When You Feel Misunderstood by Your Spouse

Feeling misunderstood can be one of the most frustrating things in the world, especially when it’s by the people we love most and feel closest to. But because we can’t read each other’s minds, it’s practically a given that no matter how intimate we are with our spouse, misunderstandings can and do occur.

One of the funniest “serious discussions” I’ve had with Joy was at a simple family day out at McDonald’s. After we were done eating, she asked if I had washed Katie’s hands. For some reason, the question felt like she expected me to have done it, as though it was my job to clean our daughter’s hands, even though she’s old enough to do it herself.

That triggered me to be a bit snappish in my response. Then, to make matters worse, Joy looked confused with my outburst. Apparently, she did not know why I was offended. It took a bit of communication practice for us to understand where the other was coming from.

All that to show that even for couples like us who are supposedly so in-tune with each other (I mean, we coach other couples to communicate well with each other!), we can still misunderstand each other.

Pinpointing a specific event means that you connect your feeling to the event, and not to the overall person. That will also help you and your spouse from pinning labels on each other.
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5 Steps to Take When You Feel Misunderstood

So what can you do when you feel that your spouse has misunderstood you? We hope these 5 tips can help you get a healthy conversation going:

1. Try to understand what you are feeling yourself.

Before you complain to your spouse that he or she doesn’t understand you, take a step back and see how you are feeling. If you can’t pinpoint it yourself, it’s quite natural that your spouse would have a hard time understanding it as well.

Remember, feelings refer to emotions. Sometimes, we are used to saying, “I feel like you’re ignoring me.” Although that kind of sentence starts with “I feel,” it’s actually passing judgment on what you think the other person is doing.

Instead, think in terms of emotions. Are you happy, sad, angry, disappointed, afraid? Frustrated, anxious, confused?

2. Take a look at what triggered it.

Then, to help your spouse understand you better, pause and see which events or actions triggered the feeling. Was it something your spouse said? Something your mother-in-law said? Something the children did?

Pinpointing a specific event means that you connect your feeling to the event, and not to the overall person. That will also help you and your spouse from pinning labels on each other.

3. Express how you’re feeling with what happened.

None of us can read minds, not even the most insightful of us or the most intimate of partners. That’s why, after you’ve pinpointed how you feel and what triggered it, the next step would be to practice expressing it to your spouse.

First, find a good time where you won’t be disturbed or distracted. Then, you can say, “You know what, dear, when you did _______, I felt ________.”

This is a tested and proven way of getting ourselves heard without being judgmental of the other’s actions.

4. Accept any apology given and verbalise forgiveness.

When you let your spouse know how some event or word made you feel, he or she will likely say sorry. When that happens, you need to express that you accept the apology and forgive him or her.

One caveat: if you and your spouse are not yet used to saying sorry and saying “I forgive you,” you can find a calm moment to talk about it. You might want to practice it in the context of fun and casual conversation, so that you can apply it when real tensions arise.

5. Press delete and move forward.

After you’ve shared your feelings, received an apology, and gotten reconciled with your spouse, consider it a closed chapter and move on. This means that you don’t bring it up again in a future misunderstanding.

This is one common pitfall between couples: reliving and reminding our partner about past faults. You can hear this in lines like, “You always [insert action]” or “You never [insert action].” Instead, we work on each individual event; we don’t generalise or tag labels on their identity based on a past conflict.

Reaching an Understanding with Your Spouse

Learning how to express your feelings is one important step in reaching a deeper level of understanding with your husband or wife.

Of course, pinpointing your feelings and knowing how to put them into words may take time and practice, but these are crucial communication skills that can make a difference in your marriage. As you commit to grow in your communication, you will surely see definite improvement in the way your relate with your spouse.

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