She Said, He Said: When there’s no fixing it, just think about the nail
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
I am really struggling with my husband who is a great guy but most of the time just doesn’t understand me. Whenever I ask to talk with him about something that’s bothering me, he jumps right in and tries to fix it without fully hearing what I have to say. While I appreciate his desire to help me, he seems to have no idea of how I’m feeling or what I’m actually going through. How can I get him to listen to me without needing to fix it every time?
Not Looking For A Handyman
Lori and Jeff: We get it. One of our favorite videos on relationships (viewed over 20 million times) is called “It’s Not About The Nail” and it illustrates the exact male/female dynamic you’re describing. The message from women is clear: “Don’t try to fix it. I just need you to listen.”
Lori: Ladies, listen up. I fully empathize with your frustration of not feeling heard, understood or validated. I know first hand how challenging it can be sometimes to elicit emotional support from a husband. But the cold, hard truth is that in this particular area, we often fail to set up ourselves and our men for success. Let’s be real, we don’t always just want emotional support. Sometimes we verbalize our problems (the closet door came off the track, the garbage needs to go out, your snoring is driving me crazy) and would be irritated if our husband responded with a genuine “that sounds hard, I’m sorry you’re going through that.” It’s not fair to expect our partners to know what we need when those needs flips-flop with every other statement we make.
I know it can be difficult sometimes to ask for what you want. Maybe you think if he really knew you, then you wouldn’t have to ask. But regardless of how long a couple has been together, or how much partners love and care about each other, no one is a mind reader. If you want to feel understood by your partner, then take responsibility for communicating your expectations “Hey babe, I don’t need you to fix this, I just want your support.”
Jeff: I know that we’re much more comfortable figuring out how to fix something (doing) than listening and empathizing with someone else’s emotions (feeling) but it’s time to step up to the plate and try something different. While there are probably lots of guys out there who are very empathic listeners, this dynamic still exists to the extent that communication between many couples continues to suffer. Our intention to do the right thing and our genuine desire to help may be in alignment, but we often miss the mark when it comes to the actual process of supporting our partners.
The next time she comes to you wanting to share her struggles or difficult experiences, take a moment to ask if she’s wanting you to help find a solution or for you to simply lend a caring ear. What may seem so “painfully” obvious to you (watch the video) may not be what she’s really looking for. Sometimes the solution is just to acknowledge and validate, not fix or repair. In these cases, no amount of duct tape will do the trick.
Lori and Jeff: Oftentimes men fix things because it’s how they show their love and it’s what feels most familiar. But the solution is not in making him change. It’s recognizing that this is a place in your relationship where you both have room to grow. Look inward at what may have been preventing you from really stating what you want and be open to hearing what he needs from you in order to show up that way.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column. For more relationship advice, subscribe to our “Love Matters” podcast on iTunes.
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