“Help! My Husband Can Be Insensitive, But I Don’t Think He Means To Be.”

“Help! My Husband Can Be Insensitive, But I Don’t Think He Means To Be.”

Girl, I know what you mean when you say your husband can be insensitive at times. This is not an uncommon complaint I hear from wives from time to time.

Please let me give you an example of an insensitive comment and how one wife responded.

Husband soon after he and his wife were first married, and we’re having fun exploring each other until he said this:

Husband: “Your nipples are much larger than I had anticipated…”

Wife: In her head thinks, “How am I suppose to take that?” and then verbalizes to her husband, “Okay, I feel like the mood is ruined now.”

Husband: “What did I just do?”

Wife: “You said there was something wrong with my nipples.”

Husband: “No, I didn’t.”

Wife: “Yes, you did. You said my nipples were bigger than you had anticipated, which to me, implies there’s something wrong with them and me!”

Husband: “That’s not saying there’s anything wrong with them or you!”

Wife: “That’s how I took it. That comment hurt my feelings and made me feel a little insecure.” (Wife being awesome gives her new husband the benefit of doubt, and allows him to remove the foot from his mouth). “So what did you mean then?”

Husband: “I’m sorry that hurt your feelings. That’s not what I meant. I love your nipples, breasts and you!”

This is what we would call a BIG miscommunication between the sexes. What one spouse meant to communicate didn’t translate to other person in the way it was intended. This example could have led to unintentional hurt feelings, and a bit of strife in the relationship; but thanks to some assertive communication, and giving her spouse the benefit of doubt, it didn’t.

The Mayo Clinic gives a great definition of what assertive communication is. Assertive communication is “when you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the points of view and beliefs of others.”  Assertive communication is always direct AND always respectful. It’s not just what you say, but also the tone in how you say it. 

So in the above illustration of the husband making an insensitive comment, the wife used assertive communication to share how his comment made her feel. She didn’t call him a name or lash out at him out of hurt feelings, but instead she labeled how that comment made her feel. She communicated to her husband how she had interpreted his comment, and then followed up with a question clarify what he meant and what the intent was behind his comment.

In summary, it wouldn’t hurt to practice using this form of communication with anyone who may be insensitive at times. Here are some examples of additional questions you can ask using “I-statements” or “labeling the behavior”, that will help with clarification.

  1. I felt _____ when you made this comment _____.
  2. I took what you had said this way, is that how you had intended it?
  3. I felt that behavior was _____, and it made me feel ____. Can you help me understand better what you were trying to say?

Also, it wouldn’t hurt to try giving your spouse (or other people) the benefit of doubt more often. Most people don’t intend to be jerks, and most people have had times were they haven’t communicated an idea or comment with eloquence. Remember, ask for a clarifying response when necessary.