How to Balance Logic and Emotions [For the Men]

logic over emotions for men in marriage

Logic often does not mix well with emotions.

How a husband can step up his game and better understand and respond to his wife

The Logic Trap

Gentlemen, I’m sure this is not news to you if you have been married any length of time.  If you are like most men I see, you start to feel completely bewildered and helpless when your wife is communicating from an emotional place and you just cannot join her in that space.

The problem is that we are wired by our general nature and upbringing to flee into the realm of logic when confronted by the emotions that come our way from our wives.  

Very few of us have come from a family where we observed our fathers being comfortable with emotions.  Our father’s understanding of what it meant to “be a man” was to provide well for the family, be successful in the career, work hard and fix problems.

As a result of having this example for role models, very few of us are prepared for being emotionally present or even able to deal with feelings.

When we encounter emotions from our wives, we flee into our comfort zone: we get logical.  This can be toxic to our marriages.

Logic: A Man’s Comfort Zone

When we encounter our emotionally upset wife, we usually feel attacked.  Our default setting is to move into the realm of logic where we can defend, refute, explain and debate.  This is our comfort zone.  

Our spouses are not blameless in this matter.  

They have not typically observed role models who were skilled in communicating effectively, either.  

Their reliance upon highly emotional communication can be very hard for us to hear. (Read more about that here.)

We default into this setting without even being aware of what we are doing. The result is that our wives feel that we have dismissed, minimized and even ridiculed their feelings.  We did not listen and “get it.” We debated and fought the “fight to be right.”  This is not the recipe for emotional intimacy.  

As men, we can stick with our logical stance and fight to prove our points or defend ourselves, but in winning the fight, we lose the war and potentially our marriage.

Your wife has chosen you to be the one man on the planet with whom she can be emotionally safe and honest.  

We are the one person our wives expect to “get how they feel.”

We are the one person they have chosen who is expected to understand, accept, validate and protect them.  

We cannot fail in this responsibility.  

We have to remember:  “Do I want to be right or do I want to be married?”

A key component of marriage is emotional intimacy

I have worked as a marriage coach with several men who describe themselves to me as emotionally handicapped.  

One told me “I’m an emotional three-year-old.  Help me!”  

I believe this is an area where husbands struggle the most.

Emotional Intimacy is one of the five levels of intimacy we learn from reading The New Rules of Marriage by Terrence Real. (For a conversation about the five rules of intimacy, read my post on how the rules of marriage have changed.)

I’ve made the mistake myself.  It’s easy to do.  Here are a couple of examples of how guys respond and how to fix the lack of emotional intimacy.

An Example from Joe and Amanda

Joe’s wife Amanda came to him with her feelings of loss, hurt and pain regarding her miscarriage.  

He replied, “That was nine years ago! You can’t still be upset about that!”

Kaboom!!  

He stepped on the Logic Landmine and was sent to the marital emergency room for treatment of his injury.  

The injury is serious but hopefully not fatal to the relationship.  

Joe was able to recover by coming back to her to say, “I am so sorry to have minimized your feelings of loss and hurt about the miscarriage.  I wish I had been able to hear your pain and to be there for you to share those feelings.  

I’m sorry, and I’m working on being the one you can share your feelings with and know that they will be cherished.  I’m not good at this but I want to be the one you can talk to about how you feel.”  

A Personal Example

My wife shared her feelings with me regarding the fact that she had not been blessed with the experience of giving birth.  I responded, “You knew that wasn’t going to be possible when we married.   How can you be upset about that?”

Kaboom.  My wife was hurt by my insensitivity to her loss.  

The look on her face made it very clear to me that I’d blown it.  It was time to shut off my “logic mode” and get connected with her on the level of emotions.  

I was able to hear her loss and acknowledge it, though it made little sense to me.  My perspective was not the point.  She felt a real sense of loss, and I needed to “get it.”   I hope you guys can be smarter than I was.

Here is a video that I think perfectly describes the dilemma we are faced when dealing with our wives’ feelings. It’s funny, but don’t miss the point.  Your wife’s feelings matter more than the facts.

 

Want help developing emotional intimacy?

With a little coaching and insight, I believe that husbands can change.

I’ve seen it many times, including in my own marriage.  

If you find yourself struggling with this issue, please let us help.  You can contact us here.

How to tell the kids about divorce (when parents can’t agree)

Despite some couples’ best efforts, there are times when divorce is inevitable. The next question is often, “How do we tell the kids about divorce? And what do we tell them?

Many therapists will advise you to partner with your spouse, take a united front and tell your kids something like, “Mom and dad have decided to get a divorce.”  

But what if you don’t want the divorce?  Should you lie to your kids?

(If this is your situation there may still be hope for your marriage. Read What to do When Your Spouse Wants a Divorce and You Don’t.)  

how to tell the kids about divorce

How to tell the kids about divorce without a united front

I covered some basic concepts on how to tell your kids about divorce here, but today I want to get more specific and talk about what to do when one parent wants the divorce and the other does not.

I don’t think lying to your kids is ever the best response.  

For one thing, they will almost always know when you are lying.  

They have lived with you and your spouse and have seen the issues up close even if you think you kept all the negative stuff hidden.  

Kids have brilliant “BS” detectors.  

Lying to them about such a big issue will cause them to doubt everything else you are telling them and that just isn’t good. Lying and telling them this is a joint decision won’t lessen the pain they feel.  

While I think honesty is very important, I also think it would be easy to turn this already difficult situation into a damaging fiasco.  No matter how you present the divorce option, your kids may be inclined to take sides and telling the truth could easily slant them against the parent who is wanting out.  

Be sensitive to this and avoid encouraging this with blaming words or nonverbal cues.  Your kids need both of you in their lives.  If you give in to the temptation of swaying them to your side, you risk their emotional health.  

Create a gameplan with your spouse about telling the children (if you can)

Prior to telling them, it’s important to discuss with your spouse how you’re going to tell the kids about divorce.  

You do not have to agree with your spouse about presenting a united front to the children, if you’re not also wanting a divorce.  This may make your spouse very angry but you are not responsible for their emotions or behavior–only your own.

Your spouse will almost certainly want you share the blame for the failed marriage.  It makes him/her look less like the villain.  But do you really want to make it easier for your spouse to leave and feel good about the decision?  

The argument you will hear from your spouse and very likely other “experts” is that you need to think about the kids first.  You need to put their needs before your own.  

Isn’t that ironic?  

You may be thinking if your spouse was really putting the kids’ needs first, he/she would be fighting for the marriage, right?

Experts want a united front because it makes everyone look as if they are playing nice.

The object is to keep conflict and blaming away from the kids because divorce is painful enough.  

But you can be honest without casting blame or giving your kids information they don’t need. You can simply say something like, “You guys know we haven’t been getting along very well.  We disagree on a lot of things, including whether to stay married.  Since it takes two people who want a marriage to work, we are getting a divorce.  

Your kids don’t need to know the reasons why one of you is leaving, or why the other wants to stay married.  

You can stand up for yourself in this way, and it is still both honest and respectful.

When the kids have questions about the divorce

The kids will most likely have questions.  They may not come up during the initial conversation.  

Regardless of the timing, think through how you will answer difficult questions.

Do not share personal or intimate details of the reasons behind your divorce.  

Instead, say things like, “You may have noticed that we’ve been fighting a lot,” or “We are having a tough time seeing eye-to-eye on some really big problems.”  This addresses the main issue, but does not provide details that the kids do not need.

Assure them they are not the cause of the divorce and let them know you will continue to be their parents and they can depend on you.

Remember the kids are not a go-between the adults.  

They are still children.  

You are the adults in this situation.

Ultimately, remember that you don’t have to present a united front about divorce.  It’s best to be honest and open, but to find the balance between sharing enough without all the graphic details.

Other helpful links:

Divorcing you marriage – what have you done to change?

9 Things to Consider Before Telling Your Kids About the Divorce

The Re-Engage Toolkit