You can come together and move forward as a family.
Parenting has evolved since I was a kid. But not necessarily because of cultural shifts as much as access to information. Research, blogs, and social media have made it easy to access information about how our parenting impacts kids. This information can help us to better understand the long-term impact of our parenting. It also reshapes what this generation sees as good or bad parenting. Parents often search for information to help them when they view their spouse as a bad parent.
Before we look deeper into this, let’s clarify what a “bad” parent looks like.
★If your spouse is emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive to your child (or you), this article isn’t for you. I strongly urge you to stop reading and seek help. Contact the National Children’s Advocacy Center. The following information is not intended for your situation or to condone that type of parent.★
For our purposes, let’s take a look at the parenting styles to define what a bad parent looks like. There are four main parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. An uninvolved parenting style is typically characterized as being distant with little communication. They may ensure their child’s basic needs are met but are involved little beyond that. An uninvolved parenting style is considered bad parenting.
If you think your spouse is a bad parent, you may feel like they:
Show little or no affection to their children.
Don’t provide emotional support for their children.
Don’t set rules, boundaries, or expectations.
Don’t know their child’s friends.
Have no involvement with their child’s education.
We have to acknowledge that parenting, like life, has seasons. You may look at this list and say, “Yep, my spouse isn’t involved with our child. They’re a bad parent.” I would ask you two questions first.
Is this a busy season?
Do they have a desire to be more involved?
Your spouse may be in a busy season due to work or life demands. I don’t want to justify their actions, but there is a difference between a bad parent and a busy parent.
If you think your spouse is a bad parent and you’re reading this, you know something needs to change.
How do you help them become a more involved or better parent?
→Open the lines of communication.
You recognize there’s an issue. You may have to take the first step toward your spouse. A good rule is not to bring up these issues when frustrated. An argument isn’t going to bring resolution.
Schedule a coffee date with your spouse. Let them know how you feel without being accusatory. It may be challenging, but using “I” statements to express your feelings is an excellent way to discuss frustrations in a relationship.
Perhaps you could start the conversation like this: “Lately, I’ve noticed some distance between you and our son. I want to ensure that you’re getting the time with him he needs. Is there something I can do to help us get on the same page?”
→Seek to understand.
Our parenting style is often a result of how we were parented, good or bad. Your spouse parents the way they do for a reason. Discuss these questions to dive deeper:
What were the parenting styles in each of our homes?
Which patterns do we want to change about how our parents raised us?
What healthy habits do we want to maintain?
This conversation is as much about your parenting as their parenting. You may gain insight into why your spouse parents the way they do. You may learn something about yourself. This may open up some emotional wounds. If so, don’t be afraid to seek help from a coach or counselor.
→Find common ground.
Look for good parenting resources that you can discuss together. Identify the common parenting values in your family. Do you both value responsibility, hard work, or helping others? Establish goals for your parenting. What do you want your parenting to result in? Write down the positive parenting contributions from your spouse. Build on these positives.
→Avoid good cop, bad cop.
There will be disagreements over how you both parent, but those are conversations for the two of you. As you and your spouse become better parents together, try to avoid fighting in front of your kids. Present a united front. Remember, you’re a team. Your child needs to see that the two of you care for each other and them.
Just because you think your spouse is a bad parent doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. You can come together and move forward as a family. It’s gonna take work, some compromise, and lots of conversations. The process is worth it for your kids, your marriage, and future generations of your family.
**Please note that this article is NOT about an abusive or neglectful parent. The physical and emotional safety of a child is not a difference in parenting styles. Anyone who knows of child abuse happening should call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).**
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/multiethnic-family-spending-time-together-on-couch-with-4545968-scaled-e1596213559366.jpg220500Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2022-06-22 04:14:002022-06-22 13:14:55What To Do When Your Spouse Is A Bad Parent
I’m sorry to hear that you’re unhappy in your marriage. I don’t need to tell you that an unhappy marriage can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, and insecurity. That hurts. But the fact that you’re here is a sign that you’re looking for help. That means you’re still hopeful. Hold on to that hope.
Now let’s make a plan. (We’re going to look at your Marriage Mindset. It’s how you think about your marriage. There’ll be sources at the end to go deeper, plus a ton of practical help.)
If you Googled “unhappy marriage,” you know that most articles head straight to, “Should I stay or should I leave?” Fortunately, those are not your only options. This is a chance for growth.
Many “unhappy” marriages are actually feeling growing pains. They could potentially hit a growth spurt and go to a whole new level.
I recently heard someone tearfully say, “I want to be able to say I did everything in my power to make this relationship work.” I remember thinking: This person has the power to change the relationship and flip the whole story! (It looks like it’s working, too!)
Nobody knows you, your spouse, and your marriage better than you do. I won’t give you one-size-fits-all answers for your unique marriage. My goal is to walk alongside you and give you some things to think through. Together, we’ll discover actions to make tangible improvements to your marriage. (You may want to have a pen and paper ready.)
(1.) Is your marriage causing you to feel unhappy, or are you unhappy about your life in general?
These aren’t entirely unrelated, but they need different solutions. It’s easy to confuse the two. Settle in and give this some real thought. List issues in two columns on your paper.
(2.) Is this an “unhappy” marriage situation or an “unsafe” situation?
There’s a difference between “unhappy” and “unsafe.” If you feel emotionally, psychologically, or physically unsafe, please IMMEDIATELY seek out the professionals listed at the bottom of the page.*
(3.) Start with a positive mindset. (Before you roll your eyes, stick with me.)
We are what we repeatedly think. Let’s keep things positive and in perspective. Take a few minutes to write down five things each (about your life and in your marriage) that you’re grateful for. (If you can go past five on either list, keep going!) Look at both of those lists and try to immerse yourself in gratitude.
This is where it starts. Your marriage isn’t totally and completely terrible. See the positives for what they represent. The positives are real, concrete, and significant. It’s super easy to focus on the wrongs and overlook what’s right. Your Marriage Mindset can make all the difference.
Time Out For Some Optimistic Realism
Before we go any further, here are some things you need to understand for real, lasting change to happen. You may want to sit with these ideas a bit.
If you don’t believe you can be happy in your marriage, you won’t.
No one can make you feel anything without your permission. This doesn’t mean you’re responsible for your circumstances or your spouse, only that you’re responsible for how you respond to them – in your actions and emotions. We tend to misjudge our own power in these situations. What if you aren’t the Victim in an unhappy marriage? What if you’re the Hero?
If you don’t believe you and your spouse can change, you won’t.
Change in yourself is, by definition, change in your relationship with your spouse. Don’t underestimate that. As you change, you can be a catalyst for change in your spouse. (If you frequently fight, but now you’re aware of your words, it will help if you try to stay calm. It’s a powerful thing when you don’t escalate situations. Boom! Marriage-changer. And maybe a spouse-changer.)
If you don’t believe your marriage can change, it won’t.
Sometimes marriage feels romantic. Sometimes it feels like work. Marriages go through ups and downs and seasons. Make sure what you expect matches the realities of marriage.
Organize your thoughts.
Let’s keep keepin’ it real. You’re in an unhappy marriage. I want you to write down five things you wish were different in your marriage. Take your time. Now, look at your list.
How many things are mainly about your spouse? How many are mainly about you? And how many involve you both? What things can you control, and what things can’t you control? What things can you influence, even if you can’t control them? Which things are due to circumstances?
These aren’t just changes to your thought processes. These are radical perspective changes that can transform your marriage.
Assuming that many of the things on your list weren’t always that way, how have they changed? This should encourage you. Change works both ways.
Time to make a plan.
Take another look at the things you wish were different in your marriage. Where do you want to start? What would have the most immediate impact? More importantly, what can you control? How will you be the change?
Use the Principle of Replacement: Instead of __________, I’m going to __________. Set a reasonable goal(s) and go for it! Watch what happens!
Let’s get your spouse in on this!
Does your spouse know you feel unhappy in your marriage? Do you know how your spouse feels? Don’t be surprised if your spouse isn’t aware of how unhappy you are. Don’t be shocked to find out your spouse is unhappy, too. It’s time to talk.
How to have a productive conversation:
Take turns talking and listening to each other’s needs and concerns.
Use “I” statements (I feel, I need, etc.) and be respectful and kind.
Avoid defensiveness, over-generalizing, trying to be “right” or “to win.”
Work toward and commit to mutually satisfying compromises.
You should each have a concrete list of 2-3 things to work on.
Set a time to talk again to re-evaluate, make adjustments, and celebrate growth.
Be patient and gracious with yourself and your spouse. Lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourselves a month to work on these things. Be intentional during that month to work on being your best self, spend quality time together, communicate, and have some fun.
Are you nervous or afraid to disagree with or displease your spouse? Do you feel safe? For a free, confidential, and clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here, or contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse, 24/7, at 1−800−799−7233.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/adult-alone-anxious-black-and-white-568027-scaled-e1597071997179.jpg233450John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2022-03-31 09:59:002022-04-05 09:44:10I’m Unhappy In My Marriage. What Can I Do?
I think one partner in every marriage has heard or thought the phrase, “You don’t care.” I’ve learned to interpret that in my own marriage like this: I’m not showing any compassion.
Compassion is where empathy meets action.
It’s the difference between caring and showing care. You want your spouse to know you can feel their pain, and you’re willing to do something about it. And studies show that you’re better off for showing compassion whether your spouse acknowledges it or not.
Do you want to be more compassionate to your spouse? Sure you do! Here are some tips.
Put your energy into understanding.
Compassion starts with listening for understanding. Listen, not for how you can fix it or be right, but to understand your spouse’s thoughts, emotions, and desires. The Gottman Institute’s research tells us, “Most of the time, when your mate (or anyone) comes to you with an issue that has made them upset, they don’t immediately ask for advice. They are silently asking for your understanding and compassion. They want to feel that you are on their side.”
Action: Respond in a way that demonstrates you understand or that you want to better understand. Avoid trying to fix the issue.
Step outside of yourself.
Things affect people differently. You may not react to disappointment, pain, or betrayal the way your spouse would. If you respond differently than your spouse, try laying your preferences down and allowing your spouse to be true to themselves. Accept them as they are and support them.
Action: Validate your spouse through words, physical affection, and comfort.
Never forget: your spouse is human, too.
He’s your husband. She’s your wife. The parent of your children. Your knight in shining armor. Your queen. All that may be true. But they are also a person with emotions, ups and downs, disappointments, and unrealistic expectations at times. They make mistakes, and they might have a lapse in judgment here or there. In other words, we all have our imperfections. Treating a spouse as though they shouldn’t make mistakes will block compassion.
Action: Give your partner space to be human. Give them grace when things don’t go their way. Avoid placing unrealistic expectations of perfection on them. Don’t treat them like a title: husband/wife, parent, provider. Instead, treat them like they’re your favorite human on the planet.
Stop what you’re doing and go “all-in.”
Sometimes when your spouse is having a difficult time, you have to just turn the TV off. Silence those cell phone notifications. Cancel a social outing. Remind your spouse that the world can go on, but right now, “my world is stopping until you get what you need from me.” Do this before there’s a panic attack, nervous breakdown, or an explosion of pent-up anger.
Action: Ask, “What do you need from me at this very moment?”
Each of you brings different strengths and tendencies to the relationship. Our tendencies can sometimes leave us vulnerable to mistakes. For instance, your go-getter spirit can cause you to overcommit your time, which causes stress. Your kindness can allow others to take advantage of you. You often have the choice to criticize or be compassionate toward your spouse.
Criticism will help point out all their “flaws.” Compassion will look for ways to cover their blind spots.
Action: Be the spouse that recognizes blind spots. And with a generous spirit, help fill the gaps. For example, be the friend to your spouse that they are to others. Do a little more housework when your spouse is stressed.
Pillow talk and morning coffee…
Compassion is at its best when we intimately know the recipient of our compassion, a.k.a. spouse. We don’t learn them through osmosis. Sometimes the only way to get the answer to being more compassionate is to talk about it. This is the perfect kind of conversation to have at night while lying in bed.
Action: Give your spouse undivided attention before bedtime or during morning coffee. Ask, “What does the word compassion mean to you?” What does compassion look like to you? What do I do that makes you feel cared for or understood?”
Sometimes we can be our kindest, most understanding selves toward strangers, but I’m here to tell you: it should be the other way around. The ones closest to us should be the first recipients of our compassion. Admittedly, it takes intentionality. Remember that your favorite human is the one you said “I do” to. And now that you remember it, treating them like it will help them believe they really are your favorite.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-1-01-1.png5001200Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-08-10 09:30:092021-12-10 09:23:34How to Be More Compassionate to Your Spouse
Here are two important things you can do right now.
Let me state the obvious and say it’s been a rough year or so. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, reality has come the closest it’s ever been to a sci-fi novel. And it’s literally messed with our heads. Society as a whole experienced a significant uptick in relationship and mental health issues.
And let me just speak for us all when I say thank goodness we seem to be on the downswing of it all. (Of course, we’re not entirely over the hill — many are still dealing with health concerns.)
Despite this downswing, fear and anxiety are still lingering in the air. Many are experiencing what scientists call “post-pandemic anxiety syndrome.” It’s a condition marked by continual worry about re-entering life in the post-pandemic era.
Signs1 of this syndrome tend to mimic other mental health issues like anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome. They include:
Difficulty returning to a full engagement with society
Avoiding work or social interactions
Constantly checking symptoms despite not being in a high-risk scenario
Perceived threats that aren’t necessarily there
Some of these symptoms are pretty normal after a global pandemic. Most of us experienced at least one of these at some time or another. But for those who cope in a healthy way, these signs should gradually taper off.
However, symptoms that persist or get worse might indicate a bigger problem.
So how do you help your spouse with post-pandemic anxiety?
There are two important things you can do right now.
1. Exercise a great deal of empathy and understanding.
You may not have the same anxiety your spouse does. You may even wonder what all the fuss is about. But it will help if you understand that’s not their reality.
Consider this: We now know that our brain can train itself to think toward a certain way over time.2
We’ve had over a year for our brains to adjust to new and sudden precautions, rules of social distancing, and risk management during extreme uncertainty. That’s stressful.
And now, we’re experiencing an almost equally instantaneous shift back to pre-pandemic life. For many, that’s stressmultiplied.
Knowing this, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Let him or her know you’re there, walking with them through this. Allow them to vent and share feelings, no matter how irrational it sounds to you.
Anxiety isn’t something that can just be quickly “fixed.” It’s a process that takes time. So you’ll have to be patient.
2. Encourage your spouse to seek out a professional counselor that works well with them.
A counselor can provide useful coping tools and help your spouse monitor their progress. It may even be a good idea to attend counseling together because anxiety affects your marriage3,4. You may also need to learn new skills to support your spouse. Couples therapy is very effective for treating a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety5.
Your number one goal in marriage is to show unconditional love and support for your spouse, for better or worse. And that takes a great deal of understanding. You may not know the particular skills they need to cope and overcome the anxiety, and that’s okay. (That’s one reason a professional counselor is so important.) But the greatest presence they have is you. Let them know you’re on their side and you’re not going anywhere. Post-pandemic anxiety is real, and it’s scary for those going through it, but it’s no match for the support and understanding you can give your spouse.
2Hunter, R. G., & McEwen, B. S. (2013). Stress and anxiety across the lifespan: structural plasticity and epigenetic regulation. Epigenomics, 5(2), 177–194. https://doi.org/10.2217/epi.13.8
3Zaider, T. I., Heimberg, R. G., & Iida, M. (2010). Anxiety disorders and intimate relationships: a study of daily processes in couples. Journal of abnormal psychology, 119(1), 163–173. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018473
4Darcy, K., Davila, J., & Beck, J. G. (2005). Is Social Anxiety Associated With Both Interpersonal Avoidance and Interpersonal Dependence? Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29(2), 171–186. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-005-3163-4
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Untitled-5-01.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-07-06 15:49:492021-07-16 11:44:17How to Help Your Spouse With Post-Pandemic Anxiety
When you both bring your whole and best selves to the table, your relationship benefits.
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, their 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.
Let’s be clear about one thing: It’s inappropriate to talk negatively or disclose sensitive personal details about anyone behind their back. We have words for this sort of behavior: Gossip. Slander. Badmouthing. Talkin’ sh… mack. When your spouse does this to you, it feels extra hurtful and violating.
When your spouse’s words find their way back to you, you have every right to feel hurt, angry, and betrayed. It’s completely understandable. Now, it’s time to make it relationally productive.
We expect our spouse to have our back, not talk behind it.
Even if your spouse believes what they said to be true, or if it’s their personal opinion, this kind of behavior cannot be justified. (I will give two exceptions to the rule later, but for now, we’re still kinda stingin’ over this.) And, oh boy, if your spouse is saying things about you behind your back that are not true (exaggerations or misrepresentations), that feeling of betrayal is probably dialed to 10. Nope – 11.
If this happens on social media, it makes matters worse. Those words are out there for the whole world to see.
★ Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
You’re sure your spouse was talking about you – and it wasn’t good. How do you talk to them about it? (Take a look at the links for Effective Communication at the bottom of this blog, too)
Wait until you know you’re calm, cool, and collected. Real Talk:When we’re angry, we say and do stupid stuff. We make matters worse. We don’t solve anything. This is simple brain chemistry.1
Pick a good time to talk privately. Leave enough time for a solid conversation, not a rushed one. Minimize distractions – kids, phones, televisions, etc. Don’t ambush your spouse. Tell them there is something you’d like to speak to them about, then set a time to talk.
Organize what you want to say around your TED. These are your: Thoughts, Emotions, and Desires.
See the conversation through to the end, but take a timeout if you sense things escalating.
How do you begin?
Clearly state what you heard they said. (If it’s a pattern, share several examples.) You can communicate without attacking. Remember that your spouse isn’t the enemy, although their behavior is out of line. Your mindset should be to fight to improve your marriage and relationship with your spouse. It’s not about fighting with your spouse. (Pro-Tip: Going in, make room in your heart and mind for the real possibility that this is a big misunderstanding. Take a look at the links at the bottom of this blog about constructive conflict for more.)
Start the conversation with, “It bothers me when I hear that you tell your friends I’m ______________.”
Share what you think when you hear they’ve said negative things about you. For instance, “When I hear you’ve said bad things about me, it makes me think you are _____________ (unhappy, untrustworthy, two-faced).”
Share what you think they’re saying about you. “To me, it sounds like you think I’m __________?”
Share your emotions. If you felt betrayed, disrespected, or humiliated, say it. Try, “When I heard some of the things you said, I felt __________________.”
Share your desire to deal with the issues or grievances together. “I wish we could work out our issues together. How can we do that?”
So, you’ve got the convo rolling in a healthy, solution-oriented way. You’ve been transparent about your thoughts, emotions, and desires. (Keep those emotions in check even if you hear excuses, rationalizations, or blame-shifting.) You’ve given your spouse a safe context to explain, inform, own, and/or apologize.
Work toward mutual understanding. Try to get into each other’s shoes and trade perspectives with an open mind.2
If this conversation is going well, move to Phase Two:
Time to set some boundaries and reach an agreement on what’s over the line over-sharing. Be sure to include social media.
✓ Apology accepted, or misunderstanding cleared up.
✓ Boundaries agreed upon and in place.
✓ Time to move on with a clear understanding and a clean slate.
This is relationship growth! It might have stung a little or a lot. It may have been a hard conversation. In fact, some challenging issues may have surfaced. If handled well… totally worth it! Maybe this is enough for one day, and you agree to tackle any bigger issues that surfaced (as a team) in the next couple of days. [If this did NOT go well, take a look at the links at the bottom of this blog for some guidance.]
You could stop here, and it would be all good – mission accomplished by incredibly mature relationship work. You could grab some snacks, curl up on the couch together and see what’s on Netflix. It might be time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, or are you interested in some more profound exploration into your marriage?
Time for the two exceptions mentioned earlier…
If your spouse was talking about you to their mentor, doctor, counselor, therapist, or clergy, you might need to pump those brakes. (Most of those conversations are privileged, meaning I don’t know how you heard what was said about you unless your spouse straight-up told you what they told them.) Let’s put a pin in that and come back.
Everybody sometimes needs a trusted friend they can vent to.3 Ideally, this friend isn’t a gossip-monger, knows there are two sides to every story, fully supports your marriage, listens, and gives wise advice. Let’s put a pin here, too.
Gut Check Time. Are you up for this?
I’ve had a couple of questions on my mind, and I wonder if they have crossed yours, too. Regardless of what your spouse said and to whom they said it, whether it was true, false, or somewhere in between, I’m wondering about some stuff, and you should be, too. Let’s go there.
Has your spouse tried to talk to you about this stuff before? How’d it play out?
How is your communication, in general, and about tough topics?
If what your spouse said about you behind your back is accurate, are you gonna own it even though your spouse didn’t handle it correctly?
See, now we’re going from Relationship Checkers to Relationship Chess.
Wanna go for the dub and do some significant relationship work?
Try this out on your spouse and see what happens:
“Can I ask you something, and you understand that you can be completely honest with me? I’m not going to react. I’m just gonna listen.” (And you have to now, ‘cuz you just said it.) Is there a reason you feel like you can’t talk to me about this kinda stuff?” Then. Just. Listen.
Look, if your spouse talked about you behind your back, you should call your spouse on it because it is not helpful for your relationship. But. [Dramatic Pause.] But, in reality, marriage isn’t like checkers or chess. It’s not about who wins and who loses. Being wronged can position you to do something more meaningful than being right. Sometimes, there’s a deeper win for your marriage that’s waiting to happen. Just sayin’.
2McDonald, J.E., et al. (2018). Effects of Religiosity, Forgiveness, and Spousal Empathy on Marital Adjustment. https://doi.org/10.1080/01494929.2017.1403992 3Eldemire, A. (2019, May 30). Why friendships are vital to the health of your relationship. Psychology Today. Source
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/GossipySpousePic-01-2.png10722048John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2021-05-27 10:08:012022-08-25 14:44:43What to Do When Your Spouse Talks Badly About You Behind Your Back
It starts with a desire to see them happy, at peace, and connected.
What Does It Mean to Put Your Spouse First?
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:
Call to tell your spouse the situation.
Ask how they feel about it. “What are your thoughts?”
Ask how it will affect the rest of the day. “Anything happening that this will change?”
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 both1. 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.2 And, when couples put each other first, it sets the stage for a fantastic relationship where each person feels loved, supported, and secure.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/pexels-jonathan-borba-6520595-scaled-e1619642351186.jpg8522048Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-04-28 16:39:282022-08-04 12:20:59What Does It Mean to Put Your Spouse First?
You want to be your spouse’s hero? Their most trusted confidant? The one who supports them and helps them flourish? The one they share their wildest, most audacious dreams with? None of it happens if you aren’t the emotionally safe person your spouse needs. When you’re emotionally safe, you’ve removed yourself as a barrier to your spouse freely being themselves. With you, they feel safe to be transparent, vulnerable, authentic, flawed, and emotional. They’re free to be themselves.
Side note: Just because you’re emotionally safe doesn’t mean they will always feel safe. Your spouse may have their own barriers to work through. You can’t control that. But the safer you are, the more space and freedom your partner will have to clearly see themselves and even grow through their experiences. You’ll be the hero who stuck by them through their imperfections, missteps, and all.
How do you become that emotionally safe spouse your partner needs?
Be secure within yourself.
Start with loving and accepting yourself. When you feel comfortable in your skin, you’re more likely to be emotionally vulnerable.
Show genuine curiosity about your spouse.
You’re in it to learn. You can talk to your spouse as if you know them and you know all the answers… or you can try to learn more about their thought process, how they see things and understand them better. Because you’ll never stop learning about one another.
Express honesty with humility.
Being emotionally safe doesn’t mean you don’t express your true thoughts, even when they are different or you disagree. You just express your thoughts with the caveat that you’re on the same team. You share with mutual respect and a desire for you to be on one page, not to prove that you’re right.
Ask, “What makes you feel emotionally safe with me?”
What makes your spouse feel most comfortable at being their whole self with you may differ from others. The fact that you asked with the desire to know should mean you’re willing to hear their whole heart. Don’t defend yourself. Just listen to understand.
Try making sure that every negative interaction with your spouse is balanced by five positive interactions. Get in the habit of being generous with your spouse just because. Be aware of how you speak to your spouse. Is your tone one of criticism and contempt, or one of kindness and love? An emotionally unsafe person will communicate using a tone that lacks love and gentleness.
You don’t have to be talking about serious topics to be inviting. Look forward to being with your spouse after work. Create opportunities to hear their heart and dream together. Remind them of the things you admire and appreciate about them. Invite them to be themselves. And show them that you love who they are.
Emotional safety is a process that builds.
Being an emotionally safe spouse doesn’t guarantee there won’t be disagreements or that you won’t (at times) cause emotional pain to each other. In fact, being emotionally safe may increase your willingness to deal with those very things.
You’re different people with your own thoughts, opinions, and ideas. Sometimes those differences clash, and one of you will say or do something hurtful. Suppose either person in your relationship has been perpetually unsafe. In that case, it may take time to reap the benefits of the newfound emotional safety. And that’s ok.
Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Imagine how your spouse will feel when you are being the emotionally safe spouse that encourages vulnerability, transparency, and beyond.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/pexels-william-fortunato-6392957-1-scaled.jpg7962048Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-03-26 13:05:582021-04-28 12:11:48How to Be An Emotionally Safe Spouse