Giving Him Effective Support

Hello Karen,

I am curious what you think of this: my husband has been asking me for my opinion about something he’s struggling with, and I am feeling like it would be bad to tell him what I think.  He’s already feeling badly enough about himself, without my adding to the “yuck” factor.  How would you advise me to handle this? – Kim, NM

Hi, Kim,

Thanks for this wonderfully compassionate question – I can already tell that you’re a great wife to your husband, and it sounds like you have a lovely relationship.  Awesome!

You are right to feel some caution about how to respond to his request.  If he’s like most men, what he really wants is to feel like he’s got all the answers, can handle all the issues that come up, and, in general, is a total hero.

And that’s how men have ended up dying earlier than women, or experiencing all the awful diseases and problems that they do.

The Huge Pressure Men Feel

Men have felt the pressure to:

  • Produce or be/do/have it all
  • Never experience any fear (or at least not that anyone else can detect)
  • Always do the right thing and cough up whatever anyone needs
  • Never need any help doing all of the above

….for tens of thousands of years.


However, the solution isn’t to point out his weaknesses and shortcomings as a way to alleviate some of that pressure (so don’t go there!).

For many men (and I’m going to guess that your hubby is one of them), the place in their lives that offers the most comfort, reassurance, and all-important fuel to keep going, is his woman.

Is There a Critic in the House?

The world is filled with judges and critics and nay-sayers and enemies and…

Coming home to more of the same would be extremely damaging to the very thing he needs, which is some belief in himself.

And yet so many women are exactly that for their men (not meaning any harm, of course…the intention behind the truth-telling is to “help” him be a better man).

So, how do you handle a man who is in a wee bit of trouble and is asking for your input, or sharing his fears and misgivings about himself and his capabilities?


Even if he’s asking for the “truth”, what he’s really needing is to have you believe in, and see, the best of him.  You know…that man you married?  The one who made your heart skip a beat when you heard his voice, or saw his face?

Can you help him see that version of himself first?

If he’s so “in it” that he wouldn’t be able to hear you as you reminded him of that man, scale it back a little bit and just be his memory for more recent examples of him at his best/better self.

I’ve Fallen In and I Can’t Get Out!

We can all relate to being so deep in the hole that it’s almost like there’s an instant case of amnesia happening simultaneously (“it’s always been like this, and it will always be like this”).

I won’t give you more specific advice, because you know – better than anyone else – where your man’s sensitivities lie, and how far you can take giving him support and feedback.

One thing I will say: if he’s asking for your feedback about a place in his life where he’s struggling, he deeply trusts you.  Congratulations on being that kind of wife.  Now go tread softly and be his partner as you both navigate this stretch of the journey.