Dr. David B. Hawkins: Do You Push Your Spouse’s Buttons?

No one wants to “walk on eggshells,” in their marriage or in any relationship for that matter. Life is too short and too fragile to live with any ongoing contention.

Scripture is replete with admonition on the matter: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Nothing could be clearer: we are designed to live in peace. We are instructed to live in peace with others. We are to do everything possible to live harmoniously with others in our world.

What, then are we to do when that doesn’t seem possible, as appears to be the case with the woman who wrote the following:

Dear Dr. David.

My husband accuses me of constantly pushing his buttons! He calls it defiance! I don’t mean it at all! What can I do to help him realize I am not meaning to irritate him? 

Thank you,


In this note the woman shares that her husband accuses her of “pushing his buttons.” While we may at first be sympathetic to his concerns, let’s look a little closer.

His accusation, in and of itself, is provocative and accusatory. Using language such as

“pushing my buttons” is not gentle or specific and would be considered by some to even be “violent” communication. While he is certainly in distress, his language for impacting change needs much massaging.

How might he communicate his needs more effectively so his wife has a better chance of meeting his needs? Here are some practical steps for all of us to follow:

First, make complaints specific. In order for us to fully understand the needs and concerns of others, their complaints must be specific, even measurable. In other words, a complaint of “You don’t love me” or “You don’t care about me” is not nearly as helpful as “You haven’t kept your promise to take me out on a date once per week.” So, when making a complaint, make it specific. When receiving a criticism, ask for specific examples, free from judgment or general speculation.

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Source: Crosswalk