Welcome to “Love and Sex Today.” I’m Dr. Doug Weiss, and today’s topic is “Really Understanding Your Spouse.” It is so important to be understood in your marriage. Everybody wants to be understood, yet so few of us are actually trained on how to understand. Today I want to stop those hours of arguing and staying up late, feeling confused and frustrated that your spouse just doesn’t get you. It may not be that they don’t get you, it’s that they don’t know how to understand you.
Today, I’m going change that. This is going to be something you will definitely want to take notes on, because I’m going to give you six steps to truly understand your spouse. When I say, “truly understand,” I mean in a way that they know you understand them. They feel united with you, that they’re able to have their heart in your hands and really trust you with it. This tool works. It can even help you understand your children better. This is by far one of the most powerful tools I’ve ever developed.
I want to encourage you today that there is actually a path, a known path, to understanding your spouse or partner. To really get the feeling of what understanding means, it means to stand under the other person. It means to kind of feel their weight. The best way I can explain this in this format, is to take your left hand and just kind of put it straight out and put your right hand under your left hand. Literally let it touch, and then hold the weight of your left hand. When you are actually experiencing the weight in your right hand from your left hand, you are understanding.
When you can actually feel the weight of your partner’s perspective or heart, you will understand them. Now, understanding is not that you’re trying to get understood. It’s not being defensive. It’s not trying to be right. It’s not necessarily even agreeing. It’s, “I’m trying to get to know where you are. I’m trying to find you, where you’re sitting and what you’re feeling, and when I get there, I’ve understood you. The facts aren’t as important. Right and wrong is irrelevant. I just want to know where you are.”
Now men, I am giving you the keys to a happily ever after. If you can understand your wife or partner, you will have a much better life. Women, this works for you as well. Men don’t have a need to be heard and understood as much, but women love to be understood. They love to be investigated and explored. Being heard is usually 95 percent of solving the issues in their life. They’re smart. They’re resourceful. They don’t need your solutions, they need to be understood.
So I’m going to give you six steps to doing that. Now ladies, if you want to be understood, tell your husband you want to be understood. Say, “I need you to walk through these six steps. I need you to understand me.” Do not assume just because you need to be understood, he gets that. He doesn’t. Men don’t read minds. They don’t even read faces or body language very well. Men are not as in tune to understanding. So say, “Hey, honey I really need to be understood. Can we do this together?” Practice these exercises every day for two weeks. Come up with mock situations if you need to so you will be able to understand your spouse when it really matters. Practice is the only way.
The first step in understanding your spouse is to ask them what they’re feeling. If they are telling you a lot about their day or a situation, ask them, “How are you feeling about that?” They can define their feelings with words. Feelings are not thoughts. If they start telling you their thoughts on the matter, ask them again to tell you how they are really feeling. Let that silence be there until they start giving you some feeling words. If you as a couple aren’t good at sharing your feelings, get my book “Emotional Fitness.” It will help you.
Number two: Ask what else they’re feeling. Oftentimes, the first time you ask what they’re feeling, they’ll likely only give you one or two emotions. Ask them, “Okay, what else?” Now we’re going somewhere. When we’re talking about feelings, we are going to understand each other a lot faster. You might think differently than who you are, but you don’t feel differently than who you are in that moment in time. Feelings aren’t truth. They’re not facts. Okay? They are just feelings, but if they are really heard it makes a big difference. They might start off with, “I feel angry and I’m ticked off at this.” You say, “Okay, what else?” “Well, I really feel disrespected. My kids don’t listen to me” or, “My boss doesn’t listen to me.” Or, “I feel unheard.” Or, “I feel insignificant.” Man, now we’re getting some deeper feelings. It’s very, very helpful.
Number three: This is probably the most powerful. It’s the spine of this exercise. Validate the feeling. Now, this does not mean you agree with their feelings. If your wife tells you she feels ugly or fat, you’re not saying, “Hey, I agree with you.” That’s not validating the feeling. If she feels alone you’re not saying, “Yeah, you should feel alone.” That’s not it. Validating the feeling means, “You’re actually feeling this. You’re having a valid feeling. It’s valid that you feel insignificant or disrespected when a child talks to you that way or when a boss talks to you that way. What you’re experiencing is valid.” Right there, it unlocks doors. When I do this with my daughter, she just shifts. I do this with women all the time. As a psychologist, I am validating pain almost daily. It really helps people to just hear, “It’s valid you feel betrayed, hurt, lied to, confused, or overwhelmed. It’s valid you grieve the way you’re grieving.”
Number four: Take responsibility. This only (and I say “only” again) applies if you’re responsible for what’s going on. So if I do something that really hurts my wife, and she tells me she feels hurt, then I would take responsibility—”You know what? I’m responsible you feel hurt. I was twenty minutes late. I was disrespectful. I didn’t call or text you and that was really inconsiderate. So, it’s valid you feel disrespected by me. I caused that.” I can’t cause people to feel feelings if I had nothing to do with it, okay? So only take responsibility if you really are responsible. I can’t cause that ripple if my wife’s family member went off on her for some reason (which doesn’t happen.) But if it did, I’m not responsible for another person making her feel upset. I would just validate her feelings, and then go to the next step.
Number five: Ask what they desire. Maybe they want a hug. Maybe they want to be left alone. Maybe they don’t really know what they want, and that’s common. Men might say, “I don’t really need anything. It happened, and I felt challenged, and that’s it. I don’t really need anything from you.” It might be, “Hey, I just really need to be touched. That would mean the world to me.”
Lastly, number six: Do it if it’s reasonable. “I never want to see you again,” is not reasonable. “I need you to clean the whole house” is not reasonable. If their desire is reasonable, do it. It will comfort them, help them feel understood, and help them move through what they are dealing with.
Using these tools, I have seen irate women and men feel understood in five minutes. When your spouse feels validated and heard, you don’t need two or three hours to work through a situation. When you don’t understand your spouse or partner, they begin to escalate emotionally because they feel alone in the situation. They want you to come under and feel their emotional weight. If you don’t, and you actually go above them and say, “Hey, listen to my point. Listen to my point of view,” then they’re going to escalate over you. That’s why you’re staying up until two or three o’clock in the morning arguing and fussing. I had a couple very recently tell me, “We were up until two o’clock in the morning.” Well, they didn’t use the tool. If he would have validated her pain and betrayal in the first five minutes and told her “It’s valid you feel betrayed because I cheated on you,” they probably would have been able to have a good night’s sleep.
Validating is so important. This tool of understanding is found in my book, “The Servant Marriage.” It’s very powerful and can completely change your marriage. It can change your relationship. It can even change the way you parent. When I use this tool with my children and just validate what’s going on with them, they feel like “Dad’s with me.” This works in every relationship. This can really change the way you relate to people. When someone needs to be understood and you go under and you find out what’s going on in them emotionally and validate it, they feel heard by you and they think you’re a rock star in their life. This tool can change the way people experience you.
When you’re working with couples that are in pain, many of them deal with infidelity, sexual addiction, and intimacy anorexia. They travel to our counseling center in Colorado Springs and we deal with real issues every single week. Okay? If you need an intensive or you need to talk to a counselor, just call us at 719-278-3708.
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