Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How We Respond To Our Spouse Is A Gamechanger

Have you ever tried to get someone's attention?  The nurse at the hospital, the vendor at the game, the teller at the bank or a clerk in the department store? And isn't it horribly frustrating when they don't seem to notice you or give you that look like, "I really don't have time for you, right now?"

But isn't it refreshing when one of those same people gives you the sense that they want to do everything possible to help you, even if they are busy?

Husbands and wives can respond the same way. We each make attempts to emotionally connect with the other and wise couples learn how to acknowledge that desire, even if we have to put off the best of responses for the time being.

For example, Mike has been thinking all day about taking his wife out for breakfast the next weekend.  They've not had a mini-date for awhile, they've both been incredibly busy and while he's not the greatest planner Mike was hoping to make his wife Connie's day. So he calls her at lunch and says, "Hey, hon, how about we find a sitter for Ryan Saturday morning and go have a leisurely breakfast?"

To which Connie says, "Mike, are you kidding? No teenager is going to come babysit on Saturday morning and for Pete's sake, I don't have time to even eat breakfast at home, much less go sit somewhere and pretend to relax!"

As you can imagine, Mike is deflated and finds himself thinking, I won't be asking her to do that again.

On the other hand, Gina has been waiting all afternoon for Ron to get home from work to tell him about a vacation idea she has for the family. She works half days and has been determining how to use a little of her extra earnings to do something special. As Ron walks in, he grabs a beer out of the refrigerator.  Nonetheless, she asks him how his day was.  "Hard," he says and heads for the TV.

After giving him a few minutes to relax, Gina, however, suggests, "Hey, after dinner, I was wondering if we could talk about an idea I ran across for our vacation this summer."  As he takes a gulp of his Budweiser he manages an, "Uh-huh," and keeps watching ESPN. Gina is pretty sure their talk won't happen that night if ever.  Maybe I should have just never tried, she thinks.

In both cases, the spouse just wanted to connect with the other person about something meaningful and important to them. In the first case, Connie responded but totally missed Mike's intention. In the second, Ron simply avoided her reaching out. And the right answer in each scenario was not necessarily for each spouse to drop everything and agree.

Rather, they needed to respond, to affirm the other's good intentions and honor in some way their desire to relate on some deeper level.  They could have said something like, "Mike, I'd love to do breakfast or any meal with you. It's been a long time. I wonder if Saturday is the best time but let's talk about it."

Or, "Gina, thanks for checking into that for us. I don't know quite what a vacation will look like this year, but let's see what you've got. Maybe we can work it out."  Both responses say, "I value you and what you love, think and care about."

Whatever you do, acknowledge and affirm first. The rest of the discussion will depend on you and your circumstances. But the more you respond and don't deflect or defer, the more your spouse will come back for more.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.


  1. Needed this today.
    Thank you.

  2. What do you do if you are the one being rejected? It seems time and time again, I am trying to connect without success. My spouse has a difficult job, comes home tired and needs the weekend to recover. I have tried communicating my concerns, and he does apologize. But I am just supposed to understand that he doesn't feel good or is tired. Therefore, "leave him alone." There was some hint of this when we were engaged and I just thought it was because of his job at that particular time. I believe that it really is now his

  3. Continued...
    personality. I have had to accept the fact that he is more of a moody person than I am. This can make a marriage difficult, especially with communicating.

    Thanks for this blog and all you do for christian marriages and families. God bless!

  4. Anonymous,

    I'm sorry that you're having such a challenge with the way your husband responds. And there are no one-size-fit-s all or easy answers. There's lots I don't know about you or your husband.

    However, I would try (preferably when he's not so tired) to share with him what is called the "feelings/needs" approach. We often get stuck on opinions - "I don't think we talk enough," or "You think more of work than me," or whatever.

    Try talking to him about how it makes you feel, "You know, I understand your need to rest and relax. I need that to. But when you so often push me aside I get hurt and feel unimportant."

    After he responds (and it may be somewhat defensively) suggest, "Let me tell you something pretty simple that I need from you that would help me not feel that way. I just need some time during the weekend (or evening) to have face to face moments with you where we just rewind our day or week and talk about what has been happening . . ." or something like that.

    Focus on one thing for now and see how that goes. I'd love to hear from you.