Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

So often in marriage, our good intentions toward our spouse just do not get through in the way we intend. Recently while meeting with a newly married young couple, the wife was frustrated that her husband was not sympathetic when she told him about her difficulties at work. She comes home feeling disappointed and annoyed by the situation she had to endure. She needs to talk about it, to vent. However, her husband’s response is not what she had hoped for. Though his intent is to help her, he actually makes things worse. What does he do? He tries to fix it. First, he gets angry and then gives an abundance of advice. “If you would just take control of this situation…” or, “Why don’t you just tell your coworker …” Then he expresses anger at her for the situation she is in.

It does not take a psychologist to figure out that his response is not going to make her feel better. Nor does it empower her to go to work the next day and do what he suggested would solve the problem. Rather, it leaves her feeling even more frustrated. In addition, she feels rejected and criticized by the one she thought would be her support system. Now, compounding her problems, she is not only frustrated about her work situation, but about her marriage as well. If she cannot share her feelings about work with her husband and get understanding, where can she go? She certainly is not going to share her concerns with him tomorrow.

How frequently this scene plays out in relationships. Yet there is a simple relationship principle that can easily “fix” this problem: When someone shares an emotion, the first response to him or her should always be an emotion. Ask yourself this question: How do I feel about what this person is going through? Then share that with him or her. Alternatively, if the person shares a situation with you but does not express an emotion, say, “Wow, that must have made you feel ____________________.” (Insignificant, angry, overwhelmed, peaceful, etc.)

Imagine if the husband in the scenario above said, “I am so sad that you are going through that at work.” Or, “You must feel so frustrated by that situation. Do you think you should do anything?” Chances are the wife would have felt understood and cared for and may choose to discuss it further. The husband at that point may be asked for his input or advice. This is an easy principle to apply in any relationship. It helps the person in the relationship to feel valued, validated and cared for. It only takes a sentence or two. Too often, our tendency is to give logic and advice first, which makes the other person feel criticized and unaccepted, as though their feelings are unimportant. I wonder how many arguments start right there.

It is easy to show we care but sometimes we need coaching to break bad habits learned in childhood and previous relationships. Let your good intentions shine through by learning to communicate in ways that your spouse can receive positively. Small changes like this one can make a big difference in meeting needs in the relationship. Try it out today and see if this principle works for you.

If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone or use the form below to request more information about our Marriage Helper 911 workshop for troubled marriages. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for you and your particular situation. We also offer solutions for couples who can’t attend the workshop.

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One thought on “Why Trying to ‘Fix it’ Does Not Help

  • December 11, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Dear Joe,
    I am not married but have a dear friend who is. We were friends before his marriage. We have kept in touch occasionally by phone, facebook, ect. I also spoke with his wife over the years. It was few months ago when they had a store Grand Opening and I made the trip to see them. Only a couple of hours after arriving I found out that less than a month earlier he had planned to commit suiside. I styed with them a couple of days spending time with them both but trying to get to the bottom of why things had taken such a turn that he had planned to kill himself. He and I spent some time cutting up about our past and I spent time with the entire family. His wife was very busy that weekend, There was hardly any time to sit down and talk with her one on one so I ended up going to work with her so we could also have some one on one girl time.
    I scheduled my friend to do some work on my car since he was close to a job that I was working. Over the two weeks between my visit and the car repair we spoke in some way or another every few days. I had felt like I needed to be there for him because in the past he had been there for me and helped me through something I had been struggling with emotionally. I still was not at ease about his state of mind. There were times that he seemed withdrawn from everyone.
    When I went back to get the work done to my car his wife was again very busy. She also seemed to be giving me the cold shoulder. My car repairs were not done that night so I stayed the night once again. Still the cold shoulder from his wife. I thought perhaps she was stressed out nd just did not feel like having compny so I steered clear.While my car was being finished I helped with the kids home schooling and asked him if when my car was done I could take the kids out for a while to take the lessons I had tought them that day into real world experience. He said that would be fine. Before tking the kids out I had him go with me for a test drive to make sure we were both comfortable with me taking the kids out in it. Before we had even left the driveway his wife called asking where we were going and he told her. The look on my face said it all. He explained to me tht she had been watching the cameras within the store and garage all day. I also learned that she had 360 on all their phones, and programs to monitor everything incoming and out going on all phones, emails, facebook, you name it. I told him that it was his life nd his marriage but I personally could not live inside a cage like that. It isn’t that I am not a trustworthy person but I believe that trust is what you have t have when people are outside of your personal controll.
    The kids and I went out and returned a few hours later after going to lunch and the book store. When we returned his wiife was there and still giving me the cold shoulder. I waited for the shop to close because I needed to find out what was going on which had turned this woman who was so sweet to me the last time that I was there into such a cold shouldered person. She told me that people had been asking her questions and had brought some things to her ttention. She sid that she did not feel that some of my actions on the last visit had been appropriate. I told her that I was sorry I had made her feel that was and that I would see what I could do to adjust those things so that it would no longer be an issue. She lso sid that she had had a dream or vision that her husbnd nd I had kissed nd that no matter how hard she hd tried to dismiss it she just couldn’t. I tried to assure her that nothing like that would ever happen. I left and went home. It was the anniversary of my husbands death which always is a difficult time for me. She and I spoke about it some before her womens retreat. Her husband called to check on me while she was gone. We spoke for a long time. His kids, my husband, goofy jokes to take his minf off her not being there with him and me not missing my husband,
    She got a message on the phone call stating how long our conversation had been and messaged me asking me to call her after she got to work the following Monday. She accused me of trying to steal her family from her and the conversation got quite heated.
    I care very much for my friend and his entire family. This arguement with his wife however has put a wedge between us that I am unsure can be mended. I don’t know what to do. I do not want to lose my friend and this woman I am told has held a grudge against a cat for 30 years.
    They need help. Help with their individul problems as well as their marital problems. I know I can not be the one to help them, but I would still like to be her friend because without her friendship my friendship with him will be made impossible. How can we all molve beyond this?


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