Dear Husband: It’s Not always Black and white in marriage

“That’s life. Deal with it.” There’s nothing more emotionally draining and dissatisfying for me than to hear that phrase. “That’s life. Deal with it.” Especially when they’re coming from the person you’ve decided to “do life” with. It helps to veer away from that sort of black and white thinking in marriage.

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If “deal with it” means just go with it, then that doesn’t sit right with me. Not always. In my mind, there are a lot of things that happen in life…that can go wrong in life…and if your response to the things you feel most strongly about is simply that they will happen the way they will happen anyway, then you’re letting life happen to you. I think it means that you are seeing life through a black and white lens. You’re not making any kind of an effort to at the very least let things happen in the best way possible for yourself. In the context of marriage, it also means that you may be avoiding the effort of showing empathy.

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Now, I say those words are most emotional coming from your “life partner” only if, like myself, you don’t agree with them. I’ve never taken any situation I didn’t like lying down. That’s simply my nature. I’ll fight it for as long as I can or until I know for sure that I can’t do anything about it. Hearing those words from my partner means that they’re willing to roll with that particular situation and I’m not. That means that if I choose to fight, then I’m fighting on my own. Fighting on your own is (arguably) not something you think you’re going to do when you take on a life partner.

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Dear Husband, here’s how to practice empathy

Husbands will tend to feel the burden of life quickly if they’re carrying the financial burden of the family and it can feel for them that they can only plod along with no room for discussion or complaining. This is totally understandable but it’s a difficult way to have to deal with life in general. And, of course, it could bleed out into their interactions with their partners. It could become their default response to anything that their partners see as a struggle.

Dear Husband, know that you can show empathy. It won’t take away from your own struggles. Empathy shows you those grey parts in life that you might find it difficult to naturally see – it shows you that nothing in life or marriage is black and white unless you decide that it is. Showing empathy is actually to your benefit. We (wives) will continue to recognize and understand your struggles even after you have taken the time to do the same for us. If you are unsure of how to show empathy, here are a few tips.

5 Simple Steps to show empathy to your wife

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  1. Start by taking away judgement. Your immediate impulse may be to judge your wife for feeling like life is anything but perfect. Particularly if you feel like you are having a tougher time than them. By taking away the judgement when your wife speaks to you, you get to really hear her. You get to understand her better, whether you agree with her or not.
  2. Once you are able to hear her, ask questions. Sift between those black and white spaces in what she’s saying and ask her about the grey parts. This is the easiest way to make sure that you have understood what she is saying to you. Ask questions where you are honestly not clear about what you are discussing, why you are discussing it and what exactly her concerns are. Asking questions in a non-condescending way will also show her that you are genuinely interested in her feelings.
  3. Do not rush to suggest solutions. “Fixing” the problem may not be what she is looking for. By truly listening to her, you might be able to glean from what she says whether she is asking for your help or not. The answers she gives to your questions (see previous point) may be helpful for you to use to determine if she just wants a listening ear or not.
  4. Validate her feelings by voicing her concerns back to her and then asking her if there is any way you can help to make life easier for her. Do not do this if she has already told you what she needs from you (see point 2 above). If she has already told you what she needs, let her know that you intend to work with her on things and tell her how you intend to help.
  5. Do not stop there. Show continued interest in the topic at hand over time. Follow up with your wife after a few days and see what progress has been made and if either of your perspectives have changed in any way.
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Dear Husband, it’s okay to think outside the box

It may be helpful to remember that each individual in a relationship or marriage will carry a weight or burden of some sort that their partner cannot help with even if they would like to. It might happen early or later on in the marriage, but it will happen. Pregnancy is a fine example of something that a partner will be unable to physically help their pregnant partner with. That does not mean that any struggle that the non-pregnant partner faces is now negated. You know what I mean?

Being mummy of a young child makes fighting and pushing for things harder not just logistically but physically as well. It’s tiring. It can make you feel like you’re in this life alone even though you’re supposed to be a unit and the thing is, sometimes, all it takes is a willingness to talk through obstacles and show a bit of understanding. To reiterate what has been discussed above, the steps to repairing black and white vision in marriage are the following. A bit of empathy. Really listening. Asking questions for clarity. That can make your partner feel like you at least care. Don’t forget, husbands, to take it a step further and continue to take your partner’s struggle with that particular situation into consideration. Even if it’s something you know you can’t do anything about. It’s not enough to put on a show of care and consideration for a single day and not keep it up. That will only exacerbate your partner’s feeling of alone-ness. 

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So…

Show some empathy, husbands. We’re all human and shoving our feelings and emotions under the carpet because “that’s life” is not sustainable in the long term. Those feelings will find other ways to come out and they’ll never be positive ways. Besides, you don’t want a wife or partner who’s just going through the routine day-to-day, do you? A partner who’s simply dealing with life rather than really living it. How boring does that sound? Know that if she suddenly becomes that kind of person, she’s not with you anymore. She might be with you physically but certainly not emotionally or mentally.

Finally…

And you, dear husband. Are you just dealing with life? Do you want something different? Is there anything you can do to change things? It’s alright to express dissatisfaction. Your partner is willing to listen and might even offer you some ideas.

Wife, have you succumbed to life because you’re being told that that’s all you can do? Are there several things you want to change but can’t muster up the energy to even try because it’s been drummed into your head that “That’s life. Deal with it”?

Wives, what are some great ways that your husbands practice empathy?

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