Sometimes You Just Need to Listen Rather than Trying to Fix It
"He doesn't really listen to me." "When I talk to her, it's like talking to a brick wall. I don't feel heard." I hear it allllll the time.
You may think you're listening to your spouse, but are you? Are you really? Are you truly hearing what your partner is saying, digesting it, and thinking about it, or are you instead formulating a way to fix whatever the problem is? It's natural to want to help your partner overcome or solve problems in his or her life...but that isn't always (or even usually, especially for wives in my experience) the reason why your partner comes to you to talk about the problem. Sometimes, probably most of the time, your spouse is just trying to share his or her feelings with you, not necessarily ask you to solve the problem.
As the Greek philosopher Epictetus said, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." And by listen, I don't mean just "to hear." I mean to absorb, to empathize, and to understand. This is a deeper, more active type of listening, and it tends to improve relationship. "Fixing," by contrast, blocks empathy, understanding, and compassion...the things your spouse may really be seeking by confiding in you in the first place.
The next time your spouse is upset about something, particularly if he or she is upset with someone or something other than you, try listening actively rather than trying to fix whatever is wrong. You may be surprised at what you hear and feel, and you may be pleased at your partner's reaction.