When I first sat down to write this blog, I asked myself, “Why me? Why am I writing a blog on how to understand a strong-willed spouse?” The answer followed quickly: “YOU ARE A STRONG-WILLED SPOUSE.” 

I must confess this is true. I was a strong-willed child who now is a strong-willed spouse, and I want to give you some tips for understanding your strong-willed spouse.

Often at the beginning of relationships, it’s the differences that attract. You must admit that your spouse probably didn’t become strong-willed overnight. When you began your relationship, they may have exhibited strong-willed qualities that benefited your relationship. They were firm and steadfast in their beliefs and in their decisions. They were transparent with boundaries and expectations. 

But now, them being strong-willed has become a problem to be solved. However, your strong-willed spouse doesn’t see themselves as having or being a problem. They are being themselves. As such, your spouse sees themselves as determined, passionate, self-assured, confident, or knowing their own mind. 

How do you learn to understand, appreciate and respect your strong-willed spouse?

Here are 5 tips for you to keep in mind.

1. Your approach to them matters.

When you have a topic to discuss or a problem to solve, how you approach it makes a world of difference. If you want your spouse’s input, invite them into the conversation. For example, “I would love to get your feedback on this issue. When do you have time?” This provides the strong-willed spouse the opportunity to choose to join instead of feeling like there is no choice or that they are minimizing their will to you.

2. Give them space to figure out their point of view.

Strong-willed people often have to experience things to figure out what they think or how they feel about situations. They are not likely to “just take your word for it.” Giving your partner the time and space to come to their own rationale before you have a conversation will allow for better communication and/or problem-solving.

3. They have feelings beneath the surface.

It can become easy to believe that a strong-willed partner doesn’t have any feelings. Everyone has feelings. However, we express them differently. Help your partner feel safe to express emotions by asking questions. Becoming a “compassionate detective” with your spouse shows them that you care about what is happening inside them. 

4. Timing is key.

Everyone has their own sense of timing. You have to learn the timing of your strong-willed spouse. You may even ask, “Is this a good time? If not, then when?” Suppose your strong-willed spouse happens to be a sports fan (like me). In that case, they may appreciate you waiting to ask a question or waiting until a commercial or halftime to ask for help. 

5. You’re on the same team, yet have different (roles, positions, responsibilities).

There are 11 offensive players in football, 11 players on defense, and 11 players on special teams. For the team to be successful, each player needs to know their position and responsibilities. On the football field, the center gives the football to the quarterback. If there’s a mix-up, the quarterback can’t say, “Move out the way, center. I’ll do your job and my job.” Likewise, in your relationship, you each play different roles/positions. Your relationship can flourish when you both embrace and see the positives of how you each play your part.

Marriage is made up of two different people walking through life together. Once you begin to see your spouse’s strong will positively, it will enhance your relationship. 

I’ve been married for 27 years as a strong-willed spouse. It hasn’t always been rainbows, glitter, and unicorns. It wasn’t easy learning to help each other be the best we could be, especially with our differences. What helped us was fully embracing the idea that different is not deficient. When you and your spouse bring your best and whole selves to the table, your marriage benefits.

Other helpful blogs:

How to Parent a Strong-Willed Child

3 Ways to Be a Better Listener

How to Be An Emotionally Safe Spouse

How to Communicate Better With Your Spouse

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