5 Ways to Show Up for Your Wife When She’s Struggling

I’d never seen my wife so overwhelmed with emotion. She had gotten into an argument with our teenage son, and he had said some things that were absolutely cutting. He didn’t mean them and would later apologize, but they were effective—they crushed her. Adding insult to injury is that I was frozen. I had no idea how to care for her. I hadn’t figured out yet how to handle my own emotions, let alone hers.

Men are notoriously uncomfortable with emotions. While of course that’s not true for every man, certainly many of us don’t know what to do with strong feelings. It’s not that we don’t care; we just haven’t been taught how to face our own emotions head-on, so we’re ill-equipped to walk with our wives well. But if you’re going to wield the type of strength your wife needs you to have, you’re going to need to learn how to support your wife emotionally. Here are 5 ways to show up for your wife when she’s struggling.

1. Actively listen.

I don’t know about you, but when my wife is struggling, I tend to listen to fix rather than really to hear her. “Well,” you might say, “isn’t fixing the problem better than just listening to it?” Maybe. But it’s possible you don’t actually understand the problem, in which case, you need to listen. And it’s even more likely that the solution is often less about action and more about connection.

So if you’re wondering how to support your wife emotionally, start with active listening. Ask questions to clarify and ensure you understand. Repeat back the things that you’ve heard her say to confirm you comprehend it and to make it clear you heard her. While this won’t make the problem go away, it will ensure she knows she isn’t alone. And that’s half the battle.

2. Empathize.

Along with listening, do your best to empathize. It’s possible, even likely, you don’t understand why this particular situation is so bothersome to your wife. If it were you, you might not think it’s a big deal. But the point is, she isn’t you. She feels the weight of this situation whether you understand why or not.

So if you’re wondering how to support your wife emotionally, work to empathize. Try to understand not just what is bothering her, but why. Don’t dismiss it as insignificant, even if it feels that way at first blush. Do what you can to see it from her perspective, without passing judgment.

3. Take time.

Sometimes we want to fix the problem for our wives, not just because we care about them, but because all this emotional stuff makes us uncomfortable. Therefore we try to move through the problem to the solution as quickly as possible. Not only can this cause us to push our wives to do something before she is ready, but it can also cause us to completely miss out on connecting with her.

So if you’re wondering how to support your wife emotionally, slow down. Active listening and empathy will necessitate this. Don’t push through the conversation as quickly as possible because you’re uncomfortable. Sit with your wife in it and walk at the pace she’s willing to go.

4. Offer care.

When our wives are struggling, our temptation is to offer opinions or solutions or information. We think more data will aid in her attempt to solve the problem. Certainly this is true in some situations, say when your wife wants to replace her brake pads. Information can be incredibly useful in that scenario. However, when she’s struggling, she rarely needs more information or your opinion. But she does need and desire to receive your care.

So if you’re wondering how to support your wife emotionally, offer care. This could be a physical act like a hug or sitting next to her with an arm around her. Or it could be something like offering to take a task off of her to-do list so that she can take time to rest or reflect. You know (at least you should) what types of care best communicates love and support for your wife. Do that.

5. Be present.

My brain is always working on several things at once, so sometimes when my wife is talking to me, my mind is still thinking about that conversation I had with my boss at work or the task I need to work on tonight or, worse yet, the game I’m missing because of the conversation we’re having. But my wife is smart. And so is yours. She can tell when you’re only half paying attention, and that speaks volumes to her about how you value her.

So if you’re wondering how to support your wife emotionally, be present. Whatever else is going on in that moment—unless one of the kids is literally setting the house on fire—takes a back seat to your wife. Do what you need to do to compartmentalize all of that and set it aside. Maybe that means write a list or set your phone in the next room. But whatever it takes, it’s worth it.

Sound off: What are ways you try to show up for your wife when she is struggling?

If you’re looking to romance your wife, check out these 8 Romantic Things Wives Want Husbands to Do.

Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What is the best way to help you when you’re struggling?”