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My Wife Worries Too Much

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answered 09:56 AM EST, Thu February 09, 2012
My wife is a wonderful person who worries about things too much. While I sleep like a baby she lies away at night worrying about even the slightest problems in our life. I think the fundamental problem that she has is that she looks at the world in negative way, expecting that the worst will happen and I look at the world sort expecting that things will basically always work out…and if they ever don’t we’ll more than likely be able to deal with what comes in any case. I am always telling her not to worry but of course that doesn’t really help her much! How can I help her to look at the world with a more positive outlook? I really believe that much of the unhappiness in her life is of her own making and that if she could just change her outlook a bit she could be freed from such a lot of worry each day.

Dr. Ari Hahn Says...

Dr. Ari Hahn A. Hahn

First of all, I am sorry it took so long to answer.

This is a very common problem, although not usually to the extreme that you describe. There are very good reasons for many men to believe that their wives worry too much. Since I do not know you or your wife I cannot judge if it is really "too much" and if it is "too much" is it "too much" for you or for her? I can explain how this happens, and what you can do to help her and yourself.

There is some basic differences between the male brain and the female brain. There are basic differences in male hormones and female hormones (besides the obvious sexual differences.) These differences are the biological basis for different ways of thinking, feeling and relating to people. (Please realize that these are general differences and you can always find many exceptions to what I describe.)  There are two differences that are relevant to this situation. The female brain is more adept at multi-tasking, while the male brain is better at in depth understanding. As a result many women tend to ruminate, that is, to think about a topic and consider all of the possible outcomes which invariably are mostly negative. That is a major cause of insomnia by many women. In other words, the tendency to worry is a natural one and probably has more positive potential than negative potential. If it is causing problems, the goal is to moderate and direct the rumination. A blunt way of saying that is that her "problem" is not that she worries too much, but she does not know how to worry! 

The greatest and most fundamental paradox in helping people change is that the most efficient way of helping people change is by accepting them as they are. People listen better when they feel accepted. The more you tell your wife that she worries too much and she can make herself happy by not worrying the less likely she will listen to your suggestions. Even if she knows that you are saying it from your great love.

A second difference between men and women is that women have a hormonal makeup that makes them less aggressive in solving problems on their own and easier for them to reach out to others, seek help, and seek and give comfort. Again, this is a basic biological difference. It is difficult for men to understand this since we tend to try to buckle down and solve problems on our own. When men and women get together, she is reaching out and he is feeling, "why can't she just focus on finding a solution?"

Let's put those three threads together. You cannot change your wife's natural tendencies. She is looking for support. The best way to help a person change is by acceptance of who they are. Let's throw into the mix the old adage that you cannot control anything except your own behavior. So what can you do?

  1. Find time to listen to her concerns and learn to validate them even if you do not agree. (Validation and agreement are very different.) If you can do this before sleep it would be best (for more reasons than one.)
  2. Encourage her to find solutions to the issues after she feels validated (like the next day.)
  3. She might be looking for your suggestions at this point, but you will need to know your wife's style (ie: if she asks, hints, or just expects you to suggest.)

You will not be able to "make her happy" with these suggestions, but you will definitely ease her heart. If and when it works she might be a very happy person because you might just "become" that partner she always dreamed of!

These are all new skills and require time, practice and often coaching type feedback. If I can help you, please contact me.

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