“Honey . . . are we OK?” Lowell’s wife had that hesitancy in her voice and worry in her eyes again. Whenever she asked him that question, Lowell wondered what he might have done wrong. From his point of view, things were going great in their marriage. He loved his wife dearly and couldn’t imagine what would ever cause her to doubt that. But she still seemed to need constant reassurance that their relationship was all right.
The question was aimed at him frequently enough that he was actually starting to wonder himself if they really were OK. Because he couldn’t figure out what was going on in her mind. And if she was having doubts about their marriage, there really must be something wrong.
For many husbands—maybe for you—this puzzling question appears to come out of nowhere. But my research and interviews for my book For Men Only shed some light on the mystery. The “are we OK” question from women is all about security.
There are definite reasons wives keep checking in on the state of their marriage relationship. And it’s important to be aware of these four things that might be causing your wife’s feelings of insecurity.
Conflict Between You
For most guys, conflict is just conflict; it is fairly easy to put it out of your head and focus on whatever you’re doing that day. But for most women . . . not so much. In my research for For Men Only, one woman explained it this way: “A lot of desperate feelings surface when I feel like my husband is displeased with me. I know it sounds old-fashioned, and I’m a pretty independent person, but it still really affects me.” Another woman told me, “When we’re at odds, it’s like nothing is right with the world until that is resolved.” Guys: she needs your reassurance that you still love her and you’ll get through this just fine.
When You Withdraw
When you are faced with conflict or you feel angry or inadequate, you may retreat into silence to process, avoid saying something hurtful, or even escape unpleasant feelings for a time. But for the woman in your life, your withdrawal typically generates more anxious emotions. As one woman explained the feeling, “I know it sounds crazy, but I really do subconsciously wonder, ‘What happens if he doesn’t snap out of it this time?’” Guys, before you get some cave time, tell her “I’m angry and need some space, but I want you to know we’re OK.”
Women have a radar for unspoken conflict. When you are quieter than usual, it’s easy for your wife to jump to conclusions—even if those conclusions might be wrong. As one woman described it, “If he’s quiet, it must be me.” Guys, if you’re sitting in silence because you’re pondering the blowup at work, your parents’ health, or that awful turnover in the game Saturday, tell her. Better yet—talk to her about it. (“I’m not mad, don’t worry. I’m just concerned about work. Joe said something about this one client . . .”)
A Depleted Emotional Bank Account
Maybe she’s exhausted or you’ve been absent a lot. Maybe the two of you have unresolved conflicts. Whatever the case (and even if it has nothing to do with you), concerns about your relationship will be more easily triggered if her emotional reserves are low. Ask her about her feelings, listen with interest as she shares, give her a big hug and tell her how special she is to you. That will help fill her emotional bank account back up again. Husbands, when you find yourself hearing the “are we OK” question, respond to your wife’s insecurities with patience and care. Be aware of these four possible causes for her concerns. Provide the reassurance she needs. And your relationship will be a whole lot more than “OK.”
This article was also published at Patheos.
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