Sharing Too Much

Question

How much should a spouse express his or her true feelings and thoughts without fear of “rocking the boat?” I get weary of telling my husband things because it seems to end in an argument. It’s just easier to let things go and not have the hassle.

Answer

At the outset never forget that peace at any price is rarely worth the price. Having said that I  learned early in our marriage that not every thought needs to be expressed and not every emotion needs to be shared. Every day we have thoughts and emotions that are important and others that aren’t helpful for us to focus and dwell on and even less helpful for us to share with our spouse.

Several years ago, we discovered a simple technique that has helped us successfully deal with these situations. The first step is to determine whether the issue is high ticket or low ticket. A high ticket item is something one of us has thought and prayed about and determined is so important to us or to our marriage that we’d rather have a spinal tap with no anesthetic than not discuss it. A low ticket item is something that it might be nice to talk about but really isn’t that significant and will probably be forgotten in a few days.

We’ve learned to internally rate issues on a scale from one to ten with ten being very high. In our marriage, we’ve agreed that anything five or above is high enough for us share with our spouse. If you decide there is something that is in this range, your next step is to prayerfully consider the what, where, when, how, and how much you need to tell him: what do you want to share, when is the best time to do it, where is the place that might be most conducive to him listening, how are you going to present it and how much do you need to say?

Let’s take the “how” as an illustration. If your husband is a detail kind of person and you are more of an intuitive big-picture person, it will be important for you to be very specific and to the point. Otherwise, he is likely to get lost trying to discern what the real issue is and move very quickly to feelings of confusion, frustration, and futility. When that happens, he’s either going to check out of the conversation or it will turn into an argument about an issue that is probably ill-defined and somewhat unclear to both of you.

We’ve had hundreds of couples tell us that as they applied these simple principles over a three to six month period of time they were able to develop new patterns for dealing with important issues and eliminate many unnecessary, unprofitable and painful discussions.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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