Q&A: How to approach your spouse about sensitive issuesWritten by Mitch Temple
Question: Every time I try to bring up ideas on improving our relationship, my husband shuts down. He says he doesn’t want someone telling him what to do. How can we grow in our marriage without my husband feeling as though I’m controlling him?
Often we get the wrong reactions from our mate because we approach things the wrong way. Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t be condescending. If you begin your conversation in a patronizing tone, he will likely shut down or react negatively. A more positive, kinder approach may open doors for further discussion.
- If he does open up, don’t shut him down because you disagree with his statements. Simply listen. Try to understand where he is coming from. If he feels understood, he will more likely be open to understanding your point of view. The goal is not necessarily to agree; the goal is to listen and open dialogue.
- Don’t react in anger. Becoming angry will only remind him of why he shut down before.
- Approach him at the right time. Avoid broaching sensitive issues when either of you is stressed.
- Don’t begin with blame or accusation. Again, he will only withdraw or overreact. Begin with a statement like: "You know, I recently realized that the way I’ve been approaching this issue with you is totally wrong." If sincere, this confession models humility to your husband and allows him to see that you are not placing all the blame on him.
- Help him to understand that your goal is not to control him but to address issues in your marriage that are causing a great deal of pain for both of you. Ask if he is willing to talk to a Christian counsellor or a mentor couple to get ideas on how to properly deal with the issues.
Remember, not every problem can be resolved once and for all. Some marriage problems keep coming up. The goal is to learn to manage the problem in a way that is pleasing and honouring to God. Be encouraged; couples have been successfully managing marriage problems since the dawn of man. Don’t give up.
Mitch Temple was the director of Focus on the Family Colorado’s marriage department and a licensed marriage and family therapist at the time of publication.
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