Has your husband ever came home visibly upset? You ask him, “How was your day?”
He responds, “I had a rough day at work, but I’m fine”?
You ask him again and he says, “I’m okay.”
You try again and he says, “It’s nothing.”
You can tell that he is not being truthful. So you begin to get angry at him. As you become increasingly annoyed at him, your tone of voice betrays your frustration. With a smirk you say, “I can tell there is something wrong.”
It escalates. “I’m fine. It’s no big deal. Just leave me alone,” he says with a raised voice.
“I give up! You never tell me anything!” you retort.
Now, both of you are upset. Little communication is accomplished. You think that your husband does not want to share his feelings with you. You feel disconnected. You feel like you are less of a person because he rejects you. You become discouraged. You want to connect with him, but all of your efforts fail.
Now, this will surprise you…
First of all, I want you to understand that your husband does want to share his feelings with you. Men have a need to share their feelings as much as women do. They just have a harder time accessing them. Their feelings are not readily on the top of their tongue, but many times they are stored away. They need help accessing them. It must be done delicately. Below are steps to help them:
1.) Slow down. Don’t ask rapid fire questions. Don’t assume that you know what is bothering them. (Need more guidance on slowing down? Read “SLOW DOWN! Practical Ways To Handle Conflict.“)
2.) Pay attention to the first words or sentences that is spoken. That first sentence will be the point. Instead of talking out loud about what they think and feel, they have condensed their thoughts and feelings into those first few words or sentences.
3.) Use reflection statements about the first words or sentences that he speaks each time. From the above example you may respond, “So work was difficult today.” And the conversation may go like below:
Your husband: “Yeh, always problems to deal with.”
You: “You handle a lot of problems.”
Your husband: “An irate customer called and said that their new refrigerator had leaked water that went through the floor. We had installed it a couple of months ago.”
You: “You had installed it not too long ago?”
Your husband: “Yeh, I can’t believe that this happened again. I explained to our installers last time how they must check to make sure everything works well before.”
You: “You do all you can to make things right.”
Your husband: “Yeh, I try to do the best I can, but with those guys my hands are tied. They never listen no matter how many times I tell them. I can’t fire them since they are the boss’s family. I just have to deal with them.”
You: “You’re in a difficult position.”
Your husband: “I don’t know what to do. I do all I can to help the company and keep my job, but no one seems to respect me. I’m the one who has to clean up everyone else’s mistakes!
You: “You care a lot about your work.”
Your husband: “Yeh, but I don’t feel like anyone cares about me or the company. I’m afraid that with all the mistakes we make. We may be out of business soon!”
4.) Display as little emotion as possible when you are helping your husband share. For many men, the true emotion is not on the surface. It is deeper. Many times, it is masked with anger. Do not react to the anger, but stay calm and continue to focus on the first few sentences that he speaks.
5.) Do not change subjects. During this process, you must stay focused on his continuous line of thought. This is the way that he stores away the thoughts and feelings. If you change the subject, then you shut the door on going any deeper.
Note that that you may have to use 5-7 reflection statements before you get to the true emotion. Give your husband time in between the statements. During this time, he’s thinking and retrieving. Be patience and keep practicing. Before you know it, you will be able to access his feelings without thinking about it.
This technique works well with a husband who is a “pointer”. Read more about “Pointers”. Need more help talking to your spouse? Call 704-658-0238 to schedule an appointment.