Written by Brian Lindner
Jeff pulls his Toyota Avalon into the garage after a stressful day of sales meetings. Working as a sales manager is not his ideal job but it pays well enough that his wife chose to stop working and care for the kids full time. Jeff grabs his cell phone and keys and walks to the front yard to check the mailbox. On his way inside he shuffles through the mail. Glancing up from looking at the mail in his hands he sees it and freezes.
His wife sits at the kitchen turned away from him slightly, but he can tell she’s been crying.
He tries not to panic. He wants to run but he can’t just leave her like that, she’s obviously hurt. With a burst of courage he approaches.
What do you do when your wife cries? Do you try to rescue her from her emotions? Tell her how to change her attitude? Fix what is bothering her? Panic and do nothing? Tell her a joke and change the subject? Try to cheer her up? Compare her circumstances to something worse? Do you ignore her to give her space?
Emotion is a window into the heart. Your response to your wife’s emotion is critical. Mishandle the moment and you could hurt her heart and damage your connection.
You can come through for your partner, save the princess in distress, and be the hero.
Don’t miss the moment. Be like Jeff and boldly approach your wife when she’s crying. Every time your wife shows emotion is a wonderful opportunity to express your love for her. Don’t chicken out, guys. You may feel uncomfortable with her emotional outburst but be available anyway. You’ve got what it takes to be present with your wife even when she cries.
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2. Check yourself.
You must check your own emotions before you can be available to respond to hers. Check yourself first. How do you feel when your wife is emotional? Perhaps you’re afraid she’s hurt, she’s upset with you, or you’ll be exposed as an inadequate partner. Perhaps you feel manipulated and defensive, or annoyed and angry. Responding to your crying wife with anger is a major bone-head move and a common mistake.
3. Don’t look for a problem, try to identify her emotion.
As men, we want to know what happened to her to make her cry so we can fix it. Your deep desire to protect your wife is honorable, but when your problem-solving efforts are mistimed you only add to her hurt. She doesn’t need fixing. She’s not broken. She’s simply feeling an emotion.
Just because you don’t need to fix something doesn’t mean you have to veg out, you can still take action. Work on identifying her emotion. She may be feeling sad, disappointed, sentimental, fearful, or happy. Pay attention. Put the clues together. Then if you still have no idea, ask her. Be careful not to be a doofus. You can’t ask “What’s your problem?” or “What are you crying for?” Instead, ask “What are you feeling right now?” even better, ask without a question. Simply point out that you’re interested in her. “I see you’re crying, I’m interested to know what you’re feeling.”
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4. Get close.
It may seem weird but your wife wants you close to her. Your physical closeness communicates emotional availability. Giving her space when she cries can feel cold, like you’re abandoning her. Sit next to her. Give her a hug. Touch her hand and look at her.
5. Respond with empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share in her emotion. If your wife is sad or scared, tell her “It’s ok to feel sad,” and respond with comfort. Responding to her emotion this way makes it safe for her to risk vulnerable emotions with you. Emotional safety is foundational to incredible intimacy in marriage.
READ: 5 WAYS TO FOSTER EMOTIONAL INTIMACY
6. Stay with it.
Your wife’s emotional moments may last longer than you think they should. Even if seeing her cry for 37 seconds feels like a century to you, stay with her. Remember you have what it takes to be her hero. Holding her for twenty to thirty minutes can really help, too.
Men - What do you think would happen if you use these tips the next time your wife is crying?
Women - What have I left out? What do you like your spouse to do when you cry?
Photo Credit: Crooze Photography
Brian J. Lindner is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor specializing in couples counseling at his private practice. His blog, “Make Some Wonderful” provides solid guidance for a wonderful marriage. He lives in Idaho with his wife, Hollie, and their two young boys. Follow him on Twitter @BrianJLindner.
“Marriage is a mosaic you build with your spouse. Millions of tiny moments that create your love story.”
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