Why Does My Wife React Negatively When I Am Trying to Let Her Know My Heart and Need?

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This is a common question I receive from many husbands who have become intentional about opening up more often to their wives and sharing their hearts and needs. But when her response isn’t what they expected—in some cases the situation even worsens—they wonder, Why is she reacting this way? Can’t she see how I’m trying?

The following is my typical response:

I am uncertain why your wife has reacted in this way, but let me offer several possibilities.

One, you want her to understand why you did what you did and that you do not want to be that way. That is commendable and honorable. However, if she hears that as self-justification and blame placing she will react. You can be sincere but you should ask if she feels assured that you really want to understand her. If she feels you're disinterested in really understanding her and more interested in getting her to understand you, and you have hurt her far more than she has hurt you in the past, she will react.

Two, when you express what she should and can do to meet your needs before she believes you wish to meet her needs, she will react. It isn't that you should not communicate your needs to her but that you need to make sure she's reassured that you really want to meet her deepest needs.

Three, when she feels the real reason you share is to tell her that she ought not feel as she feels, she will react. Maybe she should not feel as she does since you are a good-willed man trying to do what is right, but a man must start with where his wife is emotionally and if she senses the real reason you are telling her these things is to get her to say, "Oh, I get it. I have been wrong to feel as I feel," she will react. This may not be fair to the man but the upside is that women will confess their wrongdoing when the husband expresses that he understands why she feels as she does. She is not crazy. When she is confident of his empathy, she will face herself more readily.

If this makes sense to you as a husband, what can you do differently, and do you feel you should and can? Does this defeat you or provide a way forward?

-Emerson

Discussion Questions

  1. Can you relate to the question at hand? Have you ever been taken back by your spouse’s negative reaction to what you thought was an intentional, goodwilled method of communication? How did you respond?

  2. If there is any hint of self-justification or blame placing when one is explaining himself, there will almost definitely be a negative reaction from the spouse. Why is that? Why does the offender need to be more concerned with understanding the offended, and not vice versa?

  3. Compare a time when you were more concerned about your spouse meeting your need with another time when you were more concerned with meeting your spouse’s need. Which was more successful? Why?

  4. Has anyone ever told you how he or she thought you needed to feel in a situation, basically telling you that you were wrong to feel the way you did in that moment? How did that make you feel? How did you react to him or her? Do you struggle with being empathetic toward your spouse and meeting them emotionally wherever they are, no matter if you feel they are wrong or not?