3 Terrible Reasons for Trying to “Shield” Your Spouse From Your Worries

3 Terrible Reasons for Trying to -Shield- Your Spouse From Your WorriesWriting the book, Confessions of a Terrible Husband: Lessons Learned from a Lumpy Couchhas been just as valuable for opening my eyes deeper into how I can improve my marriage as it was an exercise in telling my story and writing a book for others to read.

One thing I learned about myself that surprised me was how much I was hiding from my wife in an effort to “shield” her from my worries.

Here are the three terrible reasons I kept my worries from my wife and what I've learned about the process, using a particularly stressful situation I didn't handle very well from around July 2008 through May 2009.

The world's economy was going crazy, stock markets were crashing, and the legal industry was turning upside down.

Seeing close friends get laid off, retirement accounts halved, and the tone of the industry that I had anointed as the foundation upon which we would build our family's future shifting was challenging.

I felt that my plans for our family were rattled by circumstances around me that I could not control.

That perceived lack of control stressed me out, big time. And I didn't handle it well.

Instead of reaching out to my wife for support, I doubled down as a lone wolf.

I kept “telling her” that “things were stressful” at work, that people were getting laid off, and that we needed to be careful with finances because job security was not what it used to be.

I didn't let the depth of any conversation to go beyond “that other law firm laid off 50 attorneys yesterday,” “the market is crashing,” and “we need to be careful.”

I thought I was doing the right thing, shouldering burdens for the family.

Turns out trying to “shield” things from my wife made everything worse, for both of us.

Here are the top three terrible reasons I kept my worries from her, along with the obligatory 20/20 hindsight:

1. I didn't want her to stress.

Does what I described at the beginning of this post sound like a situation where a soon-to-be first-time, stay-at-home mom would find calming?

On top of it that she was working a stressful full-time job in the fashion industry in NYC and preparing to leave that career after ten years to raise our first son.

And my plan to not add stress on top of this extraordinary period of transition was to become moody and bossy….

Not only did I fail in keeping from adding to her stress, by bottling it up and becoming a big fat jerk I actually became the source of added stress.

2. I thought I could “handle it.”

Even if I could have “handled it,” I shouldn't have even tried to.

Rough periods suck. But they are also an opportunity to lean on each other and grow together through the adversity.

It's not something I would wish on someone. But it can provide a powerful long-term benefit to a relationship.

Ask any couple who has been married more than ten years and worked together through a rough patch about how working together through that period strengthened their relationship in the long run. It's real. A great example is in this podcast episode with Dan and Joanne Miller. Just listen to their story of getting through adversity together.

I missed an opportunity to strengthen our relationship because I tried to be Superman.

3. I feared she might think less of me.

It's embarrassing to admit, but buried somewhere in this story is some level of ego and insecurity.

I was a lawyer at a large law firm with a top-tier education. There wasn't supposed to be anything I couldn't handle.

That was how I saw myself and believed others (including my wife) saw me. And while that is all partially true, I now realize that nobody bases their opinion of me as a person, husband, and father on my ability to “handle” adversity without help.

But yeah… I feared that she would think less of me, and then feel less secure, by opening up to her about emotions or circumstances that were “bigger than me” and asking for her help.

In reality, there was no way that a healthy conversation about my fears would make her think any less of me as a person, husband, or soon-to-be father. This was the woman who committed to spending the rest of her life with me, after all. If anything she might have thought more of me for inviting her into a deeper level of emotional connection.

But once again, I missed that opportunity because of my ego and insecurity.

There were so many reasons I tried to shield my wife from stress. And none of them are great. Most of them are just plain terrible. But these were my top three.

When is the last time you tried to shield your spouse from stress?

I'm not talking about little, almost irrelevant stress, like a tough day at work or traffic on the way home.

I'm talking about relationship-forming stress that you need help getting through.

How did that work out for you?

How often did your attempts to shield just bring on different stress for everyone?

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