Q: Is there a way to stop my spouse from trying to “fix” my problems and actually start listening to me? I just need to “vent” from time to time, but whenever I start sharing my emotions, he cuts me off with a list of “fixes.” I’m not looking for “answers” – just a listening ear.
A: Talking effectively with another person about your feelings and emotions is a delicate art. This is especially true in marriage. Both spouses – male or female, pragmatic or introspective, “right-brain” or “left-brain” – have moments when they simply want a partner who’s capable of listening instead of offering advice. When this doesn’t happen, the relationship can feel unsafe, and the depth of conversation can become shallow and unsatisfying.
If your spouse responds as a “problem solver” when you’re simply “venting,” thinking out loud, or airing your feelings, reply honestly and straightforwardly. Say something like, “When I’m not allowed to finish my sentences, I feel discounted and unimportant to you. What I need is to be heard.”
Here are some key principles to keep in mind when talking about feelings:
- Be respectful and honouring when your spouse takes responsibility for his or her emotions and behaviours.
- Understand that men and women have different communication styles.
- Develop conflict resolution strategies before attempting to bare your soul.
- Be intentional about adopting an approach to your conversations that will be nurturing to both of you.
- Commit yourselves to make your marriage as enjoyable as possible.
All of this sets the stage for safe self-disclosure. What happens next is up to you and your spouse. If you need help sorting it all out and making it work, call our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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