Jan 19 2008

Chicago men…want to help your marriage? Validate your wife’s feelings…

Ever wish your wife was not so emotional or get defensive when she accuses you of not caring enough for her, family or family responsibilities?

I spend a lot of time trying to help men see the value of listening to their wife or partner. This is probably a little extreme, but a typical conversation might go like this:

Wife: I am so mad that you came home so late last night. You tell me you will be home at a certain time, but you are always late. I can never trust what you say.

Husband: That’s not true. I’m not always late. What do you want from me. I have a job that requires me to entertain. I can’t control the time I get home. You are totally unreasonable and have no right to be angry at me.

The husband is not really listening to the feelings of his wife. He is anticipating what she is going to say and reacting defensively. Rather than validating her feelings, he is telling her she has no right to feel the way she does.

Let’s take a look at a way of talking where the husband validates his wife’s feelings:

Wife: I am so mad that you came home so late last night. You tell me you will be home at a certain time, but you are always late. I can never trust what you say.

Husband: I can see why you would be mad. You’re right. I know you are waiting for me to get home and underestimate how long I will be. I say I will be home earlier than I know I will be to avoid getting you upset. It backfires on me because it gets you more angry that I am not more honest about when I will get home. I am sorry I do that and understand why it makes you angry. I need to be more realistic about when I can get home and try to not work so many evenings.

This second example is a great way to respond for the following reasons:

  • the husband validates his wife’s feelings. He tells her, ” I can see why you would be mad…”
  • He takes responsibility for his behavior. He admits he tells her he will be home earlier, when he knows it is not true.
  • He apologizes right away. He says, “I am sorry I do that…”
  • And he shows empathy by saying “I understand why it makes you angry.”

Learning the skill of validation will help you build and maintain closeness and intimacy in the relationship that counts the most.

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