7 One-Liners for When Your Wife Is Hurting

Early in our marriage, my wife told me several times that she had challenges with a coworker. I felt terrible for my wife. I wanted her to love her job, and this situation stood in the way. Because this was an ongoing situation, I offered her some of what I believed to be good advice.

I said, “I know you don’t like confrontation, but having a difficult, five-minute conversation might pay off in the long run.” Whether this was good advice or not, it was clear she didn’t want it because she made the same face she makes when something in the fridge smells iffy. I now know that what she wanted was empathy. I’ve learned that when she is upset, concerned, or angry, empathy is my best response. If she wants my advice, she will ask. Here’s the great news: Empathy in marriage is way simpler than trying to convince, cajole, or even encourage your wife out of her emotions. Here are 7 one-liners for when your wife is hurting.

1. “That’s understandable.”

No other words have simultaneously helped us prevent conflict and create a connection as much as the words “that’s understandable.” The next time your wife is sad or frustrated, simply say, “You are feeling ________, and that is understandable.” Never will you feel like more of a relational magician.

2. “I can see why this matters to you.”

Empathy in marriage is about seeing things from your wife’s perspective, not your own. Putting yourself in her shoes always makes her emotions more understandable. This simple sentence will let your wife know that you care enough to think about why something’s important to her—and it lets her know that what’s important to her is important to you.

3. “This hurt you.”

Whether you understand why or not, simply acknowledging someone else’s pain is a huge relational connector. The only thing worse than pain is feeling pain alone. Let your wife know she is never alone in her pain and that you are there for all her emotions, even the tough ones.

4. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

Own it. So often we can’t understand why something hurts our wives. We think and even say, “How could you be so hurt by that?” Everyone is different. If she said it hurt her, it hurt her. Saying “I’m sorry I hurt you” is simple and powerful.

5. “It makes sense why this situation at work is making you feel ___________.”

Even if your wife is your coworker, you can’t fully understand what her workday truly looks and feels like. So, empathy is all you can offer her unless she asks for something else.

6. “I believe you.”

This sentence is new for me, and it has been powerful. We all want others to believe that what is happening and what we are feeling is true. If your wife seems to be getting increasingly frustrated about the situation, assure her you believe what she is saying.

7. “Can I help you?”

This question only fits certain situations because it can feel as if you are trying to fix your wife’s emotions. But sometimes it is appropriate. For instance, if your wife says, “I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done tomorrow.” Wait a few minutes after the conversation, and say, “Hey, I know you are slammed tomorrow. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Sound off: What is your best one-liner for communicating empathy in marriage?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When you are feeling sad, what is the best thing I can do?”