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To the Husband Who Hurt His Wife

Take the healing process one day at a time.

To the husband who hurt his wife:

Marriage is tough, and we all make mistakes. I’ve made some big ones in my marriage. I don’t know what mistake you made or what you did to hurt your wife, but I do know this: You have a chance to save your marriage. Choosing to do so is a huge first step. 

I’ve been where you are. By our second year of marriage, I screwed up majorly and hurt the one person who matters more to me than anyone else. But, as I write this, we are celebrating our 17th anniversary. So I offer you hope IF you’re willing to invest the time and energy.

I’d like to tell you there’s a quick fix or three steps to healing a broken marriage, but there’s not. If you are committed to repairing the relationship, and your wife is open to it, all you can do is take it day by day.

Let’s start here. You have to own what you did. 

Don’t pass the blame off on anyone else. You made a decision; you did something wrong. Own that. As I said, I made some big mistakes, and I own them. My wife isn’t at fault for my past decisions. I carry the burden of my mistakes, and it can be a heavy burden. But when she sees that you own your mistakes, she may be more willing to forgive you.

Show your wife that you desire to mend the relationship. 

This takes effort. She needs to see that you want to make things right. Gifts and flowers won’t heal these wounds. Depending on the gravity of the mistake, there may be a massive break in trust. You have to rebuild it. You have to walk with her hand in hand. She may need space to process. You may need to seek out counseling. Ask her what she needs, not what you can do to make up for your mistake. What is required to heal both of you may take you out of your comfort zone, too. The best step for us was a fresh start. So five and a half years into our marriage, we relocated 1,000 miles from our hometown. The next five years were about reconnecting with each other and reestablishing who we were as a family. During this time, we decided to use our struggles to help other young couples. It may take years to repair the damage that’s been done, but it’s worth the wait. Your relationship can still move forward.  

Wounds take time to heal. 

Emotional wounds take significantly more time than physical wounds. The deeper the wound, the longer it takes to heal. Stay by her side. She isn’t the only one who needs healing either. The fact that you hurt her enough that you are questioning the security of your marriage means you need time to heal as well. Warning: Guilt is dangerous. Don’t let it consume you. Seek individual help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

And then there’s pride. For us men, it can be challenging to set our pride aside. If you’re honest, pride may have gotten you where you are. You have to humble yourself enough to own what you did. A healthy marriage takes sacrifice and putting each other’s needs first. 

Your relationship can survive! 

If you’re both willing to work together, you can move beyond this hurt. And you know what? Your relationship will come out stronger. I am still processing and healing from my mistakes. I don’t know that I will ever fully heal. But I do know that my wife has forgiven me. I know I am harder on myself than she is. We are healthier today than we’ve ever been. Our marriage is stronger, and we see our past issues as a way to help other marriages. 

You’ve got this. Take it one day at a time. No matter how hard it seems, don’t give up. I’m rooting for you, and I’m here for you!

Other helpful resources:

How to Rebuild Trust in Marriage

7 Ways to Increase Trust in Marriage

Will My Spouse Ever Forgive Me?

Maximize Your Marriage Course

Should You Apologize to Your Spouse for Something You Didn’t Do?

There may be more to apology than just saying the words.

I’m sorry. 

Let’s face it — these two little words are packed with meaning, depending on the situation. 

I’m sorry I screwed up. 

I’m sorry you feel that way.

I am sorry, but it wasn’t my fault.

I’m sorry you’re a jerk. 

Apologies matter in marriage. But we know all apologies aren’t equal. It’s not always whether we use the words, but how we use them that makes a difference. 

Stuff happens in marriage.

Words get said. Feelings get hurt. Expectations aren’t met. Misunderstandings occur. Responsibilities fall by the wayside. Someone forgets an anniversary. 

All the same, these things cause your marital connection to run off the rails. Even with minor instances, you want to get back on track with your spouse. But how do you do that? Well, research tells us apology is one of the most essential tools for reconciliation in the eyes of both the offender and the offended.

Last night, my wife and I were going to sleep, and she decided to have a little fun. She put her hand up close to my face, thinking I was unaware of it in the dark. Unfortunately, she miscalculated my ninja-like sensibilities. I felt it, reacted on reflex, and accidentally poked her in the eye. 

Was it my fault? No, not really. Was it on purpose? Absolutely not. It was a reaction. Did I apologize? Profusely! I would never intentionally harm my wife, and, taken the wrong way, she might think I wasn’t concerned for her well-being. My sincere apology smoothed out the situation. (Her eyesight is fully restored, by the way.

Of course, there’s more to an apology than the words. Most of us were taught the formula: Say the words = everything is okay now. 

Did you bite your teacher’s ankle again, Mikey? You need to go and apologize…

And for many of us, that formula got passed down to our marriage. Apology as words-only, at the least, is ineffective. And at the most, it does more damage. 

Consider these times when you shouldn’t simply say I’m sorry to your spouse: 

  • To simply end the argument because it’s uncomfortable
  • When you don’t know what you’re apologizing for, but you know you’re being blamed for something again
  • To get something from your spouse, like an admittance of wrongdoing or a “return-apology” 
  • To manipulate someone into forgiving behavior you fully intend to keep doing

So then, why apologize? Say it with me:

I apologize when I recognize my contributions to our disconnect

Apologizing isn’t always a matter of something that was “right” or “wrong.” Many times it’s simply a matter of contributing to an issue. There’s a difference. 

Think of it like this: 

I apologize…

  • When I do something flat-out wrong. (Duh. That’s obvious.) 
  • Even when it was unintentional. 
  • When I didn’t do something morally wrong, but still, I didn’t consider your feelings.
  • For miscommunication on my part. 

Studies tell us that a genuine apology expresses ownership and remorse for something, seeks to empathize with how it affected the other person, and tries to compensate in some way for the offense. 2,3 In short, apology is about restoring the relationship rather than erasing the wrong. 

So should you apologize to your spouse for something you didn’t do?

The bigger question is, What were your contributions to the disconnect? And how did that affect your spouse? And what can you do to restore the marital connection? 

Talk about it together. Empathize. Consider your contribution. Take ownership of that. See it from your spouse’s point of view. And then ask, Do I need to apologize?

The result? You move further ahead in your relationship than where you were before the disconnect. There is a deeper right than being right.

I’m not going to share what happened with my spouse after the eye-poke incident. (That’s personal – but let’s just say we weren’t sleepy after that.) But I will tell you that what followed would not have happened without a wholehearted apology. Connection restored.  

When conflicts are managed well and effective apologies are made, your marriage can come out even better on the other side.4 And that’s nothing to feel sorry about! 

Sources:

1Fehr, R., Gelfand, M. J., & Nag, M. (2010). The Road to Forgiveness: A Meta-Analytic 

Synthesis of Its Situational and Dispositional Correlates. Psychological Bulletin, 136(5), 894–914. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019993

2Anderson, J. C., Linden, W., & Habra, M. E. (2006). Influence of Apologies and Trait Hostility on 

Recovery from Anger. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29(4), 347–358. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10865-006-9062-7

3Kirchhoff, J., Wagner, U., & Strack, M. (2012). Apologies: Words of Magic? The Role of Verbal 

Components, Anger Reduction, and Offence Severity. Peace and Conflict, 18(2), 109–130. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028092

4Gottman, J. M., & Krokoff, L. J. (1989). Marital Interaction and Satisfaction: A Longitudinal 

View. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57(1), 47–52. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.57.1.47

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5 Tips To Keep Sex Healthy In Your Marriage

Build intimacy, connect and do life well together.

How’d you get stuck in a sex rut? It’s just life. It’s normal and to be expected. More importantly, how do you get out? You know, fun, passionate, surprising, and playful sex!

Here are some tips to keep sex healthy, hot, and happenin’ in your marriage.

1. Talk About Sex. 

This is the gateway right here. Many people just aren’t comfortable talking about sex with their spouse. Create an environment where it’s safe for both of you to be honest and vulnerable about your sexual thoughts and feelings. Easier said than done? Probably. 

Here You Go:

Option 1. Make a game out of it. Sexual Truth Or Dare

Option 2. The internet. Is full of questions. To help couples. Get talking. About sex.

Pro-Tip: Keep it positive. No complaining. No judgments. Take turns listening.

2. But What About The Kids?

Isn’t it ironic that you (typically) have kids by having sex, but by having kids, it’s harder to have sex? Again, totally normal, but Kids-In-The-House-Sex: Quick. Muffled. Vanilla. It’s like Splenda. Sure, it’s sweet, but it’s not that pure raw sugar.

The Workaround:

Option 1. Hotel Sex. It doesn’t have to be a vacation or your anniversary. It can be because it’s Thursday and you have a babysitter. You don’t even have to go out of town or somewhere nice. Make it part of the family budget. Best money you’ll spend. Repeat a couple of times a year.

Option 2. Stay-At-Home Synchronized Sick Days. Or take vacation days. Go through your typical morning routines and dress for work. Take the kids to school or daycare like a typical weekday. Nothing going on here. Then meet back at the house. Take your time. It’s not all about sex. Talk through some “get to know you” questions. Go for a walk, then shower together. Have a great day of which sex is just a part.

Pro-Tip: Tell your spouse to take such and such day off. (Don’t tell them why. Plan a fun day.)

3. Don’t Have Sex. Yet.

Anticipation is a powerful stimulant. 

Wait For It:

Option 1. Agree to have sex in 24 hours. Spend that time flirting. Leaving love letters. Texting what you’re looking forward to doing. Engaging in some non-sexual touch. Teasing. Then, finally, pleasing.

Option 2. Same as above, but 72 hours. (Yup.) Crank up that sexual tension. Enjoy it. Don’t neglect the biggest human sexual organ — the mind. Have some great conversations. Do some fun things together. Strengthen your bond. Talk about your relationship.

Pro-Tip: Put your energy into connecting with your spouse in non-sexual ways. Pressure, or wondering if sex is on the table, is off the table. (But you know it’s coming.) Get emotionally intimate in the meantime. When you do connect sexually, it will be more profound.

4. Roll Play.

Equipment Needed: Two dice. You. Your spouse.

The Roll Rules:

Option 1. First dice: (1.) Caress. (2.) Kiss. (3.) Tickle. (4.) Lick. (5.) Nibble. (6.) Roller’s Choice. Second dice: (1.) Neck. (2.) Hands. (3.) Mouth. (4.) Chest. (5.) Tummy. (6.) ???

Roll the dice, feel something nice. Time limit per roll? Hey, this is your game.

Option 2. (I think you can see how this game lends itself to modification.) 

Pro-Tip: Roller with the highest score after 4 rounds gets to “make a request.”

5. Play Doctor.

Sorry, not THAT playing doctor. Have weekly or monthly “check-ups” or “check-ins.” Coming full circle, talking about it is the best way to improve sex and keep it healthy in your marriage. Connecting on levels beyond the physical enhances sex. Connected couples who talk about sex have more satisfying sex lives. Talk honestly about your sexual health. Discuss sexual frequency. Talk about what’s working and what might need to be modified. 

Don’t turn to the internet with questions like, “How much sex should couples have?” Turn to your spouse. Sex is best when you don’t just focus on “doing it,” but doing life well together. 

Other helpful blogs:

How Often Should We Have Sex?

7 Questions Every Couple Needs to Ask Each Other to Improve Their Sex Life

3 Ways Good Communication Can Enhance Sex In Marriage

4 Reasons Why Sex Matters In Marriage

Steps to a Productive Marriage Check-In

Connect, grow, and course-correct. Your marriage will thank you!

In your marriage, have you ever:

  • Let an issue fester to the point it felt impossible to talk about?
  • Left the kids somewhere because you thought your spouse would get them?
  • Worked late and forgot an important family event?
  • Been disappointed about something but never stopped to work through it?

Staying on the same page with your spouse doesn’t happen by accident. 

Businesses have staff meetings. 

Sports have team meetings. 

And marriages need marriage meetings. We’ll call these Marriage Check-Ins.

A Marriage Check-In is when you and your spouse meet to talk about marriage and family stuff.

A Productive Marriage Check-In helps you to:

Be on one page about money, direction, schedules, concerns, expectations, etc.

This can help you avoid assuming, overscheduling, overspending, or leaving your 5-year-old daughter at home to babysit her 3-year-old brother. (I will neither confirm nor deny this occurrence.)

(psssst… Want a fun, lighthearted way to start the money conversation? Check out this Financial Would You Rather from Annuity.org!)

Address issues before they fester and become major.

Things often bother you before they make you mad. Check-ins offer regular opportunities to deal with those things when they’re (hopefully) at the “bother you” stage.

Specify a time to deal with marriage business.

Ever caught yourself discussing plans or concerns during a date? Don’t use precious date nights for marriage business. (At least not that kind of business. ; ) )

Strengthen your couple connection.

Let’s face it. You feel more like a team when you effectively communicate about the important stuff. (Read How to Communicate Better With Your Spouse for some tips.)

Hear and understand each other.

Undivided attention is GOLD in marriage. When you focus on listening and understanding each other, that’s 24-karat magic right there. (Read 3 Ways to Be a Better Listener.)

Remember the important things.

Who hasn’t forgotten a simple social engagement before? 

Steps to a Productive Marriage Check-In

Set a Time

Saturday mornings before kids need you and Sunday evenings after kids’ bedtimes are two great times. Put it on your calendar. Set the notifications. If you have to miss it, you can reschedule it right then. Weekly or every other week is a good idea, and 30 minutes is a reasonable length of time. As you get consistent with the check-ins, you may decide to do them monthly.

Parameters/Boundaries

No kids allowed. No technology except when it’s obviously adding to the value of the meeting, e.g., using your calendar or planning a date and looking up attractions. 

Environment

You’ll probably have a routine. You may discuss on Saturday mornings over coffee or sit on the couch after the kids are in bed. Occasionally, change it up. Check-in while strolling through the neighborhood or a park, driving around town, or while you’re out for breakfast. Enjoy the environment with the one you love.

Always start by Appreciating Your Spouse

Your spouse will look forward to the check-ins because they know they’ll hear something positive about themselves. Start with something like…

  • You know what I like about you? I’m gonna tell you. ___________
  • I liked when you ___________ earlier this week.
  • I noticed your ___________ yesterday.
  • When you ____________, I appreciated it. That was helpful.
  • Thank you for _______________.

Discuss upcoming schedules

Work schedule/changes, community meetings or activities, kids’ events, and social calendar all fall into this category.

Answer the questions:

  • Who’s going?
  • What’s the cost?
  • What’s the time commitment?
  • What needs to be done to prepare?
  • Are there any conflicts?

If you need to make reservations, sign forms, or contact people, clarify who will do it. 

Listen to Your Spouse’s Emotional, Mental, and Physical Needs

Generally, save this for last because it’s the most open-ended. These 3 questions are good starters. And if you use them every time, you may both start thinking about the answers beforehand.

  • How are you doing and feeling?
  • How do you feel like we are doing as a couple?
  • Are there any issues or concerns you’d like us to talk about?

What To Call It

Some of you will call it a Marriage Check-In and be good with that. More adventurous people may want a name with more personality. (Let us know what you come up with!)

Keep in mind: a productive Marriage Check-In isn’t like those never-ending staff meetings, which are a necessary evil. This is with the one you love. It’s a chance to connect, grow, and course-correct so you’ll enjoy your marriage to the fullest. 

Other helpful blogs:

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What Does It Mean to Put Your Spouse First?

It starts with a desire to see them happy, at peace, and connected.

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. The Puzzled Look on my daughter’s face turned to a smile, and then came the proverbial rolling of the eyes (and that’s a good thing).

Here’s the conversation:

Daughter: You’re really not going to be at our basketball game Saturday? (Said with disbelief.)

Me: Nope. I’m taking my wife (who happens to be your mother) on a marriage retreat.

Daughter: Can’t y’all go anytime?

Me: Doesn’t matter. We’re going this weekend. What you worried about? 

Daughter: Nothing. I just… (Shrugs her shoulders.)

Me: If anyone asks where your parents are, just say, “At a marriage retreat acting married.”

Daughter: (Rolls the eyes.)

Me: Don’t worry. We love you, and we hope you play well. But I love that fine-looking queen of mine more.

Daughter: (Walks away smiling, rolling her eyes, and I’m guessing, processing what’s just happened.)

She’s witnessing me putting her mother, a.k.a. my spouse, ahead of her. 

What does it mean to put your spouse first? 

It doesn’t mean that you miss every sporting event, never hang out with friends, or never work overtime. It starts with the heart. And your actions and thoughts will reflect the contents of your heart.

A priority is something we treat or rank as more important. Putting your spouse first above work, children, hobbies, birth family, or other responsibilities means prioritizing your spouse. It doesn’t mean we neglect work, abandon our children or don’t do the things we love. It means that we make sure our spouse knows that we value them more than we value all those other “good” things. 

Here are some ways you can demonstrate that you prioritize your spouse.

Ask Before You Make Plans

When making plans and decisions (particularly ones that affect where you spend your time, money, and energy), ask your spouse for their thoughts and opinions. This shows that you don’t want to do things that may negatively affect your spouse or marriage.

Example: Your co-workers are going out for drinks after work. You want to go. 

Prioritizing Your Spouse:

  1. Call to tell your spouse the situation.
  2. Ask how they feel about it. “What are your thoughts?”
  3. Ask how it will affect the rest of the day. “Anything happening that this will change?”
  4. Understand that turning down the offer may be the best move for your marriage.

Message Sent: Asking shows your spouse that he or she matters. Their feelings matter. How your decisions or plans affect them matters.

Pay Attention to Your Spouse’s Needs

Your husband’s or wife’s needs come first. That’s where your strongest commitment is. Be aware of how easy it is to want to help everyone else and think your spouse can handle everything themselves.

Example: It’s nearing your kids’ bedtime. They’re fussy, whiny, and being difficult. You’re having a deep, meaningful phone conversation, helping a friend.

Prioritizing Your Spouse: 

Tell your friend, “I know this is important, but it’s bedtime, and I need to jump in and help get these kids down. Let me call you back.”

Message Sent: You have your spouse’s back. Even though your friend has a pressing issue, so did your mate. You just demonstrated where your priorities lie. Jumping to help fix everyone’s problem and only helping your spouse when it’s convenient shows they aren’t the priority. We want our spouse to be the first one we support, not the last.

Consider the Impact on Your Spouse

After marriage, your life isn’t just about you. Significant changes affect you both. Be upfront with your spouse about changes and let them prepare for how it will affect them.

Example: A major project will require you to work overtime and use a lot of mental energy.

Prioritizing Your Spouse: 

Address it head-on from the moment you sense this is a major time-consuming project. Tell your spouse about the overtime and potential stress. You might say, “I don’t want you to feel neglected. As soon as it’s over, we can make up for some lost time, if you know what I mean.”

Message Sent: You’ve considered the impact on your spouse and shown some vulnerability. You’ve recognized what you will lose and indicated a desire to gain it back because you’d rather be with your spouse than work all those extra hours. 

Couples experience different seasons. You may both have heavy work seasons and superactive kids’ seasons where you feel like taxicabs. Dealing with sick family members can also pull lots of time away. 

Putting your spouse first starts with a desire to see them happy, at peace, and connected. 

That’s what my daughter took away from us missing her basketball game. 

Interestingly, research shows that putting your spouse first provides the security, comfort, and stability that helps children thrive. And, when couples put each other first, it sets the stage for a fantastic relationship where each person feels loved, supported, and secure.

OTHER HELPFUL BLOGS:

What To Do When Your Marriage Lacks Emotional Safety

Build trust, resilience, and deep commitment.

Married, yet hiding from your spouse. Such is life when you don’t feel emotional safety in your marriage. There are parts of you, your personality, dreams, feelings, or thoughts, locked inside, unavailable to your spouse. Exposing them puts you at risk for rejection, criticism, or neglect. You don’t wanna live like this anymore. You want the freedom to be your whole self – vulnerable, imperfect, flawed, and all.

So what do you do?

Emotional Safety in Marriage: Take A Look At Yourself

When it comes to emotional safety, there are two people to look at: you and your spouse. Let’s start with the easy person to look at first – you. (I know, it’s easier to look at your spouse, but you know you. You’ve been with you all your life.)

Sometimes we have our own personal barriers to being emotionally safe with others, even in marriage.

  • Traumatic event(s) in our past
  • Personal insecurities
  • The false belief that you and your spouse should always agree
  • Personal control issues
  • Past relationship experiences

Without understanding how your past experiences and current mindset may affect your ability to be totally open with someone, these barriers can hold you captive. They can cause you to go into “self-protective mode” anytime you feel challenged or feel vulnerable.

  1. Ask yourself what you may be fearful of.
  2. Talk to a friend or possibly a professional counselor.
  3. Ask your spouse for help. 
  4. Be honest with yourself and forgive yourself.
  5. Speak the truth about you to yourself. Your past doesn’t have to determine your future or define you.

Processing what holds you back from feeling emotional safety can strip the past and any insecurities or control issues of their power to sabotage your relationship.

Emotional Safety In Marriage: Take A Look At Your Spouse

Now let’s look at the second person in this equation – your spouse. When they make you feel a lack of emotional safety for you, what do you do? 

1. Name what makes you feel a lack of emotional safety.

Be aware of what you feel makes it unsafe. Do you feel talked down to, dismissed, inferior, etc.? It might be worth writing your feelings down before you talk.

2. Create an opportunity to talk.

Set aside a non-threatening time to discuss emotional safety with your spouse. Without attacking or accusing (because you want to be an emotionally safe person, too), ask…

  • “What does emotional safety in our marriage mean to you?” Obviously, this may not be something your spouse has thought much about. Still, it’s a worthwhile conversation to have. A good follow up question is, 
  • “What causes you to feel emotionally unsafe?” After your spouse shares, share your answers to those questions and go from there.

3. Agree on what emotional safety is.

Work toward agreeing about what emotional safety is and why it’s a good thing. (Read 4 Things to Know About Emotional Safety to learn more.) Discuss questions like,

  • “What makes you feel safest, most free to be yourself, and willing to be totally transparent or vulnerable?”
  • “What makes you shut down and go into protection mode?

Listening to each other can help you both understand how to create a safe environment. 

Affirm what you like about each other. Remind yourselves why you wanted to marry each other. Take turns sharing the strengths each brings to the marriage. Knowing that your spouse likes you for you increases emotional safety. 

Model

You’ve probably heard the golden rule: “Do to others as you’d have them do to you.” It’s also true in marriage. Sometimes others are emotionally unsafe because they need to self-protect. Listen to your spouse. Foster an environment where they can be vulnerable and their full selves. 

Revisit

This is not an issue you’ll address only once. (If so, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.) Come up with code words to communicate when your spouse is doing something to make you feel unsafe. Freely acknowledge if you’re struggling because of your own issues. (Full disclosure: I do this with my wife. Sometimes I can go into conflict-prevention, self-protection mode, where I don’t share my full thoughts and beliefs because I know my spouse will disagree. That’s a “me” issue, not a spouse issue. Acknowledging it helps me name it and work through it.)

Not every spouse will embrace talking about being emotionally safe. At times, contacting a marriage counselor is the best route. If and when you talk about it, be prepared for the rewards of working through marriage challenges; it will build trust, resiliency, and deep commitment. Who doesn’t want that for their marriage?

Other helpful resources:

What To Do When Your Spouse Gives You The Silent Treatment

Here's some help for those times when silence is NOT golden.

When your spouse gives you the silent treatment, it can be frustrating, painful, and confusing. It happens when one spouse refuses to communicate, ignores, withdraws from, or totally avoids their partner. It may not mean there’s absolute silence. You might still talk about daily tasks like who’s picking up the kids, who’s handling laundry, or dinner. The silent treatment shows that one person is unwilling to address an issue or connect in any meaningful way.

Ouch.

If you’re getting the silent treatment, what do you do?

Process On Your Own

What triggered the silent treatment? When did it start, and what were you discussing? Did something happen that may have been viewed negatively? You may not even know, but thinking about it can help you understand your partner’s perspective. 

What’s the goal? Is my spouse trying to punish me, hoping I’ll feel the pain they feel? Are they withdrawing so they can process their own thoughts and emotions? Are they trying to protect themselves? 

Processing can help you listen to and better understand yourself and your spouse, but try not to let it cause you to look down on your spouse.

Address it Carefully

Start with Compassion. Often, we use silence when we don’t have or can’t use healthy conflict resolution skills to deal with issues. 

Is the silent treatment a healthy approach? No. Especially when it’s used to control or manipulate. It can be abusive. (More on this later.) 

Provided this situation is not an abusive use of the silent treatment, remember, this is your spouse — and something sparked the treatment. This doesn’t mean you justify or excuse the behavior. It’s purely recognizing that something caused your spouse emotional pain. And different people respond to pain in different ways.

Speak directly to the issue. You might say something like, “I know you haven’t been talking to me lately. I’d like to discuss what started this. Can we talk?” 

Never forget, your body language and tone of voice communicate 93% of your message to your spouse. Getting the words right isn’t as important as having a healthy attitude toward your spouse.

Be Willing to Listen and Understand. When your spouse is ready to talk, put your energy into understanding their thoughts and emotions first. Some people give the silent treatment because they feel unheard. Let your spouse know you want to understand their thoughts, feelings, and their desires.

Model Healthy Skills to Resolve issues. You can’t change your spouse, but you can control yourself. Demonstrating respect, openness, and transparency while working together to resolve conflict can paint a picture of the kind of communication many people crave.

Things to Think About While Talking 

Don’t play the blame game. Focus on the ultimate goal: resolving the issue in a healthy way. Using lots of “I” statements and as few “You” statements as possible can keep you from blaming each other and getting distracted.

Own your contributions. Frame it this way in your head. “I understand that I hurt you when I did or said _______.” This focuses on the pain without justifying their response to the hurt. And when appropriate, apologize for the pain you triggered.

Be self-aware of your emotions. Your spouse may express a lot of pent-up emotions. They may flood you with more than you were expecting, but try to keep your emotions from controlling you. Be aware of your feelings as they share. At an appropriate time in the conversation, share. Remember, though, one of the reasons for the silent treatment could be they don’t feel heard. 

What if the Silent Treatment Continues?

Know what you can and can’t control. You can’t control how your spouse responds to emotional hurt. But you can control how you respond. You can gently let them know you’re ready to talk when they are. And you can choose to acknowledge the issue without letting it control you.

Don’t badger or nag. You can’t force someone else to talk. Don’t try.

Seek help. If you need to talk to a trusted friend or seek a counselor for your own mental health, it’s worth the effort. If you don’t go together, going alone can be helpful.

When is the Silent Treatment Abuse?

Consistently using silence to control someone can be abuse. Healthline lists the following signs to look for: 

  1. It’s a frequent occurrence and is lasting for longer periods.
  2. It’s coming from a place of punishment, not a need to cool off or regroup.
  3. It only ends when you apologize, plead, or give in to demands.
  4. You’ve changed your behavior to avoid getting the silent treatment.

I don’t recommend the silent treatment as a strategy for solving marriage problems. But a good starting point is to talk with your spouse about how you can resolve conflict in healthy ways. Your spouse may feel like you haven’t heard other attempts to solve problems, and understanding that may help you find better solutions together. It may be something as simple as asking for a timeout and agreeing to discuss later. Or it may take some effort for them to feel you’re an emotionally safe person to talk to. Whatever the case, learning to be compassionate without excusing the behavior may be the trick to eliminating the silent treatment in your relationship.

Other helpful blogs:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at:1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

What to Do When Your Spouse Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations

Talking about your expectations can help your relationship thrive.

Expectations are part of a healthy marriage. But unmet expectations can cause frustration and tension. 

You expect something from your spouse. 

Maybe you expect them to do something (but they’re not). 

Or to not do something (but they are). 

Your expectation is for them to live up to a certain standard. And for whatever reason, your spouse isn’t meeting that standard. 

So what do you do? 

Well, the big question you need to ask is: Why? Why aren’t they living up to the standard you’re hoping for? 

Typically, there are three simple reasons a spouse might not meet your expectations: 

1. They don’t know or don’t clearly understand what you expect. 

I expected my wife to spend a lot of time with me when we were first married, but it didn’t seem to happen much. The problem? She didn’t know what I wanted because I never told her. And I get it; it’s easy to think, but we’ve been married for a while now… they should know me! 

Expecting your spouse to read your mind (even after decades of marriage) sets them up for failure and you for frustration. It doesn’t matter how close you are to someone; there’s no substitute for good communication. 

Your goal is to clearly and respectfully communicate your expectation to your spouse. When you can both positively focus on the conversation, say something like this: 

  • Hey, I just want to be sure I’m doing a good job of being clear. 
  • Do you feel like we clearly understand what we hope to expect of each other? 
  • Can we talk about what I hope can happen with… (keeping the house clean, spending time with each other, eating better as a family, etc.)?
  • Can we work together to make sure these things happen? 
  • Is there something I can do better to explain my expectations more clearly? 

2. Your spouse can’t do what you expect them to do. 

The critical question here is: Does your spouse feel like your expectations are realistic? 

Here’s a hard truth: Even when you believe your expectations are realistic, if your spouse thinks they aren’t, expectations aren’t going to be met.

Ask yourself, Do I expect my spouse to give me something they don’t think they can provide?

Like their undivided attention right after a stressful day with the kids or at work? 

Or a chore that needs to be done to your exact specifications? (Fold the towels this way…) 

Or a level of fitness or body type that’s beyond reach? 

Maybe you could say something like, I was hoping I could count on you to… But now I’m wondering whether my expectations have been realistic. Can you help me figure this out? Let these questions guide you in a respectful conversation about what you can realistically expect from your spouse.

3. They just flat-out refuse. 

When you’ve expressed a realistic expectation clearly, and your spouse says no, what do you do? 

I’m going to assume your spouse isn’t refusing just because they’re a stubborn jerk (unless you’re into marrying stubborn jerks). If this is the case, it’s time to seek some professional help

Refusal to meet expectations may happen because there’s some kind of disagreement about where those expectations are heading. It may indicate they’re dealing with past baggage. Or maybe it suggests that a deeper marital issue needs to be addressed. 

Again, this is where an honest conversation with your spouse is helpful. Say something like, I realize you don’t like the thought of (doing whatever your expectation is). Could you help me better understand why, and how we might be able to come to a compromise? 

One last thing: After talking through any of the above scenarios, you may not end up having the same expectations you initially brought to the table. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Expectations are part of a healthy marriage. And they shift and morph throughout the marriage journey, but you’ve gotta talk about them. The idea is to maintain expectations that help you both grow stronger as individuals and as a couple.

Other helpful blogs:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at:1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***