Almost everyone has had a spouse attack, but few ever talk about it. I am going to help you identify what a spouse attack is and help you know what to do when you face one. Everyone who’s been married has had a spouse attack. If you don’t know what a spouse attack is, it’s even worse because you don’t know what’s going on.
Here’s what it is: when everything you don’t like about your spouse downloads to you in minutes, maybe hours, maybe over days, and you get in this negative funk about your spouse. They don’t do X. They have a bad attitude about Y. They don’t work hard enough. They’re lazy in the house. They don’t take showers. Everything that is wrong with them is on your front screen. It’s shouting in your ear, and it seems like it’s almost attaching to you. You don’t know what to do because you don’t know what’s going on.
If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, you’ve had one of these. Instead of being able to see the good 95%—how amazing and wonderful and smart and hardworking and industrious and creative your partner is—your eyesight and earsight and heartsight focus on the 5% that is challenging for you. It may not be challenging for another person, but because of the way your two personalities hit, there’s always going to be that spot that tweaks both of you. And that’s the spot you’re going to focus on, the 5% that is imperfect and is a challenge for you. These negative thoughts download one right after another, like a thought Uzi—boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. You’re bombarded emotionally with how awful your spouse is.
That’s a spouse attack. I’ve had them. You’ve had them. We’ve all had them. My wife has had them, I’m sure. She’s never told me. My wife is really a saint, but I know there are things that make it challenging to live with me because I have a child who’s like me and sometimes it’s challenging for me. When a spouse attack happens, it’s like a little devil on your shoulder going off on how awful your spouse is and how entitled you are to something different and how they don’t appreciate you or value you. It’s always the nots here, and you start validating these thoughts. “Yeah, that’s right. You’re right. He or she doesn’t do that. You’re right, I do deserve better, different, more.”
All of a sudden you find yourself in the middle of agreeing with the spouse attack, and that’s when it gets rough because here you are: you’re driving in your car having a good time when all of a sudden you have a spouse attack, and no matter what mood you were in before the spouse attack, you’re not in a good mood now. They did it again, or they didn’t do it again. You’re unhappy about them. You’re unhappy about your relationship in general, and so your brain starts going on all the negative ideas about your spouse that you can conjure. It’s like you flipped a page and here’s all the bad things about your spouse and you just want to read it while you’re driving down the street. All of a sudden you feel hurt, hopeless, frustrated, ticked off, and injured. You’re in pain now that you’re in the middle of a spouse attack, and you can’t figure it out. (If you have a hard time with feelings, I’d recommend my book Emotional Fitness. It will help you go from emotional challenge to champion in 60 days.)
In the middle of a spouse attack, you might be intrigued by a new opportunity. Maybe a new person. That can trigger a spouse attack. You see someone being really affectionate and you think, “My wife or husband’s not like that. I wish I had them or someone like them.” Or, “Wow, they really take care of themselves. My spouse has really gotten sloppy.” Or, “They dress really nice,” or, “They’re really smart,” or, “They’re spiritual,” or, “They’re rich”—something that’s unique about the other person that your spouse doesn’t possess. When you focus on that, it can throw you into a spouse attack.
Pornography can throw you into a spouse attack because it gets you to think, “My husband or wife doesn’t do that, doesn’t want to do that, won’t be orgasmic, won’t talk during sex,” or whatever it is. Or they don’t possess the fantasy body or personality that you wish they had. That’s a spouse attack. Or you can go on social media and someone reads your profile and says, “Wow, I really like you. We would get along. Me and my spouse aren’t getting along, are you getting along? What’s wrong in your marriage? You can talk to me.” And all of a sudden you find yourself going off on a spouse attack because your spouse doesn’t even ask you questions anymore, right? All of a sudden, what you’re not getting in your relationship becomes your total focus and you’re in the middle of a spouse attack.
Even if you’re married to a really sweet person, they’re going to have flaws, and when you find yourself in a spouse attack, the flaws are all you see. So what do you do when—not if—this happens?
- Write a list of 5-10 characteristics or features you absolutely love about your spouse. Maybe you love that they’re fit or helpful or thoughtful or kind or generous or a fantastic parent to your children or they love your family of origin or they take care of you in a physical way. Maybe your sex life is really satisfying. There are strengths inside your relationship and inside this person. There are a lot of things you really, really love about them.
- Memorize your list. Here’s what I really love about Lisa: I love her pure heart. I love her faithfulness. I love that I can trust her with everything in my life—spiritually, financially, sexually, conversations, goals, ambitions, dreams. She’s a safe place. I love that about her. She’s a wonderful woman. I wrote these down so that when I would get stuck in a spouse attack it wouldn’t last very long because I would say, “Oh yeah? Well how about this? She’s amazing at this and amazing at that and amazing at this…” It’s like you’re talking to the little devil on your shoulder, and all of a sudden that little voice starts to back off.
- Practice gratitude. When you have a spouse attack, some of those negative things might even be true, but that’s not the whole truth. It’s just the negative things. Instead, focus on the 95% that’s really amazing: “I love when I come home that he does this and this. I love when I’m not home, she makes sure to do this and this. I love that he’s like this. I love that she gets me. I like his humor. I love that she is sensual or spiritual or responsible…” Some people would love to have a responsible spouse, but if they practice gratitude for the person they’re with, the spouse attacks shrink. Speak your gratitude on a regular basis. That can inoculate you from having a spouse attack.
- Call someone of the same gender. Tell them, “I’m having a bad day. All I can think about is how awful my spouse is and how much I really deserve something else in my life.” And if they’re a friend, they’re going to say, “You know what? I had one of those about a week ago. I got through it. You can get through this. Your wife’s amazing. I love your wife, you love your wife, and you’re going to stay married to her. You’re just having a bad day. Why don’t we get together at some coffee place and just hang out and laugh about it, because we’re both going to be married to the same people 10 years from now, so let’s just get through this together, okay?” Someone else who gives you some humor and some levity can help you get out of a spouse attack.
- Call your spouse. Don’t call your spouse saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about everything negative about you.” Don’t do something as silly or absurd or destructive as that. Call them up and say, “You know what? I was thinking about the things I’m grateful for about you, and I wanted to let you know.” Or just send them a text. “I think you’re hot. I think you’re smart. I think you’re amazing. You’re a great lover. You’re a great friend. You’re my best friend. I can’t wait to see you.” Change the emotional state you’re in from ingratitude and negativity to gratitude and positivity and you will actually shift your mood.
When I tell you the amazing things about Lisa, I’m not thinking about anything or anyone else. I’m thinking about how fortunate I am for all of the characteristics she does have, and I truly am grateful for Lisa. She is a wonderful woman and she has helped me in so many ways. She’s a business partner to me, she’s a lover, she’s a friend, she’s a confidant, and she’s just someone I like to be with. When I’m thinking about that, there’s no spouse attack within a hundred miles.
Everyone has a spouse attack, but they often don’t know what it is. My heart is to give you paradigms, ideas, and tools so that you can have better love, better sex, and better relationships.
In this episode, Dr. Weiss mentions his book, Emotional Fitness, which is available for purchase at http://www.drdougweiss.com/emotional-fitness.