After a frustrating day with a co-worker or when I’m just feeling overwhelmed, I want to be able to vent. But my husband always wants to solve my problems. How do I get my husband to stop trying to find a fix and just listen and sympathize with me?
I get it. I really do. Most men I know—including myself—are better at fixing than feeling. It’s how we’re wired. We’re simple machines and we favor simple fixes. Alas, relationships are complicated and women are most definitely not simple machines. It’s not an insult. It’s just true, and we all know it. That’s why we smirk at this photo.
Clichés aside, you’re asking a fair question. How can you solve the problem of the solving husband?
First, I’d encourage you to recognize your husband’s impulse to fix as a good one. Receive it as a gift . . . not the fixing itself but his desire to reduce the stress and anxiety in your life.
Second, consider introducing what Dr. John Gottman calls a “Stress Reducing Conversation” into your daily routine. Ritualizing this kind of conversation at the end of a frustrating day—or any day for that matter—can be crucial to your relationship’s long-term health.
Start by deciding together when to have the conversation. Should it be immediately after work? During dinner? After the kids go to bed? Once you’re ready to connect, take turns talking about your day for fifteen minutes. Set a timer if you need to. The listener is not allowed to give unsolicited advice. Instead, show interest, demonstrate understanding, and take your partner’s side. Doing so helps build trust and friendship and lets your partner know that you are in it together.
It’s important that you and your husband both understand the rules of the Stress Reducing Conversation and that you agree together that it’s a valuable addition to your daily routine. My guess is that it’d only take a few tries before you start to shift the pattern from fixing to understanding.
Photo by Moss + Isaac