Here are 9 things to say to your wife when you know you have an unhappy wife. Don’t dodge what you know in your heart is true. When things are not good, and you’re getting scared, don’t withdraw. She’s waiting for you to notice.
Your miserable wife wants to tell you, but she wants you to ask even more. Be curious in a gentle way. Don’t assume she ‘s going to rip your head off. If you’re going to make things better, you sometimes have to be like a fireman running into a burning house. Lean in. Ask her what she is thinking gently. Don’t assume anything. Be authentic and curious when you ask. If you have to force yourself, she will probably see right through it. You have to want to know…and understand.
Tell your wife you’re concerned about how things have been going. Tell her what she means to you and that you’re worried about how unhappy she’s been. She needs to see that you’re willing to at least risk an uncomfortable conversation. This is an area where most men have trouble. They think they are better off suffering in silence. But you’re not hurting alone.
It’s easy, maybe too easy, for her see your relational deficits. The question is can you see them as well? When you know she is unhappy, do you have the courage to see things from her point of view? Is there anything you can agree with? Can you keep a lid on your defensiveness? Have you looked back on some of your recent fights and considered how you contributed to making things worse? Can you think of ways that maybe you’ve been unreliable by doing things she’s asked you to stop doing? Tell her you will do better. Then tell her all the things you regret doing or saying. Show remorse. I Want to be a Better Husband. What Do You Need?
Be humble. Tell her you don’t want to give up. Ask her what she needs. Suggest science-based couples therapy. A simple observation sometimes will suffice. “Things suck between us right now. I can see my part in all of this. I want to be a better husband, and I may need some help.”
Gut check. Have you been taking her for granted? Tell her what you appreciate about her. Show some gratitude, or express some remorse, but use specific examples. “Honey, I’ve been taking you for granted for a long time. Every day you get the kids off to school, got to work, and somehow manage to keep everything running so smoothly. You make it look easy…and I know it isn’t. I’m sorry I never told you how grateful I am for all that you do. Thank you.”
Ask her what she needs. Be sincere and kind. When you know that your wife is unhappy, be willing and able to listen and understand what she tells you. It may be hard for you to consider her needs, especially if you’re feeling hurt and alone with your own unmet needs. Suck it up. One of you has to break the impasse. Find the courage to address some of her needs.“What do you need from me right now?” is one of the most healing things you can ask when you know she is unhappy.
Showing vulnerability is sexy. Sometimes putting things simply can melt her heart. Don’t overthink this. You need each other. Put that simple fact on the table. “I need you” invites her to be vulnerable too.
Don’t count on spontaneity. The problem with being “spontaneous” is that life will happen and crush your well-intentioned spontaneity. Date nights need to be planned. There’s nothing wrong with being spontaneous, just don’t count on it as a reliable way to impact your fun deficit. Talk about how to you once had fun together. And make solid plans to make date night a priority.
When you know she is unhappy, remember she may also be worried as well. Your wife needs to hear that you won’t forget about her when you’re around attractive others at work. She needs to know that she is your best friend and your closest confidant. Tell her that your family comes first.
Remember it’s not what you say that will get you in trouble as much as it is your tendency to say nothing. When you know your wife is unhappy, let her know that you see her pain…and then be curious and ask her about it.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.