Can I talk to my best friend, please?
By Carlos Santiago
This week, we’re featuring excerpts from FamilyLife’s new devotional book The Story of Us. Click here to order your copy.
It seemed every time my wife and I had a conversation about my mother-in-law, drama would soon follow. If I expressed my frustrations about her mother’s actions, she would get defensive. If I kept my mouth shut, she would notice my silence and get defensive anyway. I couldn’t win.
As the months went by, we learned to identify off-limits topics and steer clear of them. While this worked on one level, I could sense a growing separation between us.
In desperation, I tried something new.
I told her, “You’re my best friend, but you’re also my wife. Sometimes I need to be able to say things to a best friend that I can’t say to my wife. Can you not be my wife for a moment, and just be my friend?”
Intrigued, she agreed. Then I proceeded.
“My wife’s mother is driving me crazy. She …”
When I finished speaking, there was an eerie silence. I braced myself for the inevitable reaction, but what my wife said next changed the course of our marriage forever.
“It sounds like your mother-in-law is nuts. Have you been able to tell your wife any of this?”
“I’ve tried, but I don’t think she can hear me. I think she thinks I hate her mother,” I said.
“It kind of sounds like that.”
“I don’t hate her,” I said. “I like that my wife has such a close relationship with her mother. I just want us to be able to establish our own family and traditions. But I don’t feel like we can.”
“I didn’t realize,” she said.
When we were done talking, it was like a weight had been lifted. Our situation hadn’t changed, but we found a way to talk about it without getting into a fight. Knowing she understood made a huge difference.
It might feel weird at first, but this technique does a few things:
- It prepares your spouse to hear something difficult.
- It puts you on the same side.
- It reinforces the idea that you are still friends.
- It helps you slow down and listen.
The next time you need to have a difficult conversation with your spouse, try asking permission to talk to the “best friend” version of your spouse instead.
Adapted from The Story of Us. Copyright ©2019 by FamilyLife Publishing. All rights reserved.
The good stuff: Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)
Action Points: Identify a conversation you’ve been putting off for fear of your spouse’s reaction. Give this “best friend” technique a try for yourself this week.
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