A Husband Answers My Questions about Emotions

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This is a continuation of a series about How Husbands Process Emotions.  I believe that this husband articulates the feelings of a number of husbands – Christian and non-Christian.  It is easy for us to assume that our husbands don’t have feelings if they often don’t verbalize them.  Sometimes, they can be deeply wounded for many years and NEVER verbalize their pain.  That is what my husband did.  He just shut down – and I was completely clueless about how damaging my words had been.  I thought if he was hurt he would tell me.  I sure told him when I was hurting!  

Some husbands DO tell their wives they are hurting – but it comes across as anger. I heard one man remark recently that when a man is yelling –  that is his way of “crying.” He is hurting. The anger is a secondary emotion to his hurt and pain. If your man is angry a lot – I wonder if there is some way to look past the anger to his pain. (If you are not safe, please get experienced, appropriate, godly help ASAP!)

We often expect our men to think, feel, process and talk like we do – but this is not reality!   Our men DO have feelings and we have the power to crush and destroy them or to breathe life and inspiration into their souls.  Thank you SO much to this husband for his willingness to share his perspective.  If any other husbands would like to answer any or all of these questions to help the wives better empathize with and understand how men process emotions, you are welcome to comment.  Thank you!

I would like for this site to be a safe place for men and women to share their emotions.  I consider it to be a great privilege that men are willing to share their hearts with us this week.  So I would ask that comments be respectful of the men who were willing to answer these questions for me, just as we would be respectful of the emotions of other women.  Thanks!

1. How affected are you by your wife’s emotions (good and bad)?

I am extremely affected by my wife’s emotions.  An example this week.  We had a disagreement and she really did not talk to me or acknowledge me for about 4 days.  I got sick and had to leave work.  I felt like I caught the flu.  I believe the stress from us not being connected stressed me out and lowered my immune system, causing me to get physically sick.
 
In the past I have an unable to perform at my job if we our in a terrible disagreement or the relationship is not going well.  I have had to miss work because of this.  So I would say that I am very much affected by my wife’s emotions.
 
She also had the power to support and encourage me and make to excel higher than I probably could on my own.
 

2. If your wife has been disrespectful for a long time, how does her disrespect alter how much her emotions affect you?

With long term disrespect comes an sort of shut down or unplugging by me.  I disconnect and her emotions or how she feels become less important to me.  It is very hard to keep doing the right things and still be disrespected and eventually it is easy to become worn down and just disconnect.
 

3. How important is your wife’s happiness is to you when you feel respected vs. disrespected?

  • When I feel disrespected her happiness is much less important to me.
  • When I feel respected I will do anything in my power to make her happy.
 

4.  If you have a serious disagreement and your wife verbally attacks you and accuses you of things like being unloving, hating her, being a horrible husband, never listening, etc… what do you have to do in your mind to process that kind of negative emotion?

It is easy to become angry and say something terrible back, but the anger is just a shield for the true emotions which is deep hurt.  It usually takes a minimum of a day and sometimes longer before I can organize my thoughts on this and be able to verbally communicate them.

5. Do you think with words when you are working through how you feel or what your emotions are about a conflict with your wife?

I don’t think I ever think in words.  I think in pictures or just thoughts.  I never see words in my mind when thinking through a problem.  
 

6. How difficult is it to put your emotions in words?  Do you need time to be able to do this, or can you talk about emotions immediately during the conflict?

It is very difficult and can take a day or more usually.

7. How safe is it for you to be genuinely honest with your wife about your emotions?  What makes you feel emotionally safe or unsafe with her?

I feel fortunate that from the beginning I have been myself and very honest with my emotions.  The difference between safe versus unsafe is the reaction.  If you try and discuss something and get an hysterical response or some horrible fight, then you are less likely to be so open and honest about that subject in the future.  It is a shame, because if a spouse would just listen and try to communicate without hurtful words or explosive emotions then it is much more likely to foster more open, honest discussions in the future.

8. How would it affect your communication with your wife if you knew that your wife would be on your team and support you even if you were honest about your negative emotions and feelings?

If a spouse would just listen and try to communicate without hurtful words or explosive emotions then it is much more likely to foster more open, honest discussions in the future.
FROM PEACEFULWIFE:
This is why I recommend several principles when we as women are talking about emotional subjects with our men:
  • Be brief.  Think bullet points, not thesis!
  • Boil down your emotions to the basic one word emotion whenever possible and share how you feel without any blame and preferably without a lot of volume.  Your emotions are POWERFUL.  Your husband NEEDS to hear about your feelings.  Many times men can hear our emotions when we just share them in a very simple way.  “I feel sad.”  “I feel angry.”  “I feel lonely.”  “I feel scared.”  “I feel nervous.”  (Laura Doyle “The Surrendered Wife”)
  • Ask directly for what you want/don’t want.  “I want X”  “I don’t want Y.”  (Laura Doyle “The Surrendered Wife”)
  • Remember to be respectful.  A man who feels respected cares a whole lot more about your feelings than a man who feels disrespected does unless he is very Spirit filled.
  • Don’t forget to share all your happy, positive, thankful, playful, joyful emotions, too!  You bless your man when you share the good stuff!
  • Use a calm, pleasant, friendly tone of voice and have a friendly facial expression and body language whenever possible.  He is visual.  Your husband gets more information from your non-verbal communication than he does from your words.
  • Allow him to have a day or more to process his emotions and ideas – especially about really big decisions.  It is a gift you can give to your man to allow him the time his brain needs to hash everything out and come up with the BEST decision – not just the fastest decision.  The quickest solution is not usually the right one!
  • Assume the best about your man, not the worst.   His need for time to himself is not a sign that he doesn’t love you.  It is a sign he DOES care and he wants to thoroughly figure out what he thinks and feels and decide the best way to put words to his ideas in order to not hurt you.
  •  Do not try to pressure or force your man into a deep discussion on the spot about something very important.  Give him a few days notice if possible so he can be prepared.

GENTLEMEN:

Do you have anything you would like to add?

LADIES:

Any questions for me or the men?

How Do Men Process Emotions?

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We spent some time this past week looking at how several different men think and process problems at work and in their marriages.  I’d love to have even more husbands answer these questions to give us a broader picture.  But I’m so thankful for the men who have been willing to answer these questions for us.  They have given us some really helpful information that I believe will bless and benefit many marriages.  The more we can understand how men think and feel – the more empathy we can have for them and the better equipped we will be to communicate effectively and to love and respect them.

Today I want to begin an emphasis on how men process feelings and emotions (For part 2 ,  part 3 and part 4 click here). Not only do men often need time to think through issues by themselves before they are ready to talk about them with their wives (like we talked about in the last series on how men think), but they also often need time to decide how they feel.  And even when they know how they feel – they may need time to put their feelings into words. 

Men DO have feelings and emotions.  They may not show them to us if they don’t feel safe with us.  But they feel, too.  And they feel just as deeply as we do.

It has to be ok for our men to be men – and for each man to be his own unique self.  If they need time to think and process through issues and emotions, then let’s give them the gift of that time without making a bunch of negative assumptions about them having a  lack of loving intentions.  This need for time doesn’t have anything to do with our husbands’ love for us.  It is just the way they are made. If we can embrace and accept these differences between us – conflicts will be much easier to work through!

FROM A CHRISTIAN HUSBAND

I have a very difficult time explaining my emotions, but there is no doubt I feel the emotions. When my wife is happy I feel like I’m the best husband in the world and doing everything right. When she’s sad I feel like I’ve failed as a husband because my one duty is to make my wife feel happy and loved and cherished and sad or hurt is just the opposite of that.

I’ve had that discussion with my wife many times over the last 2-3 years. Because I’m not able to verbalize how/why I feel things it usually comes out that she says she is not responsible for my happiness. That is 100% true, she is not responsible for my happiness. However her emotional state sets the tone for the relationship. If she’s happy then I’m happy, or I could be sad or angry or whatever based on other parts of my life. When she’s happy I’m free to have my emotions based on what’s going on. When she’s sad I’m sad because I feel as if I’ve messed up.  

I might have just had the best day of my life at work and if she’s sad I already know I’m going to be sad.

My experience has been that women when the sympathize / empathize / discuss problems with other women don’t take on the emotional tone of the women they are talking to they have their own emotions are much more in-tune with them. They can still be happy and feel sorrow for someone they talk to. Men on the other hand when we sympathize with someone tend to take on that emotion as well. When men go to a funeral it could be someone we hardly knew, but a good friend of ours is feeling horrible. We go up and say sorry for your loss or whatever strikes us, and we in turn feel horrible as well. I think it comes back to the fact that men like to solve problems. We know deep down that if you are sad we want to be able to solve that but it’s not up to us to solve it so it makes us sad in response partly because you are sad and partly because we can’t do anything more to help the situation.

As to verbalizing emotions, I can say I rarely do that. For better or worse I’ve learned through life that when I try to say what’s wrong –  because I have a harder time explaining the emotion with words – that it tends to not come out the same as what it feels inside. For example if I’m feeling lonely and disconnected I might appear somewhat down and less talkative than normal.

When my wife would ask what’s wrong I have 2 choices:

1) I can say, “Nothing, just trying to process stuff,” which is usually a lie, but tends to produce results that hurt less even if it doesn’t actually solve the problem.

2) I can try to explain that I’m feeling lonely or disconnected and need some intimate / alone time for the 2 of us to get reconnected. That normally turns into an argument that all I want is sex or I’m too needy.

Because I don’t know how to express the feelings using the right words it’s safer to just stay quiet, but that also means that it will never get better.

We all have different ways to express emotions but it’s learning how those close to you express their emotions that really matters.

FROM PEACEFULWIFE

Let’s allow our husbands’ needs and emotions to be just as important as our needs and our emotions in our marriages.  A healthy marriage is a safe place for BOTH spouses to say how they feel, what they need and to feel heard and significant to the other person.

Other husbands – I would love to hear your take on this issue, too.   Thank you!!!   I think that the more we wives can hear from different husbands, the better we can understand our own husbands.