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Blog Post from Dr. Robert C. Crosby

5 Essentials for Confronting Your Spouse

One big mistake people make when they try to confront someone is pushing the truth…instead of presenting it.
If you hate to confront or tend to do it poorly, the thought of speaking the truth, the whole truth, can be overwhelming.

Numerous questions arise:
How should I say it?
When is the best time?
Where should I bring it up?

When a woman wants to confront a man it is vital that she remembers this: men handle truth best when it is communicated respectfully. Women handle truth best when it is communicated considerately. Many men and women fail to recognize this and, as a result, their confrontations turn into altercations.

A couple of things to remember before confronting the man or woman in your life:

1. Register your complaint without criticizing their character.

Women, remember that man who is wired to desire admiration from you will shut down as a listener the minute you begin to attack his character. Men, the woman in your life will react if she doesn’t feel the care (and carefulness) you exhibit in confronting her. One way to tell the difference between a complaint and a criticism is that a statement of complaint or concern usually begins with the word, “I.” On the other hand, a criticism more often than not begins with the word “you.”

Here’s a complaint:
“I was so disappointed when you cancelled our date tonight last minute.”

Here’s a criticism:
“You are forever breaking your promises. I am fed up with you. You never do what you say you’re going to do.”

One method confronts; the other condemns. Men respond much more readily to a complaint than a criticism. When they hear a complaint, it better expresses what is going on in your heart to them. When they hear a criticism, it feels like they are in court and you’re the judge. It is more threatening than it is motivating.

When a man wants to confront his wife, he is wise to remember that women handle truth best when it is communicated lovingly. When a man constructs an atmosphere of love and reassurance for his wife, he can confront her with much greater results. Too often men confront in too direct and abrupt a manner. The wise man will remember when he is confronting a woman…that he is confronting a woman, not another man. The goal must be more than getting a task accomplished; he should remind himself of the delicateness of her soul, regardless of how confident and strong her personality may be. In her mind, the way he confronts her is everything. I mean everything!

2. “Speak the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15)

When the Bible says speak the truth in love, it means speak the truth but all the while in a loving way, a loving manner, a loving tone. Learning how to do this and do it effectively is the only way most men will ever be able to deal with HTTs (Highly Tense Topics) directly with their wives.

3. Ask about asking.

Another way in which men and women can diffuse a lot of tension and guarantee a much more effective confrontation is to ask about asking. Instead of just diving in regardless of the setting and timing, try asking your spouse about their preference. It could go something like this:

“Sweetheart, I have an HTT I need to speak with you about. When would be a good time and where would be a good place to do so?”

This way, you may not guarantee a willing audience, but you do grant them the option of the time and the place.

4. Give the truth time to work. Be patient!

One big mistake many couples make when they confront each other is pushing the truth instead of presenting it. When a spouse does not get the immediate reaction they were hoping for (regret, remorse, apology, etc.), the tendency is to ball up the truth and to try repeated hits until the emotional reaction they want comes. Guess what? It will never come that way — not in a sincere manner at least. And besides, the Bible says, “The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20 KJV)

This is where it calls for trusting in the power of truth to do its own work.
Our responsibility is to effectively place it, to communicate it. If we are on target, it is God’s responsibility to turn it into conviction and, eventually, into change.

5. Stay on the issue — don’t sidetrack or backload.

In an effort to emphasize our point or add weight to our “case,” we are often tempted when confronting to get off track. Instead of staying on the specific issue or problem we are dealing with, it is easy to jump into other areas or histories of complaint and criticism. When we do this, we dilute the issue we began with and dig ourselves into a hole. Stay focused when you’re confronting. Remember, “Love…keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–5)

Carving Out An Honest Relationship

As long as there are buried resentments, hidden doubts, concealed frustrations and covered-up wounds, there is no hope whatsoever for real intimacy in a marriage or parenting relationship. Choosing to be a truth-teller is a daring step and the only one that really works. There is no way to be truly knit together in soul with the person you love without learning how to tell them the truth.

Only truth can make way for grace. Think about it. Before you received the grace of God’s forgiveness, you had to acknowledge the truth that you were a “sinner”, lost and without God. This truth acknowledgement created a hunger for the much-needed grace God has to offer. In like manner, the only way we can experience the grace God wants to impart within our relationships is to acknowledge the truth about them. Truth makes way for grace.

Lastly, if you are in a relationship where trying to tell the truth has brought even more rejection, perhaps even abuse, then you need to find a godly counselor and soon (a pastor would be helpful). However, for most, the answer is simply a prayerful determination to speak the truth, to speak it in love, but to speak it nonetheless.

Dr. Robert C. Crosby

President / CEO

Dr. Crosby is the President/CEO of Emerge Counseling Ministries. Prior to this role, he has served as the Vice President of Southeastern University and as Professor of Practical Theology in the Barnett College of Ministry & Theology. He holds a doctoral degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a PhD from Regent University.

Dr. Crosby and his wife, Pamela, are the co-founders of Teaming Life, an organization that equips couples and families to thrive. Their newest book together is The Will of a Man & The Way of a Woman: Balancing & Blending Together. They conduct services, seminars, and conferences on topics related to pastoral health, wellness, marriage, and team-building.