We THINK we want to know. We SAY we want to know. But do we REALLY want to know why our spouse is acting or thinking a certain way? If they tell us their true feelings about something, are we going to jump all over them? We pose our question to them. But the question THEY want to know before they respond is …are we going to make it safe for them to answer us honestly?
Below you will see a “cute” cartoon. It shows two spiders facing each other. The one spider has obviously asked a question of the other one. The way we know this is the other spider says, “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll be more open about my feelings if you don’t eat me.” That’s a good deal. Who wants to be eaten alive in any context?
That leads me to again ask you the same question:
Do You Really Want to Know Why?
Please consider where this question can lead. If our spouse tells us the truth, will we in effect “eat them alive” with our reaction afterwards?
I ask this because we’ve seen this happen in many marriages. I’ve actually done this in my own. A while back I asked Steve a question to which, he asked me, “Do you really want to know?” I said yes. But when he gave me his answer, I verbally jumped all over him. I vividly remember his reaction to my tirade. He said, “What makes me want to be honest with you when react like this when I tell you the truth?” As he said, “I’m only telling you what I honestly feel.”
OUCH!!! He was right. I don’t remember what the issue was at the time. But I remember I had one of those “AHA” moments after he said what he did. I needed to be safer in the reactions I give out after my husband is honest with me. Otherwise, he will hold back from sharing them with me. I had to ask myself, “How well do I encourage honesty?” And how well do I handle differing ways of viewing the same thing?
How Safe Are You?
I want to pose the same questions back to you. We receive so many complaints from spouses who say that their spouse is so “distant.” Their spouse doesn’t “open up” and tell their real feelings. Well, how safe are you? Can your spouse truly be honest? That may not be the only reason they open up, but it could be an important one.
If you truly want to know some of the insights your spouse can give you, you have to make it safe for him or her to do this. Please read:
Also, here’s a great article that relates that you may find enlightening as you read it:
I’ve also posed that same question to my husband, “do you really want to know?” when he has asked me about certain matters. Steve will wonder about this or that, and sometimes I know that my answer will be more complicated and wordy to answer than he will truly want to know. He’s a pretty “simple answer” person. I’ll tell him that I’ll be happy to answer his question, but I’m not thinking he wants to listen to the rabbit trail of an answer. Usually, he passes on wanting an answer. (He knows how complicated my mind can be. So when I give him that warning, he’ll usually regret going forth.)
A Woman’s Mind
Talk show host, Dr Dennis Prager, has joked about how complicated most women’s minds are. He says that if most men had to spend 15 minutes in the mind of a woman, they would probably want to commit suicide. I can say, “amen” to that. I’ve often told my husband that if he crawled into my mind for any period of time, he would lose his desire to live. It would blow his mind. It’s too often on overload.
So much for wanting to be open about all our thoughts and feelings. Over-all, yes, we want openness and honesty, but there are times when we need to consider just how open we want to be about EVERYTHING. And if our spouse is open, can we truly take it all in?
So, here are a few questions for you:
• Are you really prepared to hear the answer to the question you are asking (especially if it isn’t one that is easy to hear)?
• If your spouse is totally honest with you, will your reaction “punish” him or her in such a way that he or she could end up deciding it isn’t worth sharing certain things with you? Are you a “safe” spouse to open up to?
• How well do you encourage honesty; how open do you really want your spouse to be to you concerning his or her feelings?
Truly consider your answers. They’re important ones.
Disruptive Imprints from the Past
There’s another angle to the questions I’m asking you. How safe has your spouse felt to share with others, before you even entered into his or her life? Maybe this isn’t as much about you, as it is your spouse’s past experiences (and present ones with them) coming back to haunt your marital relationship. Perhaps your spouse isn’t as trusting as he or she may be if you lay the groundwork to help him or you see that you are safe. How do you do that? It may be that you discover more about the disruptive imprints from your spouse’s past that shapes how he or she approaches relationships. These are things from the past that come up and bite us, and our spouse. As a result, it hurts your relationship.
I recommend a book that can help you to “identify the source of missteps and learn exactly what you can do about it!” It’s one that we recommend HIGHLY. It is written by relationship experts Milan and Kay Yerkovich. In this book, they “draw on the powerful tool of an attachment theory to show how your early life experiences created this intimacy imprint.” They also equip you to better deal with and break the pattern of these imprints. Here is a link to this book, plus another one concerning listening and talking. It also gives you temperament tools, to help you better understand your spouse:
These are really excellent books. I hope you can and will obtain them.
Timing of our Questions and Other Reasons
But here’s the question I want to pose to you. Do you REALLY want to know what your spouse is thinking? If so, please realize that perhaps it’s a timing thing. It may be that our spouse is too tired or preoccupied to share. If so, be aware of that. Don’t ask important questions when it’s a H.A.L.T. time. (That is a time when your spouse is Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Those are volatile times. You may not get a great response during one of those times.) Ask later.
And lastly, it may be that your spouse doesn’t feel safe for some reason. Prayerfully, and honestly consider that possibility. If you REALLY want to have your questions answered, ask God for wisdom as to how you can make it safe for him or her. We have a lot of tools and tips posted throughout this web site that can be a good place to start. Look around, asking our Wonderful Counselor, the Holy Spirit to guide you. Then glean through and take advantage of that, which the Lord shows you to read. I hope you will.
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Communication and Conflict