of 100% deafness coming back, I told him it did not matter... I am signed up to learn SL...even though he really feels it is unnecessary, he has learned to lip read so well...his hearing is getting worse and I want to be prepared to help him."
    -DEIDRAHICKS
    "...surprised at the amount of resentment and anger towards hearing spouses...married 27 years...had frustrations, yes, related to my not being able to hear sometimes, but NEVER because of not being able to communicate!"
    -LOLUV8
    "It's not about being deaf, or hearing -- it's about what you two share...had relationships with hearing girls...

    ...How important is being hearing or deaf to you? To some deaf people, it is their very core of their being...An ideal marriage is one where one can communicate freely, and clearly; so that one can share life with each other...Can you two meet halfway with each other, and compromise?"
    -WESBROWN18
    "felt i was embarrasing myself and him when I found it difficult to communicate. I had the added complication of the fact that he doesn't read or write particularly well...initially communicated by a mixture of lipreading, pointing, and after a lots of comical misunderstandings, we managed. I found that we made up signs of our own but I took a BSL course and found that i could explain things in more depth to him. He recently had to have an assessment at work...there was no provision within the company for a signer. I offered to go in and interpret for him...It came to light that he was not receiving the training he was entitled to because they could not communicate with him or understand the best way to go ahead with this...go for it but be prepared to take a course in sign as it will enhance your realtionship and make you both more comfortable."
    -JULIEKAVANAG
    "date a very nice hearing guy...When we are alone, things are great, and have wonderful time together. But when we get in groups (around hearing people)-I am ALWAYS leave out of the discussion. They talk so fast, and I can't catch what they say...boyfriend usually does not fill me in on what is being said, or explain to me, unless I make big deal about it.

    This past weekend, we go to see some of his friends, and I was leave out of the conversation for almost 2 hours. I was so sad, I just drive home and cry.

    My boyfriend can only fingerspell, even though he does well with it. I use ASL as my main language, and can speak a little...boyfriend rarely even fingerspells to me in public, or around his friends. Is it that he's ashamed?"
    -COCOCUTIEDEA
    "If I was dating a deaf woman I would never exclude her...
    Have you told him how it makes you feel to be excluded from social situations?

    ...If he does not adjust and give you the respect you deserve, then...time to find a new boyfriend.

    currently learning ASL via books and video courses. I have falling in love with the language and will continue to progress with it..."
    -AQUABLUE1966"Deaf-Hearing relationships can be successful...recently involved with a Deaf/hearing impaired girl...hearing loss was not a factor in us breaking up...

    ...Although we communicated orally most of the time, she helped me with learning to Sign and I was able to socialise with her Deaf friends...

    Sometimes she misunderstood me when we communicated orally...So patience for both the Hearing and the Deaf is crucial (especially when the Hearing bloke's Signing is not fluent...)

    ...if the Deaf person signs, then the Hearing person needs to be able to communicate or learn to communicate in Sign also. It is not just an issue of being understood, but it means that the Hearing person is sharing something of their partner's identity-their language..."
    -BLOKE9
    "marriage can be stressful in a hoh/hearing because one tends to forget that the hoh and hearing is not from similar backgrounds. I had to educate myself in basic speech while I was growing up and he didnt. The background of people lives I think should be similar for the marriage to work. Yes, deaf marriages stay together longer because the understanding is there. Communication is the most important in any relationship."
    -BOZOGIRL
    "lost my hearing suddenly and totally at the age of nearly 8...was devastating for me.

    I was sent to a school for the deaf where SL was not an option and, for me, lip reading and speech have been the way to go all through the years. I have never regretted not learning SL, even though lip-reading can, at times, be extremely difficult...

    I was married, for many years, to a man who had normal hearing.

    Although we had many problems, communication was not necessarily one of them except for the fact that...his strong French accent made things more difficult..."
    -Visitor
    "dating my completely deaf girlfriend for two years now. We have a great relationship and I have become almost fluent in SL...read a few posts about deaf/hearing couples being hurt and feeling left out when they go out with groups of friends together. My gf and I have had our arguments about this. I interpret everything I possibly can for her, but what she fails to realize (and I think she is not the only one) is that I am 1 person w/ 1 mind and only 2 hands. There is no possible way I could stand there and interpret everything that is being said between 3 or 4 or even more people, voice what she is saying, have my own conversation w/ my friends, and follow along at a normal pace and include myself and her at every moment of it. I always do my best to include her and let her know what is going on, but it should not only be up to the hearing spouse or bf or gf to include the deaf or hoh person.

    It is a group effort by everyone that is involved wherevever you go...when we go out w/ friends I let them know that my gf can lip read and to talk w/ her whenever they want. I also inform them that sometimes they need to slow down because she is missing whats going on. That way everyone feels more comfortable and they understand a little more...If people understand more, then they will make more of an effort to try to communicate, rather than not know how and be afraid or nervous to communicate."
    -Visitor
    "relationship with a SL interpreter, so of course that is helpful. But there are always communication problems in relationships between two people. What happens now is that we have communication challenges in two different langauges!"
    -Visitor
    "HOH...married a hearing man (34yrs)...I read lips extensively and know some SL...One on one is great! But, in a group, I am lost. Most people who don't know me think I am being rude, or that I am ignoring them. But, I don't hear what they say so I don't turn around or know they are talking to me...often hear people talk but don't know what they say...people don't believe that I am HOH because I have mastered the art of lip reading and can understand. That is,until they turn around and I can't see them."
    -Visitor
    "married to a HOH Man...refuses to learn SL, I am hearing and I know SL, I have studied for 15 years and that's my major in college. It puts a strain in our relationship, I just hope he can eventually learn before he completely loses his hearing...have tried yelling, ignoring, and even not talking to him, and he still won't learn to sign...maybe someday he will want to learn to communicate with his kids.

    Spouses don't push them just let them be. It makes them feel awful when you yell and do all that. They will learn when they get frustrated enough without communication."
    -Visitor
    "married for 10 years to a man who is deaf. I learned SL early on and continued on after we were married because it was a part of of my job. SL also made it easier to communicate with my husband...suggest that you take your husband with you the next time you go for a hearing test.

    Make an appointment soon and have them do speech discrimination testing in the sound field while your husband is in the room. He will most likely be astounded at the poor scores you receive when speech is presented to you at normal conversational levels. Perhaps this knowledge will inspire him to try a little harder to make daily life a little easier for you."
    -Visitor
    "dated...hearing girls but it did not work out because of her parents and grand parents who can not sign langauge with me.

    Unless if I am really special to them, they could learn it ASL ? One time My hearing lady and I were argued big time because she thinks she knew everything about Deaf People...so I DUMPED my lady!...I will never date with hearing lady again."
    -Visitor
    "hearing my fiance is deaf...He signs ASL...So sometimes it is hard for us to understand each other due to the difference in sign ability. Other times, I have my hands full and can't sign making him to lip-read. Or the other way around-- he can't sign making me have to try and understand his speech (which is not easy may I add). But we make it and try our best to balance out the communication barriers with each other in a compromise."
    -Visitor
    "He uses signs little and fingerspell little too.His spelling is bad..I speak well and lipreading well,not 100%..My husband and I misunderstand each other almost daily. How can we live like that? No fun in heat battle.

    When I get tired of lipreading in hearing groups, I just walk away or sit down to reading books and so on..I signs to deaf people, I never tire of signs..will stay in deaf groups. I want my husband use signs more often.. Sometime he don't and do..I can hear some in my left hearing..Can't hear the words..

    Just noises..."
    -Visitor
    "HOH. I have difficulty hearing certain voice ranges as well as in group settings, and anyone behind me. My hubby is very supportive. He knew when he met me, that I did not hear well...

    ...tough when one party hears extremely well (my hubby) and one does not. I still have to remind hubby that he can't say stuff to my back, walk away from me, call from another room or have the tv or music up loud. I have him repeat himself when necessary. I have also let his family know of my hearing needs. They too are supportive. I have found that as long as you are up front about the needs you have, most people are willing to help..."
    -Visitor
    "hearing woman...dating a Deaf man. I am a fluent signer because my sister was born deaf, and I grew up signing. Even though my boyfriend has fairly good speech and can speechread when he needs to, I would never ask him to rely on that as our sole means of communication. Why should the burden of communication be on one person in a relationship?

    If he is more comfortable and is better able to express himself through SL, then that is what he should do. Even though my signing is not perfect, I am more than willing to improve my skills in order to have the level of communication that any two people need to have a successful relationship."
    -Visitor
    "married to hearing man for 2 years. I am happily divorced now. There are so many conflict.

    I was too lonely, isolated and left out with a hearing ex-husband. I got so fed up with his lies about telling me that he will take ASL 1 class...he told me that he is attending ASL 1 Class at the community college, so I was so thrilled until I was on a surprise trip to surprise him in the ASL 1 class. He was not in the classroom...told the teacher that I am looking for my husband...teacher told me that he withdraw the class just after the first day of ASL 1. I was sooo upset and very hurt that he lied to me.

    So I didn't tell my ex husband that I found out that he withdraw the ASL 1 class...I just played questioning him whenever he comes home from school "how's ASL 1 class?" He kept telling me that "it was too hard but I will keep trying so hard." I said nothing for awhile until he asked me for paying him on the next course. I told him that I will pay for that and went to the lawyer. I had him sign his name for "ASL 2 Class" but it was a divorce paper...My parents were so upset that I have new Deaf husband now!"
    -B.D.
    "relationship with a deaf man...started learning to sign a year before we met...We were very clear with each other at the beginning that our relationship may be difficult at times because of communication, but that we could work through it together with patience and understanding. I am able to communicate fine using only SL. But it is still not easy...boyfriend speech reads very well, and most of our hearing friends and family do not sign....cannot imagine our relationship without SL...

    If we had dated before I knew sign, and then I had refused to learn, that would have been very disrespectful of me and it would not be fair to him. Communication is hard in every relationship, and every relationship requires effort from both people. In a "mixed" relationship, communicating is an even greater challenge, and if the hearing person refuses to give the effort it takes to learn to sign, then he/she is forcing his/her deaf partner to do ALL the work...

    hearing...difficult to learn to converse in sign, but I also understand that it is frustrating and tiring for a deaf person to be required to speech read day and night. It is only fair that you both try to meet in the middle...In my opinion, if a hearing partner refuses to learn sign for their deaf partner, then they have a problem that is bigger than differing languages."
    -Visitor
    "...hearing...I had made a comment about wondering what it was like to hear using a cochlear implant...went to get the body processor for the older model CI that she rarely ever used anymore and she plugged what looked like a regular pair of earphones in and handed them to me...taken back by what I heard from the different programs. I had never understood why she hated it when I whistled until I had the head phones on and she told me to whistle and I thought my ears would explode...

    I don't know about people in the deaf community frowning upon deaf/hearing dating, and I don't really worry about it either.

    If you enjoy the company of, or love the other person, then all of that shouldn't factor in...

    I am hearing, the love of my life is deaf, but our hearts can't tell so we're doing just great!"
    -AVisitor
    "..dating deaf man...many would be suprised how well we are doing...It was hard at first. I was used to talking to all my boyfriends on the phone, now I am online most of the time...

    Maybe we are working so well because I can sign very well. I learned a long time ago since my aunt and uncle are Deaf. And I took classes at a local college. When I am out of high school I plan to become an Interpreter. So, not all Deaf/hearing relationships are doomed..."
    -Visitor
    "selfish for a hearing individual, who is in a serious relationship or married to a deaf person, to refuse to learn SL...Communication is a part of everything we do...

    ...relationship with a hearing man...even though I never have and do not currently require ASL to communicate...(I am learning ASL in college, solely out of interest, not for my major) I do lipread and often the words are mixed up or I don't hear something quite right. He is often my extra ears for certain situations and such, the same as my family and hearing friends have always been. It is tough sometimes and funny at other times."
    -Visitor
    "hearing and i was dating a deaf guy. towards the end of our relationship i found out that he did not trust simply becasue i was hearing...communication is the key and i often felt i was the only one trying in the relationship to really communicate.


    -Visitor
    "hearing one...dont' understand why you would be in a relationship you cant comunicate in. I wouldn't date someone that spoke another languages other than english or SL because I wouldn't be able to comunicate. I am not fluent in ASL by any means but I most the time can comunicate without having to fingerspell everything out...I can't change my boyfriend and I in no way want to change him. We struggled at first when we started dating because I couldn't understand the deaf culture and he had problems in with hearing culture. But we have worked on things and always have to explain things to each other. But we have made dang sure to work all this out before we are involved in a marriage..."
    -Visitor

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