2 Game-Changing, Simple Statements for Your Marriage

For years, any tension with my wife, Nancie, had the same steps—just different topics. They were as follows:

Step 1: My wife shared something bothering her.

Step 2: I tried to fix her problems with suggestions and encouragement.

Step 3: She argued why all my suggestions and encouragement were flawed.

Step 4: I got frustrated because I thought she didn’t value my opinions.

Step 5: The distance between us grew.

Step 6: We stayed disconnected until one or both of us decided to let it go.

This was our repeated conflict cycle in the early days. Then one day she said something to me that changed everything: “I don’t want you to fix it; I want you to feel it.” She just wanted me to be with her. In defense of us fixers, sometimes, our fixing comes from a good place. We just want to help. But sometimes, the reason we try to fix our wives’ emotions is because we don’t like their emotions. Regardless of our motives, here are 2 statements that can be game changers when we are tempted to fix instead of feel.

1. “That is understandable.”

There are no other words that have simultaneously helped us to avoid conflict and create connection as much as simply saying this: “That is understandable.” The next time your wife is sad or frustrated, say, “You are feeling __________, and that is understandable.” It’s magic. And it’s how you show empathy to your wife.

Empathy is not about understanding something from your point of view but from the other person’s.

2. “If I were you, I would feel the same way.”

It’s also important to note that empathy is not about understanding something from your point of view but from the other person’s. In other words, your job isn’t to judge your wife’s emotions as right or wrong from where you’re standing. It’s to move out of your shoes and step into hers. So let’s say your wife is neater than you. She wakes up to find a sink full of dirty dishes. She cleans them, but she is frustrated she had to.

You simply say, “I apologize. If I were you, I would feel the same way.” When you use this, you prove you’ve learned how to show empathy to your wife.

The point is, there may be no greater gift you can give your wife than the gift of feeling understood. And remember, your wife is not a problem to be fixed; she is a person to be loved.

Sound off: What statements of empathy have you found to be the most effective?

Huddle up with your wife and ask, “When you are sad or frustrated, what’s the best way for me to love you?”