Help Your First Responder Spouse to Open Up

Photo by from Pexels

Photo by from Pexels

First Responders deal with traumatic events in their daily jobs. They put their lives on the line – and often sacrifice their lives – for people they’ve never met.

Research has shown that—because of these traumas—First Responders are highly susceptible to things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), vicarious and secondary trauma, and compassion fatigue. And the same trauma that effects the First Responder can also impact their entire family and support system. It can create a disconnect – he or she is willing to die for a stranger, but struggles to connect with those closest to him or her.

{source: An Inside Look at the Impact of First Responders’ Work on Their Relationships by Dr. Andy Brown and Lenka Cervenanova, Published April 25, 2016}

If your spouse is struggling to open up about what they’re thinking or feeling, there are ways to bridge that gap.

The marriage relationship is the place that God gives us to have security to begin to sort through issues when we begin to hit them. Your love, compassion, and grace can give your spouse the freedom to get through to the other side of whatever is keeping him or her from opening up. Your unconditional love for your spouse is the place it starts. Try to create a safe place for your spouse to open up to and talk about these things, whatever they are.

The next step is to begin to do some communicating. Help your spouse to go below the surface and talk about what’s going on inside. Give him or her the sense of security that you will walk alongside, wherever it takes you.

Studies show that couples who communicate frequently have a more satisfying relationship. And couples who achieve deep levels of communication enjoy the most satisfaction of all.

Try these communication skills:

  1. Take one issue at a time. A full day’s worth of news and experiences and troubles can be overwhelming. Pouring everything out at once seldom gives your spouse much information about anything. It’s one way we tend to skim over our issues and never get to the core of them. You can help your spouse stay on track with a few helpful phrases: “Tell me more about . . .” or “What were you saying about . . ?” or “That sounds like another issue. Let’s talk about the other one first and come back to this one later.”

  2. Allow one person to speak at a time. When you are communicating with your spouse, keep him or her in the spotlight. When your spouse is expressing, give him or her room for full expression—no interruptions, no feedback. If you both fight to be heard at the same time, communication is bound to break down.

  3. Be specific and to the point. One of you may start at the main point and go from there. The other may talk around a topic until eventually arriving at the point. You need to take the time to hear each other.

  4. Listen. The biggest single step you can take to improve communication in your marriage is to improve listening. James 1:19 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” If you want your spouse to freely share his or her heart with you, you must convey with absolute certainty that he or she has your undivided attention. Listening attentively isn’t easy. Maintaining eye contact may be unnerving to you and jumping in with a solution may be hard to resist. However, listening is the key to understanding your spouse’s needs.

  5. Respond appropriately. At some point after listening, of course, you must respond. The point is not for you to introduce your own agenda, but to clarify and fully understand what your spouse is expressing. You can get into trouble at this point if you fail to look out for your spouse’s best interest.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!