Don’t Own Your Wife’s Feelings, But Don’t Ignore Them Either
By Lesli Doares
Have you ever been accused of making your wife feel a certain way? If you’re like most husbands, your answer will be “yes”. You’ve probably even made the same accusation about her at some point. But no one can make anyone else feel a certain way. That is entirely up to them.
Yes, you can do something that your wife doesn’t like. It’s important to pay attention when she tells you that. But you are never responsible for how she feels about it. That is completely on her.
The moment you take on responsibility for her feelings is the moment things head downhill. And it leads to all kinds of unproductive and inappropriate behavior that might seem rational in the moment but will ultimately destroy your marriage.
What are these behaviors? I’m so glad you asked.
One of the most common is to dismiss her feelings as wrong. You don’t want her to feel that way. It makes you uncomfortable. So, the best thing is for her to just stop it. The truth is that she can choose to feel differently but you can’t make that happen. Pushing that agenda usually just ups the intensity of the feeling you so wish would go away.
The next option is to defend yourself against whatever it is you did that resulted in her being hurt, angry, frustrated, unpleasant feeling of your choice. Yes, you probably didn’t intend for her to react to your behavior the way she did but telling her she misinterpreted your actions, or worse, you didn’t actually do what she said you did will get you nowhere.
Another common go-to behavior is to justify why what you did was okay. She simply doesn’t see how it is not only normal but completely acceptable. This is when you pull out the “yes, but” position and acknowledge that you did the action but, given the context, it was understandable.
The moment you start defending or justifying yourself, you are tacitly agreeing with her interpretation of the event. And, by default, taking responsibility for her feelings about it. You own your actions but not hers. But if you go down this road it becomes a ‘when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging’ moment.
A basic fact is that you don’t interpret your behavior the same way she does. Nor does she interpret yours the way you do. Which also means you don’t own how each other feels either. Accepting this is key to avoiding most of the tension and distress in your marriage.
But just because you aren’t responsible for her feelings doesn’t mean they don’t matter. If she is bothered by something you do, it is loving to try and figure out another way that doesn’t leave her with hard feelings about you.
The best way to do this is to have a calm, specific conversation about it. This will often lead to a better understanding of what is driving her feelings, both for you and for her. It is her deeper awareness that will allow her to own those feelings and keep you out of the line of fire.
Providing a safe and supportive place for her to do this is what will make you the guy she wants to be with. And isn’t that what you want too? What’s the most frustrating thing your spouse does?