The only piece of advice my dad gave to my husband when he asked permission to marry me was this:
“If she cries, give her food or make her go to sleep.”
Nothing about how to communicate with each other. Nothing about what chocolates I like best as surprises. No advice on things I might have a strong opinion about.
Just what to do if I cry.
I really should thank my dad more often for that one.
So, to every husband, here’s some advice on what to do if your wife cries.
Whether you’ve been married one week or half a century, you will inevitably come across moments when your wife is crying and you’re not quite sure what to do about it.
Sometimes wives just cry.
And that’s okay.
Here are some pointers to help you navigate those sometimes scary situations.
*Disclaimer: Not every woman cries for the same reasons, or even much at all. Make sure you ask your wife for her own advice to go along with what you read below. There are some things that might trigger different emotions for her than for others.
For the husband:
1. Is she hurt?
Help her. Ask what she needs. Take care of the situation. This is where your superhero husband skills kick in.
Continue to step 2.
2. She’s not hurt. Ok. Are there reasons behind her emotions that only a woman understands?
She might be dealing with pregnancy or PMS. Be understanding. And good luck. Anything could have triggered the tears. Or even nothing at all. She may not even know why she’s crying. Ask what she needs. Offer food, foot rubs, and other common hormone problem solvers. But most of all, be patient.
Continue to step 3.
3. It’s not necessarily a hormonal reaction. Ok. Is she tired or hungry?
Send her to bed. Or to the kitchen. Whichever takes priority. She may not recognize that she is hungry or tired (or both). And feel free to ask questions like, “How did you sleep last night?” right at the beginning of the day so that you have advance warning. Or, in the moment, ask questions like, “Can I get you a snack?” or “What did you eat for lunch?” to see how hungry she might be. Sensitive questions can prevent a good amount of headache in these situations.
Continue to step 4.
4. Ok. We’ve ruled out many of the more common triggers of tears. Now you know that there is something stressing her out or making her sad or otherwise upsetting her. Time to figure out what it is.
a. Is it you?
Most likely the answer is no. Don’t assume you’ve done something terrible to make your wife upset. Unless you know that you’ve said or done something that could upset her, don’t automatically blame yourself. And please be forgiving if she does blame you when you ask her what is bothering her. She might be trying to find the right answer herself, and you’re the nearest target. Be patient, and try not to take offense if she says something irrational.
b. Is it something she read, heard, or saw?
Talk it through with her. If it’s just her reaction to a sweet movie, or even a moment of happy tears, she’ll be fine shortly. But her emotions could also have been triggered by a social media rant she read from one of her friends or a difficult moment someone shared with her over the phone when they were looking for a shoulder to cry on. She most likely will want to get it out of her system by talking about it.
Again, be patient.
It might take a while for her to pinpoint exactly what it was that upset her. Let her talk until she has found her answer. You don’t necessarily need to propose a solution to the problem. Wait until she has found the actual source of her emotional moment, and give advice if she asks for help. Otherwise, your roles as protector, listener, and shoulder-to- cry-on will be most essential here.
c. She doesn’t know.
Again, be patient. Let her figure it out. Ask what she was doing just before you started talking, or maybe even have her walk you through her day. You might get her mind going back to the real source of her emotions. And just the reassurance that you’re there and listening will often be enough to calm her down.
For the wife:
1. Be kind. Be patient. Be understanding. And talk about it. Tell your husband what you are feeling. If you don’t know, tell him what you do know. Not sure of the problem?
What was the most recent thing that triggered your emotional response?
What happened before that?
Reason it out as much as you can, and be willing to just say, “I don’t know what’s
wrong,” for right now if needed. You can come back to finding problems and solutions later, after you’ve cried it out.
2. Don’t blame him. Be fair. Target a problem, not a person. Let him help you. Your husband, and maybe your children, are the closest to you, and so they’re in prime range for being blamed. Try to reason out your emotions as triggered by situations, not people.
3. Talk to your husband when you’re in a good mood. Try to tell him what usually makes you cry and how you like to be comforted. This can be a fun conversation. And it will help him to feel less stressed the next time he does find you crying because he’ll feel like he knows better what to do to help you.
4. Be there for him, too! Husbands might not be as prone to crying as wives (if we’re going with the stereotypes), but they still have feelings. Ask your husband how he likes to be comforted when he’s stressed out. Does he want to talk? Does he like to be alone for a few minutes? Give the support he needs in the way that he needs.
You can work together to refine your reactions to stressed-out- moments so that you’re both helping each other as much as possible. You’ll be amazed just how one little reaction in the right direction can make the two of you stronger together and make a sticky situation smoother.
Photo Credit: Top picture - Caitlinn Mahar-Daniels; Bottom picture - Jason Corey Photography
"What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility."
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