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Dr David Christian Marriage Advice

How to Show Respect for Your Spouse's Feelings

How to Show Respect for Your Spouse's Feelings

“She is really upset with me,” Daniel said sharply. “She has been mad at me for months,” he continued. “I don’t think I can do anything right.” 

Daniel had been asked to leave the family home which only added to his pain. Kaitlyn, his wife of nineteen years, had reached her limit, he said. She asked him to not only leave their home, but also their two adolescent daughters who stayed with her. Daniel had an attitude which we explored during his first session with me. 

“You sound angry,” I said. 

“Wouldn’t you be?” he countered. “I’ve been kicked out of my home, am living in a garage studio apartment and am sending my paycheck to a family I only see once in a while. Yes, I’m mad.” 

“Why did she ask you to leave?” I questioned. 

Daniel looked at me and pondered his answer. 

“I know the right thing to say is that I’ve done all these things that led her to make the decision she did. But, I don’t really believe that. I believe she has some kind of agenda.” 

“I’m not sure I follow,” I said. “What kind of agenda would she have?” 

“To see me as the bad guy and her as ‘the perfect one,’” he said, gesturing the last few words on quotes. “She has it all together,” he continued sarcastically, “and I’m the guy who doesn’t listen to her feelings or honor her the way she is supposed to be honored. Yeah, I think I’m getting a raw deal.” 

“Well,” I said slowly, “I don’t think you’re a bad guy, but I do wonder how well you’ve held her feelings.” 

“What do you mean by that?” he asked. 

“When anyone is upset with us,” I said, “they will give us clues as to what is wrong. It might not always come out pretty, and sometimes not clear or direct. But, they will let us know that something is wrong. I’m betting that Kaitlyn let you know she was unhappy.” 

“Oh, she let me know she was unhappy all right,” he said. “But, I wasn’t going to take the blame for all of our problems. I pushed back, to be sure.” 

“That’s exactly my point,” I said. “We all must listen carefully to what our mate or others say to us. We must hold their feelings. Scripture says, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (James 1:19). I have found that if I make it a point to hold my wife’s feelings, especially when she is upset, I will hear her and be able to respond more effectively to her needs. It’s not always easy, but it is always effective.”

Daniel and I kept talking about this powerful principle and the impact it could have in helping him reconcile with his wife. Here are some additional steps to take to learn the fine art of holding to your mate’s feelings:

One, imagine a space between you and your mate. Imagine a space between you and your mate, perhaps a ‘holding container,’ where you allow your mate’s feelings and concerns to land. Let them settle into this container while you look at them. Objectively sit back and reflect on your mate is saying. 

Two, be slow to speak and quick to listen. Don’t react. Listen carefully to what your mate is saying. Ask questions to ensure that you truly understand what your mate is saying. Reflect back that you understand what they are saying. 

Three, bracket your reaction. Quiet your inner defenses. Try not to react or fight back. Remind yourself that you will have an opportunity to share your concerns, but it is not now. Holding your mate’s feelings means you hold your feelings/reactions while you lovingly hold your mate’s feelings. 

Four, respond effectively to your mate. After you are certain you understand your mate’s concerns, respond effectively. Holding your mate’s feelings, allowing them to influence you, make necessary changes. Doing so will mean everything to your mate. 

Finally, agree upon a solution going forward. Ensure your mate that you hear them and value their point of view; make certain you have an agreement on lasting change that meets their needs. 

Daniel took these words to heart and soon began having much more meaningful conversations with his wife. Listening non-defensively, holding her feelings and then applying them to her concerns made huge differences in their relationship. 

added for clarityDo you struggle with defensiveness and holding your mate’s feelings? If you would like to learn ways to respond more effectively, please go to our website, Please send responses to me at and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. 

Publication date: June 9, 2015