My husband was starting to do the bills and family finances on Sunday morning. This is usually a stressful issue for him and I could tell this was not how he wanted to be spending his time. I offered him some listening time and he hesitated. I said I was not pressuring him, but that I was available to listen if he wanted it.
So he started talking. He was in a pretty tender place and I stopped him for a moment to encourage him to just feel that weight and burden. He began to sob. I don't know if he got it all out. The kids were coming into the room asking for my attention and I told them I was talking to Daddy, and I would help them in 5 minutes. He cleared out enough to be able to express some frustration around money and handling the bills. Some of this was directed at me, so I just stayed focused on listening and not taking it personally. I told him we could address requests or issues he had with me later. I was here to listen.
Doing this listening was just great! I have never before been able to listen to him without getting upset too, and mirroring his energy, which would end up in a big fight. I felt I was so present and there for him. He was the focus, not me.
I learned that I don't have to feel everything he is feeling in order to connect with him. This is a valuable tool for our family and all of our other relationships. I was far more supportive than I usually can be. I could feel like I was his partner and ally rather than a victim of his frustration.
After he finished we then switched to conversation, and he was able to ask for help from me. We discussed what it means to each of us to take on household issues. He told me a little later that he felt better and more capable to take on this task for the day. I thanked him for trusting me. The next day I was able to complete the list of things he needed help with, without it feeling like a burden. We both agreed we would like to do more listening with each other.
–a wife and mother in San Francisco