What’s Wrong? Nothing.


Debbie is pretty intuitive and was sensing something was bothering Chris. When she asked, “What’s wrong?”, he said, “Nothing.” She asked again and his response was the same. In fact, Chris said she probably asked six or seven times over the next day or two. He continued to say “Nothing”, although he seemed to get more agitated with each inquiry.

This is a very common pattern for couples. I call it looping since the pattern seems to go in circles, and maybe eventually blows up. The question “What’s wrong?” can be slightly accusatory, being heard as “What’s wrong with you?” It’s more effective to make comments such as “You seem upset” or “You seem bothered.” The statements have a more caring quality.

The response “Nothing” is defensive. Maybe something’s bothering Chris, but he’s not aware of it at the time. It’s more effective to say, “I’m not aware of anything being wrong, but if there is, I’ll let you know.” This would be reassuring to Debbie, knowing that if her intuition was correct, Chris would inform her.

Lastly, it’s important for Debbie to inquire only a couple of times. When she asks or comments more than two times, her initial concern can be perceived as nagging.