What This Is Like from Your Perspective

Sometimes we can see something that our spouse is doing that so clearly has a negative impact on us… or our kids.

But when we bring it up with them, they can’t seem to hear us.

They get incredibly defensive… or

They start to point out all of the things we are doing wrong… or

They pretend to listen but never make any changes.

We know we can’t control their behavior, but we want to find a way to encourage the changes that we know are important to our family.

What This Is Like from Your Spouse’s Perspective

None of us really want to hear that we’re doing things the “wrong way.” And spouses often become defensive instead of open to hearing suggestions.

There are many reasons a spouse would be resistant to change.

Sometimes they feel like they’re NOT doing anything the wrong way, and they’re trying to explain their own point of view rather than listening to another.

Sometimes they are not feeling respected and are focused more on defending themselves than considering what someone else has to say.

Sometimes they’re too tired to “take on” something else, so they simply don’t have the energy to consider a change.

No matter what, they always have a reason… and until that reason is addressed, it’s not likely that they’re going to make a shift in their behavior.



How It Usually Goes When

One Spouse Wants the Other To Change

Scenario: Anita wants to tell her husband Tim that she thinks he’s on his phone too much around the kids. She wants to ask him to pay more attention to the family. 

Anita: Tim, you need to stop looking down all the time and talk to the rest of us around you.

Tim: I do talk to you! I’m not on my phone all the time.

Anita (sarcastically): Oh no… Just whenever your phone rings or an email comes in!

Tim (defensively): Well I’m sorry that I need to stay connected for work.

Anita: I get that… But your behavior tells the kids that work matters more than they do!

Tim (scoffs): Hardly. They’re on their devices too.

Anita: And I’m trying to stop that! So I could use a little support!

Tim: But I’m on my phone for work. They’re on their phone for fun. It’s totally different.

Anita: They don’t necessarily see that. All they see is you NOT connecting.

Tim: I am tired of this! I do so much for them!

Anita and Tim continue to argue, and very little is resolved. 

What It Could Be Like When

One Spouse Wants the Other To Change

Scenario: Anita wants to tell her husband Tim that she thinks he’s on his phone too much around the kids. She wants to ask him to pay more attention to the family. 

Anita (playfully): Tim, we’ll have to get that phone surgically removed from your hands!

Tim (getting slightly defensive): Ha, ha. Very funny. I’m not on it all the time.

Anita (disagreeing with Tim but knowing she won’t get anywhere if she makes him feel attacked): Fair enough.

Tim: I’m NOT!

Anita (slows her cadence to show that she’s not a threat): Do you like having to respond to all of the calls and emails you get right when they come in?



Anita notices that Tim is getting defensive. But instead of trying to insist that she is right, she shifts to a tone of curiosity instead of judgment.

Tim: Not necessarily. But I feel completely out of the loop if I don’t. And I could lose something big if I don’t respond.

Anita: Wow, I’d feel really anxious if there were so much riding on being in touch. Does it make you anxious?

Tim: Not exactly anxious…

Anita: What then?

Tim: Well, I just feel like I can’t turn “off”.

Anita: That’s hard.

Tim: Sometimes, yeah. When I think about it.

Anita: You have a lot of pressure on you, Tim.



Anita still wants Tim to stop being on his phone so much. But instead of forcing her agenda onto him, she takes a moment to really understand his perspective. She is listening to him to understand him rather than to respond and convince him to do something.

Tim: Yeah, I do.

Anita: I’m afraid that pressure is going to mean you’ll miss things…

Tim (slightly defensive). What do you mean?

Anita (seeing Tim get defensive, she realizes she has to help him feel safe and respected again): Hey, you work hard for our family. And we are all really grateful. Our life would be very different without what you do.

Tim: And?

Anita: I worry because the kids are really fun now. And we want you to be a part of our fun!

Tim: I wish I could.

Anita: Would it be OK if I made a suggestion about how to join us?

Tim: Sure.

Anita: What if we have one “family only” hour a week where you put your phone away completely. And for the rest of the weekI wouldn’t bother you about being on your phone. Because I know sometimes do nag you!



When Anita wants to make her suggestion, first she asks Tim if he’s open to hearing her.  ​(She knows that if he says no, he won’t listen to her anyway!)
When he agrees to listen, she asks him to make a change but also takes responsibility for her role in the situation. When she is open to changing, he will be more likely to do so as well.

Tim (is quiet for a minute): Well, it would have to be on a Saturday night or something.

Anita: I think we could handle an hour of you on Saturday nights.

Tim: Are you sure?

Anita (laughs): Well we’ll find out, won’t we?

Anita and Tim used the Calm, Connect, Correct strategy in the moment. However, proactive deposits will make all of the difference in how this situation will play out.

If you want to be able to find solutions when you and your spouse disagree, remember:


You will only be able to stay calm when talking to your spouse if:

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck)

b.) you recognize and respect that your spouse has a different perspective than you do, and that their perspective matters to them

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm.


You will be able to connect if:

a.) you assume that your spouse is usually doing what they think is best for your children (in this case, Tim felt pressure to provide for his family) and

b.) you understand that your spouse is more likely to see your perspective if you see theirs


You will be able to make suggestions for change more effectively if:

a.) you acknowledge your own role in the situation you are trying to resolve

b.) you make deposits into your relationship proactively so that you each WANT to be considerate of the other’s perspective in the moment