Spouse Is Insensitive, Wants To "Fix" Everything

Talking effectively with another person about your feelings and emotions is a delicate art. This is especially true in marriage, where differences in temperament and contrasting male and female styles of communication tend to increase the potential for misunderstanding. The bottom line is that both spouses, whether male or female, pragmatic or introspective, "right-brain" or "left-brain," have moments when they simply want a partner who is capable of listening instead of offering advice. When this doesn't happen, the relationship can feel unsafe, and the depth of conversation can become shallow and unsatisfying.

Genuine intimacy in marriage begins when each spouse takes responsibility for his or her emotions and behaviors. This is more likely to happen in a climate free from judgment, defensiveness, and blame.

If your spouse responds as a "problem solver" when you're simply "venting," thinking out loud, or airing your feelings, we suggest that you respond with a straightforward and honest reply. Say something like, "When I'm not allowed to finish my sentences, I feel discounted and unimportant to you. What I need is to be heard."

When you have emotions you'd like to express, it may be helpful to pray or journal about them before doing anything else. Tell your heavenly Father how you're feeling before you address the issue with your mate. You'll find comfort in looking to Him first, and this may help you to voice your concerns more carefully and with greater perspective when you finally get around to talking with your spouse.

If the feelings you want to express seem likely to spark an argument, you can actually pave the way to conflict resolution by owning up to your emotions and assuming responsibility. Clarification is essential here, since many arguments arise out of a misunderstanding of the actual issue. If a husband says, "We're really short on money this month," it's less than helpful for the wife to respond defensively by saying, "It's not my fault!" It would be much better if she were to clarify the issue by asking, "What are you trying to tell me?" She may not like the answer she gets, but at least a meaningful step will have been taken in the direction of mutual understanding.

  1. Here are some key principles to keep in mind when talking about feelings:
  2. Be respectful and honoring when your spouse takes responsibility for his or her emotions and behaviors.
  3. Understand that men and women have different communication styles.
  4. Develop conflict resolution strategies before attempting to bare your soul.
  5. Be intentional about adopting an approach to your conversations that will be nurturing to both of you.
  6. Commit yourselves to make your marriage as enjoyable as possible.
  7. Keep a prayer journal to release frustration.

All of this sets the stage for safe self-disclosure. What happens next is up to you and your spouse. If you need help sorting it all out and making it work, Focus on the Family's Counseling staff would be happy to come alongside you. Among other things, they can provide you with a list of professionals in your locality who specialize in communication issues. They would also count it a privilege to discuss your situation with you over the phone. You can contact them at this number.

Related Video

In this iQuestions video from Focus on the Family, Gary Smalley explains how to communicate every day in a meaningful way.


Resources
His Brain, Her Brain: How Divinely Designed Differences Can Strengthen Your Marriage (book)

Learn more about communication through our marriage channel and at TroubledWith.com. We also have a number of resources on communication available through our Family Store. KeyToYourMarriage

Love and Respect - This ministry offers materials, articles, and conferences designed to help those already married to enrich their relationship and for those considering marriage to prepare for the journey together.Book

How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage (book)

The First Five Years of Marriage: Launching a Lifelong, Successful Relationship (book)

Referrals
Couple Checkup - An online marriage assessment to assist couples in discerning their strengths and growth areas.

Love and Respect - This ministry offers materials, articles, and conferences designed to help those already married to enrich their relationship and for those considering marriage to prepare for the journey together.

Marriage Alive - The Web site of Dave and Claudia Arp, a husband and wife team who strive to help couples build better marriages and families.

Articles
Marriage: The 'Love and Respect' Principle

Learning to Communicate

Excerpted from The Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage, a Focus on the Family Book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family