Are Wives Hypersensitive or Just Highly Sensitive to a Husband’s Unclear Comments?

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One day my wife, Sarah, asked me, “If you die, should I stay in this home?"             Though the question seemed random, it didn't bother me; it was a good question. But it caused me to ask myself, Why is she asking this? I was objectively curious.

I knew that if I asked her the same question, it would ignite a series of follow-up questions from her:

“Why are you asking?”

“What prompted this question?"

“Do you envision me dying soon?"

“Are you thinking about living without me?"

“Are you exploring what life would be like if I died?"

Knowing Sarah, emotionally she would read into my question that I was entertaining the idea of living life without her even though intellectually she would know that was not truly the case.

One of the battles of the sexes in marriage revolves around this issue: Is a wife highly sensitive or hypersensitive?

What is fascinating is that I did not read into Sarah’s question, “If you die, should I stay in this home?" that she was entertaining the idea of living life without me. I represent most men and when she asked the question my mind did not go there.

However, with most wives there is this undercurrent of curiosity and insecurity that they possess in their souls that their husbands do not possess: “Does he really love me as much as I love him?”

THE KEY DIFFERENCE: THEIR NATURE

Typically speaking, more husbands are assured of their wives’ love. Women are virtuous and excellent caregivers. Because of a wife’s loving and nurturing nature few men have this undercurrent of curiosity and insecurity about a wife’s love. Women love to love, and men know this.

If a husband were to ask himself, Does she love me as much as I love her? it is typically because the wife has had an affair or has said, “I don’t know if I am really in love with you." Yes, there is the rare male out there who is extremely insecure while being married to a woman who loves to love and is in love with him. But that male is an anomaly.

In the vast majority of marriages the wives are the ones asking themselves, Does he love me as much as I love him?

There is a biblical explanation for this. In the marriage passages of the Bible, no wife is commanded to agape-love (love unconditionally) her husband. Only husbands are commanded to agape-love. I take that to mean that men love less naturally in marriage than do wives and therefore God commands them to do what He has already created wives to do by nature. Consequently, wives pick up on their husbands thinking less about love than they do, causing many to wonder, Does he love me as much as I love him?

Because Sarah is such a loving person, I do not ask, Does Sarah love me as much as I love her? I know she loves me (though many times I wonder if she likes me!). On the other hand, because I love less naturally than Sarah, which is why I am under divine command to agape-love Sarah in Ephesians 5:33, Sarah will periodically wonder about my love.

In our case, which is typical of most marriages, Sarah enjoys me expressing my love more than I naturally do on my own. She will sometimes ask, “Do you love me? Why?” Though Sarah is not insecure about my love intellectually, she is still a woman who is highly sensitive to the nuances of words I use that might suggest a meaning that ignites her insecurity about the depth and breadth of my love for her.

SEEKING HIS REASSURANCE

Because most wives seek verbal reassurance when feeling the absence of love, they will aggressively ask questions for clarification on words that felt unloving to them. “What did you mean by what you just said?” She does not wish to incriminate him. She does not wish to be right but wrong. But in order for her to know she is wrong, her husband must reassure her of his love (not just blurt out, “Get over it, woman, and quit being so insecure!”).

At our Love and Respect marriage conferences I address a wife’s need for loyalty. Most women realize they will age. Consequently, they believe that with aging they will become less attractive. Not a few women feel insecure about this, and logically so. As one woman said, “I wonder, will my husband trade me in for a newer model?”

Therefore, many wives would hear the question, "If you die, should I stay in this home?” to mean the husband is entertaining the positives about her being dead! That proves unsettling to her. She will quickly seek reassurance that he does not mean what she thinks he means.

BEWARE OF BECOMING HYPERSENSITIVE

At one level seeking clarification is okay. But at another level, a highly sensitive wife can become a hypersensitive wife.

The husband could innocently be asking the question because he had the passing thought while watching a commercial about preparing for the unexpected in old age. A question like this from the husband could also reveal that he is not unsettled and insecure in the marriage. He is not easily hurt by his own speculative thoughts. He exercises great discernment about his wife’s meanings. Yes, that could be due to his wife’s loving nature, but it could also be due to his trustworthy nature and confidence in doing marriage in ways that insure a healthy marriage until death. He believes in his wife’s goodwill.

When a woman has been insecure all her life (way before the marriage) and constantly lives in fear of this or that, she can create tension in the marriage by reading into her husband’s comments. She can feel his meanings are unloving in a way he never intended. He is not necessarily being insensitive; she is being overly sensitive.

Because he is not an insecure person and rarely reads into her words, over time he feels worn out by her nervousness and uncertainties. He feels as though he must tiptoe around her hypersensitivity and lack of confidence in who he is as an honorable man.

Since a culture that claims “Happy wife, happy life” refuses to tell her she is letting her insecurities control and mislead her, she critically complains to her husband that he really doesn’t love her. She holds him responsible for her feelings.

This is why an older woman (not me since I am a man, right?) needs to sit her down and say, “Sweetie, I love you dearly but you need to grow up. In trying to pull your husband to you, you are pushing him away. By trying to motivate your husband to be more positive, you are increasing your negativity. By demanding that your husband make you feel more confident about him in the marriage, you are making him feel less confident about being able to do that. In expecting your husband to heal your insecurities, he feels more insecure about doing this healing."

A SELF-ASSESSMENT

Every wife needs to do some self-assessment, asking herself, "When I make inquiry of my husband about what he meant, is this really due to the fact that he is entertaining ideas that mean he would rather live life without me or is this due to my insecurity? Am I projecting onto him meanings he is light-years away from intending? If I continue on this path, will I end up driving him into a more silent mode when around me?"

I am not arguing that a wife never has reason to feel insecure about her husband’s love or that she should never seek her husband’s reassurance of his love. I am arguing about the extent of this. She must discern when she is a normal, highly sensitive woman who cares and loves deeply and wishes the same shown toward her and when she is being an abnormal, hypersensitive woman who reads into her husband’s words hurtful and unloving meanings that he does not mean.

Rate Yourself

  1. I feel insecure about our relationship though my husband has done nothing immoral:

  • Almost always

  • To a considerable degree

  • Occasionally

  • Seldom

  1. When my husband makes an unclear statement about our relationship that triggers my insecurity, I read between the lines that he is sending me a message that he really does not love me like I love him:

  • Almost always

  • To a considerable degree

  • Occasionally

  • Seldom

  1. I believe that when I feel insecure about my husband’s love that he is responsible to reassure me of his love, not that I am overly insecure:

  • Almost always

  • To a considerable degree

  • Occasionally

  • Seldom

  1. Would those who know both of us say that I am more than a highly sensitive wife but am hypersensitive, having feelings that are way too easily hurt and that cause me to overreact to my husband:

  • Almost always

  • To a considerable degree

  • Occasionally

  • Seldom

  1. Would those who know us well say that I wrongly accuse my husband of being insensitive during conflict and need to admit that I am overly sensitive?

  • Almost always

  • To a considerable degree

  • Occasionally

  • Seldom

  1. When I do not feel reassured of my husband’s love, I more often believe he is failing to be who he ought to be in the marriage rather than believe I am overly insecure:

  • Almost always

  • To a considerable degree

  • Occasionally

  • Seldom

If you answered either “almost always” or “to a considerable degree” to all six, I recommend sitting down with a godly wise woman and talking through this information with her. God has called you to be a highly sensitive woman, not a hypersensitive woman.

-Dr. E