It’s something that is tough for many husbands and wives: Getting your spouse to open up to you. Many have asked us how to get their spouse to share what they’re thinking or feeling. Others feel as though their spouse never really listens to them. This can be a big issue for any couple, but for the spouses of first-responders it may seem to happen more frequently.
Many first-responder spouses have experienced their mate being more emotionally distant. A 2008 study by Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen discussed how, physiologically, being exposed to danger puts the brain on autopilot, raises the blood pressure and suppresses the digestive system. This is an abnormal state, built for the quick bursts needed to make a successful fight or flight. But it can be potentially harmful over long periods of time. When the danger has passed and your first-responder spouse comes home, their body needs time to stabilize.
This state can, of course, affect their emotions. It can leave your mate coming home exhausted and detached – perhaps even seeming apathetic. But this is when you as their spouse can come alongside them, show love and compassion, and strengthen your relationship instead of letting these circumstances push you apart.
(source: “The Challenges of the Firefighter Wife” – American Addiction Centers https://americanaddictioncenters.org/blog/the-challenges-of-the-firefighter-wife)
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, 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 things.
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.
*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!