Can I Talk to my Best Friend, Please?
By Carlos Santiago
It seemed every time my wife and I had a conversation about my mother-in-law, drama would soon follow. If I expressed my frustrations about her mother’s actions, she would get defensive. If I kept my mouth shut, she would notice my silence and get defensive anyway. I couldn’t win.
As the months went by, we learned to identify off-limits topics and steer clear of them. While this worked on one level, I could sense a growing separation between us.
In desperation, I tried something new.
I told her, “You’re my best friend, but you’re also my wife. Sometimes I need to be able to say things to a best friend that I can’t say to my wife. Can you not be my wife for a moment, and just be my friend?”
Intrigued, she agreed. Then I proceeded.
“My wife’s mother is driving me crazy. She …”
When I finished speaking, there was an eerie silence. I braced myself for the inevitable reaction, but what my wife said next changed the course of our marriage forever.
“It sounds like your mother-in-law is nuts. Have you been able to tell your wife any of this?”
“I’ve tried, but I don’t think she can hear me. I think she thinks I hate her mother,” I said.
“It kind of sounds like that.”
“I don’t hate her,” I said. “I like that my wife has such a close relationship with her mother. I just want us to be able to establish our own family and traditions. But I don’t feel like we can.”
“I didn’t realize,” she said.
When we were done talking, it was like a weight had been lifted. Our situation hadn’t changed, but we found a way to talk about it without getting into a fight. Knowing she understood made a huge difference.
It might feel weird at first, but this technique does a few things:
- It prepares your spouse to hear something difficult.
- It puts you on the same side.
- It reinforces the idea that you are still friends.
- It helps you slow down and listen.
The next time you need to have a difficult conversation with your spouse, try asking permission to talk to the “best friend” version of your spouse instead.
The good stuff: Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)
Action Points: Identify a conversation you’ve been putting off for fear of your spouse’s reaction. Give this “best friend” technique a try for yourself this week.
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