Man In The Mirror: Honoring Your Wife’s Emotions

"Are you OK?"

I"m a reasonably intelligent man, but it took me almost a decade of marriage to realize that those can be three dangerous words. Many of you have probably learned this as well. To a woman who is hurting, "Are you OK?" can be the wrong question. Consider these typical examples:

+   A few months ago I arrived home on Saturday afternoon from an overnight trip, and then scheduled an early Sunday meeting the next morning at church. I knew I"d be home from the meeting by 8:15 AM, so figured it was no big deal. Ruthie seemed to want me to cancel or move the meeting. During the discussion, I began to think she just wanted to get her own way, while she wondered why I couldn"t understand how she felt.

+   One night when Scott and Jennifer were on a date they had a disagreement at dinner. On the way home, he asked her "Is everything OK?" and she just glared at him from the other side of the car.

+   John and Barbara have been through a rocky time in their marriage. Their difficulties mean that Barbara has been very emotional, but whenever she cries John leaves the room. She feels like if she expresses her emotions the conversation will be over.

What"s going on here? Why is this so difficult? How should a husband react to his wife"s emotions? The scriptures say…

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
(1 Peter 3:7, NIV)

It"s Not About You

Another translation says to "live with your wives in an understanding way." One of ways to be "understanding" is to remember that when your wife is upset, it"s not about you. It"s so easy for us as men to react to our wife"s emotions as if they are an indictment on us.

Somewhere deep inside we feel like it is our job to make our wife happy, and when they aren"t we feel powerless. We feel like a failure. It makes us uncomfortable – we hate not knowing what to do.

So what do we do? Instead of focusing on the hurt our wife is experiencing, we often try to get rid of our uncomfortable feelings by
stopping our wife"s emotions. One way we try to bring emotions to an end is by "fixing the problem." Of course, your wife does not want to be treated like a problem that needs to be fixed.

A second way we try to make these tense situations end is to shame our wife into feeling bad about feeling bad. "If you wouldn"t get so emotional maybe we could work on our marriage."

Using the analogy of a tennis match, when we try to cut off our wife"s emotions by "fixing it" or shaming her, we have just ended a point with an overhead smash. An overhead smash is a great way to end a rally in tennis, but not a very good way to honor your wife.

Empathize with Her

When your wife is upset, she doesn"t want you to fix it-she wants to be heard. She wants you to empathize.

One of a woman"s greatest needs is for intimacy and emotional connection. At a time of great stress, if you turn her away, she gets the message that you are not really there for her. She begins to feel like she is not safe with you.

Consider this diagnostic question: the last time your wife went through an emotional time, who did she turn to? Who did she call on the phone? Who did she go see? Often a woman will share her hurt with a female friend who will listen and empathize with her.

With her friends, she is not afraid to cry and show real emotions. She knows she will still be heard. While it makes sense that a woman would turn to friends in a time of need, it does raise the question, "Why is it so hard for many men to provide this emotional connection for their wives?"

Besides feeling uncomfortable and wanting the emotions to end, many men often desire to "win" in the discussion. We often want our wife to know we were right.

Men typically believe that empathizing with their wife is the same thing
as saying she is justified in what she believes or the way she feels. So if I don"t agree with my wife"s conclusions, I find it difficult to validate her emotions. I feel two-faced, like I am saying I agree with her when I don"t.

Let"s say she is upset about a joke someone made about her clothes. You believe it was an innocent comment made in jest; she believes it was an intentional insult. Most men would be hesitant to validate her feelings for fear that she would believe they agreed with her conclusion about the comment.

As men, we need to separate these two ideas. We can disagree with our wife"s conclusion or feelings but still understand that those feelings are real and hurtful. In the moment, it"s enough to say, "I know it hurts when you feel like you have been attacked." There"ll be time later to talk about the reality behind the pain.

If we really want to bring about transformation, the best way to do that is to support our wives emotionally until they come to a place where we can prayerfully work together and see things the way God would want us to.

She needs us to empathize with her and let her know that we understand – and also to tell her what we are thinking and feeling, even if it includes that we are uncomfortable with her feelings.

Selflessly Loving Her Will Make You Happy

The paradox of marriage is the paradox of the gospel-when we lose our life for others we find it again. If you put your wife first in every situation, including honoring her emotions, then God promises you will find a deeper joy than you could otherwise ever know.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-28, NIV)

He who loves his wife loves himself. Why? Because you were made to love God and others, and when you do this you are doing exactly what God made you to do. The most "selfish" thing you can do as a husband is to sacrificially lay down your life for your wife. This will bring you the greatest joy.

The beauty of God"s plan is that your sacrificial love will also help to make her holy. Your wife is not always right and you are not always wrong-it will usually be a combination of both. Emotions can be a righteous reaction to circumstances or a manipulative attempt at control-and everything in between.

What God wants is for us as men to be less worried about who is right or wrong and how we can win, and more worried about how we can help our wife become everything He wants her to be.

The Big Idea is this: Your wife"s heart is a treasure, and God has entrusted it to you . When a woman is not OK, she wants her husband to recognize it, then pursue her and listen to her heart. She wants us to honor her emotions.

Treat your wife with dignity and respect. Listen to her heart. Serve her and lead her to a greater love for Christ and for you. This is what marriage is all about.


+   How would your wife say you respond to her emotions? Why not ask her and listen to her talk? Then prayerfully consider your next steps: making things right with God, writing your wife a letter, sharing your own feelings and concerns with her, etc.

+   Which of the ideas in this article resonated with you the most? Why? Consider sharing this insight with your wife and at least one other man. How will this truth change your beliefs and behavior this week?

+   What other men do you know who need to consider these ideas? Consider sharing this article with them and then following up to talk about application to their lives and marriages.


~ by thoughtcrime2 on April 28, 2006.

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