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Marriage
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How Can I Stop Sounding So Annoyed When My Wife Calls Me at Work?

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Understanding the Challenge

Men, can you relate to the husband who emailed me to ask, “What do I do when my wife calls me in the middle of a stressful workday and I come across as annoyed that she called me, which understandably hurts her?” 

He went on to talk specifically about his tone when his wife calls, which he knows is coming across to her as unloving. “How do you separate yourself from the environment of the moment so when your spouse calls, you filter out bad tone? It's only human nature, if we've just had a rough morning at work to let that affect our tone, and quite frankly we expect our spouses (maybe incorrectly) to deal with it because they are supposed to know what we do and what we go through on a daily basis. I know I have a real challenge with this, to the point of sounding annoyed that she calls, which is insane. I should want to hear from her and I should filter out my day.”  

Dealing with Workday Interruptions

For anyone who works, this is perfectly normal. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that all working men encounter this! In addition, these times will continue to happen. In fact, men, it would be of great benefit to both you and your wife if, daily, you anticipated there will be a moment when your wife calls or texts (perhaps both at once and repeatedly!) and you do not want to be interrupted.  

This. Will. Happen.

Emergencies happen (ranging from a death in the family, to she locked her keys in the car at the grocery store, to the power went out while dinner was in the oven and you need to bring home some takeout); important news and updates need to be shared; or sometimes she simply wants to connect with you emotionally for a brief moment. 

Of course, she does not know that your boss just dropped a load of work on your desk, or your top employee just turned in her two weeks’ notice, or you are working through lunch so that you can have a better shot at making your son’s basketball game. So there is no ill will in her calling you, and you know that. And yet you don’t have a minute to spare to answer your wife’s question about if you prefer rice or beans with your tacos that night. And unfortunately, you come across as annoyed when she calls you (which you kind of are), which is not how you want to come across to her. So what can you do?

Three Strategies for a Harmonious Connection

First and foremost, you want to avoid it appearing to her that each and every time she calls, you are annoyed. When your annoyance becomes a pattern, to the point she feels she can predict this, the main problem has now changed from you feeling interrupted to her feeling rejected. The latter is not a good thing. Feeling rejected, she will ask you, “Why is it that every time I call, you are annoyed with me, like I am a huge bother to you?” She will shift from being empathetic on the one or two occasions when she knows you are swamped and stressed at work, to concluding it isn’t the stress at work that is bothering you; it is her. When a pattern sets in, she makes this shift. In her mind, it is no longer about what you feel about your work but about what you feel about her. 

And let me say, she’s empathetic with stress. She gets it. She experiences the same at work or in her mothering. She will give you grace. However, when you express frustration each time she calls, now you have created a marital conflict. 

Second, having now acknowledged that you know you are sounding more unloving than you should when she calls you at work, make the intentional decision that when your wife calls you, you will take a deep breath before answering and decide that as an honorable man, you can handle this call. Even if it is an interruption, you can handle this.

Don’t underestimate how much a simple acknowledgment and decision like this can fix the problem. Because you have brought this issue into the light and addressed it—with yourself and your wife—a significant percentage of the problem will evaporate. Test me on this, I dare you!

Third, with your refreshed mindset that you as an honorable man can do this, don’t feel that you cannot lovingly ask your wife something like, “Honey, can I call you back in thirty minutes? I am in the middle of double-checking some calculations. They need my full attention right now.” Then set your timer for thirty minutes. I can assure you that wives are very flexible with husbands who humbly and honestly express themselves this way. And unless she’s calling you because her tire blew and she’s stranded on the side of the highway, she’ll simply say, “No problem. I am sorry for calling at a bad time. Talk to you soon. Love you.” 

The killer in this scenario is not that you cannot talk when she calls. Rather, the killer will be if you do not call her back in thirty minutes (give or take)! Now she feels you mislead her. So, bottom line, if your wife calls at a bad time, just politely tell her so. But figure out when a good time will be and call her then. But stick to your word!

Conclusion

Wives are extremely flexible about talking later. They are not flexible when they feel their husbands never want to talk to them or are annoyed each and every time when they do talk. When this is the pattern, her emotions turn from whatever the issue on the table was to, “We have a problem in our marriage.” A wise man does not let it get to that place.

So, take her call, take a deep breath and relax, and then engage her on her concern or tell her you need to talk later and then call her later. Do not act as though you are the victim of a wife who “always calls you at the worst time!” Instead, be a humble leader. Be an honorable husband who shares concern for your wife’s concerns, even when the timing isn’t ideal. And if you tell her you will call her back in thirty minutes, be a man of your word.

When I asked the husband I quoted earlier if this made sense, he responded:

Makes perfect sense! I can certainly do this. You know, it’s interesting that when I leave the office and come home each day, I use my garage door going up as my mental way of shutting off the workplace because those wonderful children and amazing wife simply do not deserve me carrying the stress of the day into that house. I guess I need to visualize my garage door when she calls as a cue to deal with her lovingly on the phone too. Thank you, Emerson!

Yes! I challenge each of you to do the same. When you see your wife’s name pop up on your caller ID, what visualization exercise do you need to go through to help you temporarily walk away from your work stress so that you can connect with and serve the wife you love and cherish?

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. Can you relate? Does your wife often call you during stressful times at work? Does she text you incessantly until you respond? If so, how do you typically react?
  2. Emerson said, “When your annoyance becomes a pattern, to the point she feels she can predict this, the main problem has now changed from you feeling interrupted to her feeling rejected.” Have you seen this happen in your own marriage, when the more pressing issue is no longer the original issue, but is that your wife feels rejected?
  3. How does your wife typically react when she feels you are annoyed at her calls or texts or if you do not share concern for what concerns her? How would you feel if the tables were turned and she was the one annoyed at or unconcerned with you?
  4. As an honorable man, what decision(s) do you need to make when your wife calls you at a less-than-ideal time? How will you be more intentional about not acting annoyed that she called when she did?