A few weeks ago, I was spending time with one of my mentors and we talked about marriage. In this conversation, we talked about feeling emotional distance from our spouses, and he made two statements I will never forget. First, he said, “Marriage is a physical sport,” and he addressed the need for physical touch and intimacy. Most men would agree that this is vital for a healthy marriage, and we all want more of it.
Second, he said, “Marriage is an emotional sport,” and he addressed the importance of understanding each other’s emotions. It creates the kind of emotional safety in marriage that leads to more intimacy. Most men are not as quick to address it and would rather avoid emotions if possible. The challenge for all of us is that emotions are real, we both have them, and they can cause destruction in our marriage if we let them. Here are 3 emotional threats to your marriage.
1. Resentful Support
Maybe you travel for work and your wife supports you but makes you feel bad for leaving. This is resentful support and can cause major conflict in your marriage. It goes both ways and can cause guilt, shame, passive aggression, and complaining. In order to fight back against resentful support, you both must address your assumptions and talk about them. Your wife may make you feel bad for going to work because she assumes you don’t like being home. By addressing any assumptions either of you is making, you can get to the bottom of the problem and resolve it. You have to talk about it when either one of you feels resentful support present.
2. Critical Assessment
When you are running late to dinner and you make it a point to criticize your wife for all the reasons you are late, this is a critical assessment. You are assessing the situation with criticism instead of solutions, which causes anger, frustration, and resentment. Again, this goes both ways and she can give it right back to you. To fight against this threat, you must remove “you” statements from your comments. Instead of saying “you are making us late,” say that “we are running late and I don’t like to be late.” The next time you find yourself frustrated, give it a try by removing the “you” statements as you communicate with your wife.Sometimes all you need is a different vantage point to see what’s really going on.
3. Assumed Letdown
This is when you ask your wife to do something, but in your mind, you assume she is not going to get it done. Over time, this causes disappointment, bitterness, and anger for both of you. Eventually, you both stop asking each other to do anything, creating emotional distance. To fight this threat, whoever is assuming letdown must identify the source of this emotion. Maybe you have past wounds of parents, old girlfriends, or buddies who let you down, so you assume your wife is going to let you down too. Maybe your expectations are so high that your partner will never meet them.
The reality is that most of us are wired to want things to be done our way, but often, we need to reevaluate our way and our expectations. Yes, you must talk about these emotions with your wife, but you must also look in the mirror and ask yourself what the source really is of what’s going on. If you can identify sources of your assumed letdown, then you must take a step back and ask, “How can I look at this differently?” Sometimes all you need is a different vantage point to see what’s really going on.
Sound off: What can we do to create emotional safety in marriage?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What is one thing I could do to be a better husband?”