When marriage communication breaks down, it can leave you feeling against your spouse, where you’re defending yourself, not feeling seen, and ultimately creating more disconnection in your marriage. This happens even in the healthiest and happiest of marriages. 

In this podcast, you’ll learn tools to help you 1) recognize this pattern, 2) drop the defensiveness, 3) create a team mentality in your marriage, and 4) increase connection. This doesn’t happen on default, but it will happen with just a little bit of effort. You’ll get tools that show you how to do just that in this episode.

If you want to increase connection and intimacy in your marital communication, this podcast episode is a must-listen.

If you’re a mom, you’re in the right place. This is a space designed to help you overcome challenges and live your best life. I’d love for you to join me inside the Mom On Purpose Membership where we take this work to the next level.

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Welcome to Mom On Purpose, where it’s all about helping moms overcome challenges and live their best lives. My hope is by being here, you are more inspired to become the mom you are made to be. I’m Natalie, your host, a wife, boy, mom, dog, mama, Chicagoan, and former lawyer turned professionally certified coach. If you’re here to grow, I can help. Let’s go.

Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome to the podcast. Today I am delighted to talk with you about marriage communication and specifically kind of how to take back ownership of your feelings when you feel like your spouse is causing you to get upset or irritated, annoyed or angry, or any of those sort of unhelpful emotions as you will hear from a caller in a minute, kind of what she’s going through and how we can use these tools to get her and you to a much more empowered place in your marriage.

And that benefits you of course, but it also benefits your marriage and that is just a beautiful thing inside the Mom On Purpose membership, there is a marriage to toolkit where you get tools to help you improve communication, improve intimacy in your marriage. It is one of my favorites. It is one of the member’s favorites, and we’ve had lots of new members inside the membership lately, which I love to see and is so fun. So if you want help with your marriage, I highly recommend joining us inside the membership. Head on over to momonpurpose.com/coaching to learn more. Alright, with that, let’s dive in to today’s episode from one of our members inside the membership and caller to the podcast hotline.

Good morning. Um, I’m wondering if you have any tip for when my husband thinks I’m angry and I’m not angry. I try to think positively, but I end up getting angry and then he says, oh, see, I knew you were angry and I wasn’t. It’s kind of like when you think you’re looking good and someone says, man, you look really tired. You are like, what? I’m not tired. I feel great. Um, this is an issue all the time. Like this morning it happened. He asked me a question, I responded and he said, you don’t need to have an attitude. You, you shouldn’t be so angry. And I said, I’m sorry that you think I’m angry, I’m not. And then it resulted in an argument. I know this sounds kind of silly, but it’s been an issue for years. I guess I’m just looking for like, what can I think in my head?

I want to start off with mentioning that the little things that sometimes seem silly or light or not that big of a deal, I think are some of the best places to do work on because they’re not so heavy. They’re not these big existential or value based questions that sometimes are harder to do the work on. So instead, if you have an area of your life or of your marriage or of your parenting that is just kind of bothering you that you’d like to make some traction on, that isn’t that huge of a deal. I actually think that is a great place to utilize these tools because you’re probably going to be much more open to the coaching. So with that, let’s dive in.

I want to start off with pointing out that you have the end destination in mind, but you don’t know where you’re starting from. So when it comes to thought work, we don’t want to jump to thinking positively because we ignore what we’re actually thinking and it doesn’t work. So right now you say that you want to think positively, which is a fine destination to want to go to, but you don’t yet have awareness of what you’re currently thinking. It’s kind of like typing into a GPS system where you want to go but you haven’t typed in where you’re starting from. It just doesn’t work. You, you can’t have the path to get there without that starting point. So we need to take a step back and take a look at what you’re currently thinking. And because I have had the privilege of coaching you inside the membership, I do have that information that I will add here for context. But I want to start off with just what you gave us, which is, which is your husband said you shouldn’t be so angry and you reply back, I’m sorry that you think I’m angry, I’m not.

What you say back is your action and behind every action is a thought and feeling driving it. And the way that you’re saying this leads me to think that you are defending yourself, right? ’cause you’re telling him, I’m sorry, you think I’m angry, I’m not right. You’re defending that you are not the way he is saying you are when you come from a place of defensiveness, it’s going to be disconnecting. So what is the thought that you are thinking that’s leading you to feel disconnected? That thought is the only reason why you feel defensive and why you say, I’m sorry that you think I’m angry. I’m not. We did have the privilege of going back and forth a little bit inside our Ask a Coach platform inside the membership on this. And you let me know that your thought is I’m not angry. Why does he always think that?

And this is really helpful information because what it shows me is that you’re thinking he shouldn’t think and say what he is thinking and saying. So when you say, why does he always think that you’re not really asking it like a question. Like you’re not saying, huh, I wonder why he’s thinking that the way that you’re saying it is, he shouldn’t be thinking I’m angry. And when you should on anyone, when you should on your spouse, you’re focusing on what you can’t control. So by having the thought, my husband shouldn’t think I’m angry, that’s really your worst thought here. The most poisonous thought is my husband shouldn’t think I’m angry. It focuses on what you can’t control and it delegates your emotions to him because you’re saying, as long as he does think I’m angry, I’m going to be defensive. And then ultimately I do get angry because he’s being someone that I think he shouldn’t be.

And aside from the fact that it just feels disconnecting and and miserable, it’s ineffective, right? It doesn’t change the way your husband is. So it’s not a helpful way of thinking. So you can do work on your own thoughts and feelings, but you have to start from knowing that it’s just a thought. It’s just a sentence in your head that you are focusing on. You are focusing on. My husband shouldn’t think that I’m angry. And that thought feels so true. But again, it’s kind of like, I like to say it’s like irrelevant because you just can’t control what your husband’s brain is doing. And like you said, which is the case for most of my marriage clients, our, our spouses tend to repeat their patterns. So this has been going on for quite a while, not surprisingly, because our brains are the same. And so they, they, show us who they are, our spouses do, and that means that we see the amazing parts of them and then we repeatedly see the parts of them too that, um, are harder for us to be around and manage our minds around.

And that’s okay, right? Our spouses aren’t supposed to be us. And remembering that is really helpful. So when you take the thought, my husband shouldn’t think I’m angry, are you willing to be wrong about that thought? That is a really important question. And I don’t mean to say that you actually are angry when you’re not. You want to validate yourself, but can you give your husband space to think whatever he wants about you? And if he’s wrong about you, that’s okay. One of my favorite and most freeing thoughts is it’s okay for someone to be wrong about me. Now I say that to myself. Can you see how saying I’m sorry that you think I’m angry, I’m not. When you say that to your spouse, that’s a very disconnecting. So it’s not surprising that in the rest of your thought model and the rest of the conversation that it ends up disconnecting and you end up angry because as Byron Katie says, the first act of war is defense.

So when you defend yourself, you pin yourself against your spouse. I always like to use the analogy of being on a couch. I want to position myself on the couch with my spouse next to me. It’s Steve and I, we are on the same team and there is a challenge in front of us. When I am defensive, I put myself off the couch and against my husband. So it’s me against him. And that’s really what you’ve done here, here, which is why this feels so hard and frustrating. It’s because you’re feeling like it’s you against your spouse. But you can sit back down on that couch and just think, okay, it’s my spouse and I, we are on the same team as far as I know, you want to continue to be married to your spouse and you just want to work on this challenge. And so thinking I am on the same team with my spouse and giving him the benefit of the doubt.

And that even means holding space, allowing him to think whatever he wants. Like it’s totally fine if my spouse thinks I’m angry when I’m not. Isn’t it? Like, what if you just allowed him to think that even when it’s not true? I wonder how you would show up if instead of feeling defensive, you felt connected or curious, what would you say? And said? It would probably sound a lot different. So for example, if you were thinking, oh, that’s just my husband, he often thinks I’m angry and I’m not. It’s kind of cute. And you felt connected and you felt curious too, what would you say? It would not come off as defensive. It would not be, I’m sorry that you think I’m angry. I’m not. You wouldn’t be correcting him. Instead you would maybe say, oh wow, I didn’t realize I came off as sounding angry to you.

Tell me more about that. Or if you know that doesn’t resonate with you, maybe it would be something like, I hear you. Even just saying I hear you, is a way for you to validate validation is yes. Tell me more. So this actually comes up a lot when I coach on parenting. So if a child says something like, I hate you to the parent, not surprisingly, most parents take that personally and make it mean something about them. And then it becomes all about the parent. And what I work with the parent on is actually allowing the child to think whatever they want to think and then getting curious about their thoughts and feelings that are leading them to say that. And that’s kind of what we’re doing here. It’s not that you are agreeing that you are angry, but you’re agreeing that your spouse is having that experience and you’re wanting to know more.

So it comes from wanting to respect your partner. So if my partner says something that I don’t agree with, instead of kind of coming from this place of I’m right and you’re wrong, no, that’s not right, which is very defensive and puts us against each other. I want to be able to say, tell me more. Like tell me what your thoughts and feelings are not because I want there to be one right answer, but because I respect you, I care about you, particularly when it’s your opinion about me. I do want to know if I’m influencing that in any way, and maybe I am and maybe I’m not. Maybe there are things that you’re doing that you don’t even realize, that you want to change. And maybe not either way. It’s not really about you. He’s saying what he’s saying because of his thoughts and feelings.

We cannot control other people’s thoughts and feelings. And when you try, when you think that he shouldn’t think I’m angry, that is going to put you into trying to get your spouse to do something. I call this get my child mode in parenting. It’s the same thing with your spouse. Get my spouse mode. Anytime we are trying to get our spouse to do something that they don’t want to do, how do I get my spouse to stop thinking I’m angry. It’s focusing on the wrong thing. It’s disempowering. Instead focus back on you. Who do you want to be? It sounds like you want to be a spouse who supports your spouse, who validates your spouse, who feels connected to your spouse, but also is connected and loving and validating to your own experience. So this is where I actually think there’s two pieces of this work to do here.

There’s the work that we’ve been talking about so far, which is the work that you’re going to do in the moment. So when your spouse accuses you of being angry and you genuinely don’t feel angry inside instead of taking it personally and making it about you, you can get to the place where you simply just think, huh, I wonder what’s going on for him. I wonder what this is about. And you’re believing we’re on the same team, so I want him to tell me more about this. And it’s totally guard down, not feeling defensive. You’re feeling very open and vulnerable. That is the work to do in the moment. Now, out of the moment, I think there is work for you to do if you want to, to have a genuine, intimate conversation with your husband about this. It’s not appropriate to do in the moment because it’s sort of like your spouse is, saying his real experience in that moment.

And what you want to do then is listen and validate and get him to tell you more out of the moment though you might want to bring up to him what it’s like for you. And you might want to say, Hey, and I’m referring here to your, your entry that you mentioned in, inside ask a coach in the program, you said that you tend to have an RBF and you’re a marine and so is your husband. And sometimes you both tend to speak a little bit more harshly to each other. And so knowing that about yourself, about your spouse, about your marriage, about, kind of how you express yourself on your face, you can actually have a conversation with your spouse about this out of the moment. And it might just sound like, Hey honey, I know that I have an RBF and I know that from time to time we can speak harshly to each other and our backgrounds as marines kind of contributes to that. But there is something that, has been coming up a lot for me. And it’s when you call me angry, and that’s just something that I’ve personally been working on and continue to work on. And so if it’s the same to you and you don’t mind, could you not tell me that I’m feeling angry? And maybe instead just ask me, Hey, how are you feeling?

Now that is a request. I’m all for you making requests, but the way that you make the request matters. So again, if you have the mindset, we are on the same team. My spouse loves me, he has good intentions for himself, for me, and for our marriage. And you feel really connected and open when you make this request, it’s going to come off very different than if it’s very matter of fact and defensive. And the defensiveness doesn’t come from your experience as a marine defensiveness just comes from your thought patterns of kind of thinking that you need to protect yourself, right?

It’s sort of that primitive brain not wanting to get hurt. And if you know that, you can sort of put down that armor of defensiveness and just allow yourself to feel a little bit vulnerable. And vulnerability quite literally means that you subject yourself to harm. And here we’re just talking about emotional harm. So if you reassure your brain, okay, brain, it’s okay. Even if I feel hurt by something that he says I can handle that I can process a little bit of negative emotion, that process is worth it for your own growth and for your marriage because then you let down the armor, you let down the defensiveness, and you genuinely make the request from a place of openness and honesty and vulnerability. And here’s the second part. Making a request does not mean that you hang your emotions on it. So it’s not like, okay, you did all of this work, you made the request beautifully, and you know that automatically means his actions are going to be different. You want to make the request in this way for your sake. Now what he does with that is up to him.

And I do think that the more compassion you have, the more understanding you are to yourself and to him, the more likely it is for someone to kind of comply with your request. If you just think about human nature, we like to honor other people’s requests when we feel really connected to them. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a guarantee. And so what this means is taking responsibility for your emotions. So if your spouse continues to kind of say you’re angry, even though you’ve made a genuine request out of the moment, then you can do the work in the moment where you still want to take control of your emotions. You don’t want to delegate your emotions to your spouse just because it disempowers you. Your spouse can feel angry, your spouse can feel defensive, your spouse can feel however he wants to feel, and you can feel how you want to feel.

It doesn’t mean you’re dismissive of his feelings, but you also don’t have to get defensive and angry back. You don’t have to mirror him. Instead, what you can do is decide how you want to think and feel out of the moment. Now you started saying that you want to think positively, and I don’t think that’s a bad or wrong end destination, but a lot of times what I find to be more empowering is to just think that I want to think in a way that empowers me. And a lot of times that is feeling positive because feeling connected to my spouse thinking we’re on the same team. Those I would say are positive thoughts and feelings. But on the other hand, there might be times in your marriage where you want to communicate from a place that isn’t necessarily positive, but still feels empowering for you. So instead of thinking positively, I like to think intentionally and think purposefully.

So when you’re thinking purposefully, it’s going to be a lot different than what your primitive brain is going to think on default. So on default, your brain is going to defensiveness, which is the norm. It’s just human nature to defend ourselves. But when you see that your attachment system and your survival isn’t actually threatened, you can drop that defensiveness and allow yourself to feel connected because that’s the choice that you want to make with respect to how you feel. So kind of in a nutshell, circling back to kind of the formula that I think will be most helpful for you and for everyone listening in, working on your own marriages and communication in your marriages, is to focus on what are your default thoughts and feelings that are leading you to the actions that you’re taking? And then what do you want to think, feel, and do, particularly in predictable circumstances?

Now, of course, out of the moment, yes, make requests, but we don’t hang our emotions on whether spouse complies with those requests. Spouse may or may not, depending on if they want to. If they want to, great. You both want the same thing. But if they don’t, in this predictable circumstance where you said your spouse kind of has this history of saying you’re angry, how do you want to think, feel, and act? I promise you that you can do the work on yourself to think more intentionally and more purposefully so that you don’t go into defensiveness, so that you don’t create more disconnection in your marriage than you want. And so that you still kind of honor what’s true for you. And so you might play around with some different versions of thoughts and and feelings and actions in this scenario, but you’ll notice that when you do this intentionally, your thoughts aren’t going to come from righteousness, from defensiveness, from taking things personally.

Those are all kind of functions of the primitive brain and what our brain likes to do on default. So instead, when you think my spouse and I are on the same team and I want to feel connected to him and I want to feel connected to myself, I want to feel curious about what’s making him think this without taking it on as true so I can validate his experience and allow him to tell me what’s on his mind without taking it on as my own and without standing up for myself in a way that creates more disconnection for me. And then I end up punishing myself because I end up angry when I didn’t even want to be angry in the first place.

And so practicing kind of these new thought patterns and new way of thinking is going to make a huge impact on your life. So instead of thinking my husband shouldn’t think I’m angry, I would think a thought like sometimes my husband thinks I’m angry, and that’s okay even when he’s wrong. And I’m going to work to understand that just so I can better understand him. And it’s totally okay if he’s wrong about me, I love him. Sometimes I get it wrong too. Do you see how that is so much more connecting just by changing that sentence? It’s a completely different experience. Oftentimes we want our spouses to notice the work that we’re doing. And you mentioned that inside the written coaching, inside Ask a Coach inside, the membership, you said, I have been working on this. You said, I’ve worked really hard to get where I am and I know I have a ways to go, but it’s frustrating that he doesn’t seem to see it, that my friend, I think is putting a lot of pressure on him to validate you.

And what I want to suggest is that you validate, you tell yourself, you know what? I have worked really hard to get to where I am. I’m doing a great job. I used to be one way and I’ve made huge strides. And it can sound kind of weird at first to validate yourself and and talk to yourself in that way, but I promise you it actually does work because the only reason you want him to validate you is because of what you’ll make it mean. His sentences that he says, the words that he speaks, do not jump into your body and create your feelings. When he says words, like if he said to you, wow, you have made huge progress. It is incredible to see. You’ve worked so hard on this. If he said that to you, what thoughts would you think? Those are the thoughts that I want you to tell yourself.

What thoughts would they be about you? Wow, he really recognizes the work that I’ve done. This is awesome. See, I knew I was doing a great job. Whatever those thoughts are that you would tell yourself if you got that validation from your spouse, tell yourself that. That way you’re not needing that from him. And I’m not saying that you out of the moment, you don’t also tell him like, Hey honey, I’m actually working really hard on this. And when you do bring up that I seem angry, it just creates these negative thoughts in my head that I’m not as far along as I want to be. Like that openness from you can be very connecting, but not from a way of telling him he’s doing it wrong and he should be different. It’s just a way of you sharing your experience. So the thoughts and feelings driving the conversation that you have with your spouse really are the crux of all of the communication.

Because if you are thinking in a feeling in a way where you’re on the same team with your spouse and you’re feeling really connected, that’s a completely different conversation than if you are feeling defensive and against your spouse. So do the work out of the moment of deciding how you want to think and feel before you have conversations with your spouse. Yes, make requests, but again, your spouse has agency to think, feel, and do whatever he wants. And of course you do too. It doesn’t mean there aren’t kind of your own consequences and boundaries, but those are things that you do for you, not in an effort to manipulate or control your spouse that will leave you feeling defeated, miserable, and it just doesn’t work. So instead of thinking disempowering thoughts that lead to defensiveness, like my husband shouldn’t think I’m angry, think empowering, connected thoughts like sometimes my husband thinks I’m angry, and that’s okay.

It can be that simple shift that takes you from feeling combative and defensive in your marriage to feeling really connected. Keep doing this work out of the moment for yourself, practicing those thoughts so that in the moment it gets easier. And I promise you, my friend, you will see a world of difference. And that goes for everyone listening. Notice your thoughts and feelings that are driving the words that you’re saying in the communication that you’re having with your spouse. It matters. It matters more than the word you say. It goes back to the old saying, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. That means it’s the thoughts and the feelings behind what you say that matter most. Focus on creating intentional, purposeful thoughts and feelings so you can show up as the woman and wife that you genuinely want to be. I will talk with you next week, my friend. Take care.

Thank you for being here and listening. Now, head on over to momonpurpose.com/coaching to learn more about the Mom On Purpose membership, where we take all of this work to the next level.

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