When Your Wife Cries and You Don’t Know What to Do

I made a public confession last January that I would no longer be “notoriously bad” when it comes to birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, and holidays. Especially when it comes to my wife’s birthday.

When Your Wife Cries and You Don't Know What to Do - JackieBledsoe.com

I said, “From this point forward I’m going to be notoriously great,” in this area. Well, my wife’s birthday was last Sunday, and before the day barely got started I walked in the room to see her with tears steaming down her face!

She spent most of the morning crying. My initial thoughts were, “You have got to be kidding me! I can’t…I can’t win in this area…”

Unlike in the past, this year I’d taken the initiative to plan in advance, set aside funds, arrange care for our kids, but it didn’t matter…tears were the result. And I didn’t know what to do.

The what behind the cry

Finally, I picked myself up enough to go see what was wrong, and how I could help. I didn’t say much at first. Just put my hand on the small of her back and embraced her. Then she said, “Thank you.”

What the…thank you??? As you can imagine by this time I was completely confused. I’m thinking, what did I do?

The surprise gathering I arranged the previous night didn’t pan out as many of the couples I invited had schedule conflicts, so I made adjustments on the fly. I hadn’t given her the gift I got her yet, and I don’t even think she realized I got her a gift at this point.

Yet, she says, “Thank you.”

I finally say, “For what?” Her response…

“For making my birthday so special.”

Really? Those tears were tears of joy?

The tears weren’t because the surprise gathering didn’t work out as planned? Or because I arranged for our kids to be out of town, not realizing she had never been apart from our kids on her birthday and a complete meltdown ensued as they were leaving, or because (it appeared) I had not gotten her a gift?

Nope. Tears of joy because to her, she felt special on her birthday. Sadly, it was one of the few times I’ve heard that from her due to my “notorious badness.”

At that point, I was still confused, but I was cool with it. If it’s special to her, even though I was missing something, it was best to just let it ride.

The why behind the cry

Later on, I discovered the source of the tears—not without more confusion of course. The tears started because of a text message she received from our daughter. I read it and it said…

“Happy Birthday Mommy!”

By now you should know what I’m about to say. Yep, I was confused again. “Happy Birthday Mommy!” brought her to tears.

To give you some background info, our daughter was out of town alone (without us or our parents) for the first time ever. She had a weekend event with her Cru teen ministry group. She recently got her first cell phone, and right before our eyes we were entering a new season with her.

And this all just so happened to be on my wife’s birthday weekend. The text made her so emotional because our daughter rarely calls her “mommy.” Apparently, that was too much for her to handle emotionally at the time. So, the tears flowed.

As I processed it all, I learned something about me and about our relationship. Fellas, this can help you too. Our wives’ tears, or other emotions, are not always what we think.

The problem behind the cry

My problem was I was more focused on me versus her. I wanted a certain response to what she was experiencing on her birthday. When it didn’t happen the way I thought it should, it caused problems with me. Not with her, but with me.

The longer I thought, the longer I festered, and the longer I had an emotional pity party about it, the more bothered I became. Almost to the point of doing or saying something stupid. Been there, fellas?

I’ve learned when your wife cries or does something else that you don’t understand, don’t project your feelings or thoughts onto her.

Make it about her. Seek to understand what she is going through, with a clear mind and zero preconceived notions.

Had I done that half of my morning wouldn’t have been wasted wallowing in a muck of, “I still suck at this,” or, “There is no way I can satisfy this woman!”

Instead, I’d have spent the time enjoying her, celebrating her, and letting her know how special she really is. That may have resulted in more tears, but I would have known they were tears of joy.

Question: What do you do when your wife does something that completely baffles you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

photo credit: tranchis via photopin cc

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  • Josh Mclean

    I Dont know all cases are different. I can’t do emotional responses. If someone cries a lot I can’t relate to someone like that. To me crying is the worst case scenario of feelings. So when someone does it a lot I just let them be. For example my wife. She cries over every little argument then says I Dont show compassion. Yet when I tell her my feelings of your crying over this little thing and loudly its very annoying. I could see if she was physically hurt. Or got a bad grade or was missing someone loved. I can comfort her. Yet I just rolled over to get comfortable. The water works came flowing. Then she started to say I Dont show her any affection and never hold her hand at all. Of course this made me mad. Yet when I get mad I have no reason to. Yet she has all the reason to cry. I’m so frustrated and can not win for loosing. I love my wife and I enjoy our relationship. Just wish I can make heads or tails on what to do about this. Then you say to just comfort her. Yet I feel when she crying over me being me then I feel like I’m ignoring my feelings to make the fight over. Yet it will pop up again and I will feel that I’m not being heard and we are at again in same boat

  • Marce Gómez

    Jajajajajaja you know Jackie? my husband went once to a Men’s Meeting in the church, and the conferencist said “when a woman cries and you asked why and she saYs “I don’t know”… believe her!!! she really doesn’t know!!!”… he returned home and told me this, saying “Could you believe what that guy said?” I laughed and laughed and said, “Of course!! he is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!!”…

    • LOL!!! That is too funny, Marce! Now we (husbands) should know! haha

      I hope you guys are well! 🙂

  • Nice job, Jackie! This post was an encouragement to me.

  • Wow Jackie… I could hear myself and my thoughts as you unfolded the story. Thank you for the reminder that we need to focus on her spouse and not ourselves and our feeling.

    • My pleasure, Brian! That (focusing on our spouses, not us) is a daily, almost minute by minute battle, sometimes.

  • Great post! I liked what you said, “My problem was I was more focused on me versus her.” I often find myself reacting to my wife based on what is going on within me, and not what is going on with her. I need to be more focused on her needs and not mine. Thanks for sharing.

  • Deidra

    I thought this was really good and insightful! fur shows the importance of being outwardly focused and truly considering others more important than ourselves!

  • Joel Phillips

    Thanks for the honesty of this post! I’m right there with you. We men are not very good at reading the emotions and sub communication in situations like this. I wonder how much better husbands we could be if we listened to what’s “behind the cry” more. Loved the ending lesson: “Make it about her. Seek to understand what she is going through”

    • Yes, getting “behind the cry” was very crucial, but I had to get past myself first in order to do that. Thanks for your thoughts, Joel.

  • Leo Landaverde

    Hi Jackie, great post. I can definitely relate to you on this. I see myself in you. Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book on success motivation talking about the very same issue.

    “When we first got married, Sandra was huge on birthdays–still is–but I was not. My family never celebrated birthdays growing up. I grew up in poverty and there was never any more for gifts, so we just pretend birthdays did not happen. I knew it sounds weird, but that’s how my brothers and I coped with it. So, when we first got married, my wife was very hurt at my apparent lack of enthusiasm when celebrating her birthday. You would think I know better, right? Not really….”

    I appreciate how candid you are about your marriage. Keep up the good work.

    • We have similar relationships, definitely. Birthdays, holidays, etc are huge to my wife! Not so huge to me, although after 13 years of marriage I’m changing. And so is she. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Leo!

  • Great message, Jackie.

    I’ve seen enough tears over the years (many of which I caused) to have learned the lesson: even if it IS about me, I need to focus on her and not myself. Not that I always act on that knowledge…

    Thanks for the powerful reminder and your transparency. I always love your posts. I always learn something.

  • Great post! I’m learning to slow down and be present to her and whatever she needs, even when I don’t feel like I know what to do, or, can’t control the outcome. This is harder than I expected, but more than anything, I’ve found that character like this is developed slowly, but surely, by just asking God for help to love my wife well in the moment before me.

    • Yes, there was a lot of prayer, or talking to God, when all this was taking place. Had I not done that, then the result may have been much different. Thanks for joining the conversation, Bryan.

  • Jackie, this is a fantastic post! I smell viral. I think a lot of guys struggle to know how to respond when someone they love cries (true story: I also struggle to know what to do when my tween cries, too). The natural response is to want to “fix it!” NOW. Breaking down the what, why, and problem behind the cry is SO helpful. Also, the text would have sent me over the edge too!

    • Thanks, Cherie! I hope it sees viral too! 🙂

      When she gave me her phone to read that text, I was expecting to see some long, sentimental, open heart message. When I read “Happy Birthday Mommy,” it almost sent over the edge…in another way. lol

  • Man, don’t I know the feeling of this situation. I am the worst judge of understanding my wife’s emotions. She has told me countless times “not everything is about you”. Yet I still make it about me and then feel like a dummy.

    I’m still working on becoming notoriously great for special occasions, so I’ll learn from your posts.

    • Well, I learned the “not everything is about you” lesson in a big way this time!