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How to stop minimizing your spouse's needs, thoughts and feelings
Episode 203rd May 2024 • Fostering Marriage • Joel & MaryBeth Fortner
00:00:00 00:44:59

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We’re discussing the hurtful practice of minimizing your spouse’s needs, thoughts and feelings, and how to do a better job of prioritizing them. 

Understanding Your Spouse's Perspective

The importance of empathy in marriage, especially under the strains of fostering.

The Impact of Minimizing and Undervaluing

Negative consequences of not fully acknowledging your spouse's needs and struggles in a fostering environment.

  • Disconnection
  • Bitterness and resentment
  • Hurt feelings
  • Anger
  • Guardedness
  • Isolation
  • Poor mental/emotional health

What does minimizing/under-valuing look like:

  • Dismissing Concerns: When your spouse expresses worries or concerns, responding with statements like "You're overreacting" or "It's not that big of a deal" dismisses their feelings.
  • Comparative Suffering: Saying things like "Why are you upset about this when there are bigger problems in the world?" or "I've been through worse" invalidates their struggles by comparing them to others'.
  • Ignoring Emotional Needs: If your spouse seeks emotional support and you respond with indifference, like changing the subject or showing a lack of interest, it can feel like their needs are being minimized.
  • Sarcasm or Mockery: Responding to your spouse's feelings or struggles with sarcasm, like "Oh, you're a real victim, aren't you?" or making fun of their concerns can be deeply hurtful.
  • Downplaying Achievements: If your spouse shares an achievement or something they're proud of and you respond with "That's not a big deal" or "Anyone could have done that," it undermines their feelings of accomplishment.
  • Belittling Emotions: Statements like "Stop being so sensitive" or "You're always so emotional" can make your spouse feel that their emotions are not valid or are an overreaction.
  • Interrupting or Not Listening: When your spouse is talking about their feelings or concerns, consistently interrupting them or not really listening (e.g., looking at your phone) can convey that you don't value what they're saying.
  • Offering Solutions Instead of Empathy: Sometimes, in an attempt to be helpful, one might jump to offering solutions ("Just do this instead") without acknowledging the emotional aspect. While well-intentioned, this can come off as dismissive of the emotional experience your spouse is sharing.

Strategies for Prioritizing Each Other's Needs

Prioritizing each other's needs and feelings in a marriage, especially when one spouse is struggling, involves a blend of empathy, communication, and shared responsibility. Here are some strategies that married couples can use:

  • Active Listening: Make time to truly listen to each other without interruptions. This means not just hearing the words, but also understanding the emotions and thoughts behind them. Active listening involves acknowledging what your partner is saying and showing empathy.
  • Regular Communication: Set aside regular times to check in with each other. This could be daily or weekly, but it's important to have a consistent schedule. Discuss not just day-to-day activities, but also deeper feelings and concerns.
  • Empathy and Understanding: Try to put yourself in your partner's shoes, especially when they're struggling. Understanding their perspective can help in responding more compassionately and supportively.
  • Managing Expectations: Be realistic about what each of you can offer and receive. This means understanding and accepting each other's limitations, whether they're emotional, physical, or related to time and energy.
  • Prioritizing Self-Care: Both partners need to take care of their own emotional and physical well-being. It’s hard to be supportive if you are feeling drained. Encourage and support each other in engaging in self-care activities.
  • Seeking Help When Needed: Sometimes, it's beneficial to seek external support. This could be from a therapist, counselor, or trusted advisor. Professional help can provide tools and strategies to manage difficult times more effectively.
  • Quality Time Together: Spend quality time together, doing activities that both enjoy. It’s important to maintain a connection that isn’t just about addressing problems.
  • Expressing Appreciation: Regularly express gratitude and appreciation for each other. Recognizing and vocalizing the good in your relationship can build a stronger bond.
  • Setting Boundaries: Establish healthy boundaries within your relationship. This includes respecting each other’s need for space, privacy, and individuality.
  • Shared Goals and Values: Revisit and reaffirm your shared goals and values. This can help in aligning your efforts and understanding what you both want from the relationship.


Prioritizing your spouse’s needs, thoughts and feelings creates a stronger bond in your marriage. 

Thank you for listening to the Fostering Marriage podcast, and thank you to Laura for the review. 

She said “I wish I had found this sooner! This podcast has been a Godsend. It’s so comforting to know I’m not alone in these struggles, and to get powerful advice and specific tips on how to overcome them.”

If you enjoy this podcast, rate and review it wherever you listen. It helps other fostering families find it. 

If you’re interested in marriage coaching with us, go to and click "Marriage Coaching".




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