You Can’t Reconcile by Being Too Friendly or Unfriendly—Here’s How to Be Just Right

This is especially important if you keep getting rejected no matter how hard you try.

On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.

In today’s podcast, Coach Jack will teach you how to create the right comfort level in your spouse for re-connection to begin. This will be especially important if you keep getting rejected no matter how hard you try.

After today’s podcast, you may want to:

You Can’t Reconcile by Being Too Friendly or Unfriendly—Here’s How to Be Just Right

(Podcast Transcript)


[Introduction to the podcast]

Announcer: On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.


Coach Jack: Even when we sincerely want to build our relationship, we can have trouble accomplishing it. Even when people put in a lot of effort, they may have little or not progress. I learned long ago that although we can’t have success without effort, that effort alone will not make us succeed. In order to succeed, we must be applying effort to the right steps, in the right order. No matter how much effort we use, if we are not doing that, then we will not have success. If you are frustrated by your lack of success or are only having temporary success, this podcast could be a big help for you.


There are several reasons why people have trouble building their relationship, despite using a lot of effort. A common one is having the wrong mindset. The way you think about your spouse, and what it means to be married, will affect the way you behave toward your spouse and that will affect both the way your spouse feels about you and the way your spouse treats you. A person with a mindset that married relationships are different from single relationships will tend to treat their spouse worse than when they were single.


Because of a difference in mindset, many people use entirely different kinds of  relationship skills when they are married than they did when they were single. The fact is that people are people and will emotionally respond the same to what we do whether we are married or single. Because of that, what works to build closeness in single relationships works in married relationships as well. On the other hand, what does NOT work in single relationships does not work in married relationships either.


I am often asking my clients to think of their spouse, not as their spouse, but as someone they are attracted to, and would like to have a great relationship with in the future. When they make that shift, they are often able to see some immediate changes they can make to improve their relationship.


I want to help you to have the mindset of a single person so that you can build your relationship with your spouse better. Although this is essential for beginning work in reconciling, it is also important for maintaining a healthy and enjoyable relationship for years to come. It will help you to pay attention to how attractive you are for your spouse and it will help you to focus on doing things that create connection with your spouse.


The alternative is to think, “This is my spouse. He or she should naturally be attracted to me and do what I want without my having to put any effort into the relationship. It should be enough that I do the chores or pay the bills. If my spouse does something that I don’t like, then I need to control or punish or train my spouse to do things the  way that I want.” If you prefer that alternative mindset, then listen no further. I do not support such a mindset because it is not conducive to a good relationship.


In another podcast, I emphasized the importance of being relaxed and friendly to begin a new relationship or to start to rebuild a damaged relationship. I covered what it means to be relaxed in detail, how it will make you more attractive, and some things you can do to work on being more relaxed. In this podcast I will help you to understand the “friendly” aspect of being relaxed and friendly. Although many of my clients believed they were being friendly, they discovered that they were not. Most of my clients do not even really know what it means to be friendly, when they started to work with me. As a result, they were either showing too much interest in their spouse or were not showing enough. Either of these extremes will interfere with building new relationships, maintaining relationships, and rebuilding relationships.


When we show more interest in the other person than they are comfortable with, it will create resistance, distance, and even eventually, rejection. This is because being overly friendly creates a mismatch between what we want from the other person and what they want from us. If they are just wanting to talk about baseball and we are showing our eagerness to be their new best friend, we are sure to be rejected. We are better off just talking about baseball in a way that the other person enjoys. And, as long as we don’t wear out our welcome, the other person will enjoy talking to us again–giving us a chance to develop our relationship further. Relationships build and re-build best by a series of small interactions than by a few big ones. Needy people often try to build their relationships too quickly, with the result that secure people become turned off and stop seeing them. They end up with partners who are about as needy as them—the only people who will match them.


Being “friendly” simply means treating someone like a friend. If you are wanting to reconcile with your spouse, but your spouse is more interested in getting space from you, then this calls for being relaxed and friendly. You can get in the right head space by Imagining that one of your same sex friends were living with you. Think about how you would, and would not, interact with that friend.


Let’s consider a typical example one of my clients might give me   .

My client, who I will call Peter, has a friend named Bob. I ask Peter a few questions about how he would interact with Bob, if Bob were living with him. For example, I ask him if he would greet Bob with a face that was glad to see him. Peter says “yes, absolutely.” I ask if Peter would offer Bob a cup of coffee if he were making some; whether he might watch TV with Bob or have some conversation about a mutual interest. Peter says “yes,” to all of these things. For Peter this is what it means to be friendly. So I tell Peter he should be interacting with his wife like he would interact with Bob, along with being relaxed.


I also ask Peter if he would contact Bob at work to let him know that he was thinking of him, or if he would try to give Bob a hug and a kiss when Bob came home. I ask him if he would tell Bob how much he missed him or how sexy he looked in his new jeans. Peter tells me that he definitely would NOT say or do those things with Bob. “How would it make Bob feel if you did that?” I ask Peter. Peter lets me know that Bob would be uncomfortable and think that Peter was romantically attracted to him. It would jeopardize their friendship. I let Peter know how right he is—that those behaviors are not friendliness, but pursuit behaviors. They are not appropriate to do in initially starting to rebuild his relationship with his wife. He must wait until his wife is desiring such behavior before doing them. Otherwise, they will create resistance, distance, and rejection. His wife may want to separate. Or, if already separated, she may stop having contact with him. This is because pursuing someone who is rejecting you will just give them more stress and make them want to get away from you.


On the other hand, if Peter were ignoring Bob, avoiding eye contact, or acting stressed around him, that would be unfriendly. He would be signaling to Bob, that he does not feel comfortable with him and wants something different from Bob. The same would be true if Peter were merely being “polite,” with Bob. Although it’s not good to be rude, politeness is a behavior we usually use with those we are not close to. Some people also have this problem when they are single and dating, or are seeking to make friends. They are overly polite and come across as stiff, unfriendly, and unapproachable.


If we wait for others to become relaxed and friendly with us, we will miss out on many relationships that could have happened if we were relaxed and friendly first. And, if you wait for your estranged spouse to become relaxed and friendly with you before you become that way, your relationship may not build. Just as with being relaxed, it is important to be consistent in your friendliness, without having any pursuit behaviors, so that your spouse can gradually become relaxed with you.


Let me reiterate that being friendly means treating the other person like a friend, WITHOUT going beyond that person’s comfort level. I have never heard of a situation where someone wanted to get away from another person because that person was relaxed, friendly, and did not seem to want anything from them. I have often heard how a spouse wanted to get away from unwanted pursuit and affection. That approach to relationship building will not work when you are single and dating, and it won’t work in your marriage, either. If you think about how you might interest someone in you if you were single, then you will be on a better path to helping your spouse to reconnect with you.


There are many other skills you can use to take your relationships to the next level. Before you can use any of them, however, you must be able to help the other person to feel comfortable with you. It doesn’t matter whether you just met them, or you have been married many years.


Here are three key questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are being too friendly or not friendly enough:

  1. Am I being relaxed and friendly with my spouse and talking to him or her the same way I would with one of my friends?
  2. Am I presenting myself as the kind of person he or she would like to have a relationship with if we were meeting for the first time? And
  3. Am I interacting with my spouse in a way that does not show more love or commitment than my spouse?

You can use these same three questions for building any relationship, whether in romance or business.


Some people will say that it is good to express all of your thoughts and feelings to your spouse. It is a misguided idea because it will damage your relationship rather than build it. Certainly it is not a biblical idea. When we speak, whether in business or relationships, we need to consider the person we are talking to and the purpose of our communication. Just as it is not a good idea to tell your boss that you are attracted to her, it is also not a good idea to tell your wife that you are attracted to your boss. Just because sometimes you wish you were single doesn’t mean that you need to tell that to your spouse. That is just as harmful as telling your kids that sometimes you wish you never had kids. Even with positive thoughts and emotions, you need to consider if your spouse, or the other person, is at the same emotional place or not. If not, then sharing can prevent your relationship from building—making it bad for yourself and the other person.


Occasionally I will get a client who will want to share everything we talk about in coaching with their spouse. That is actually damaging because it will make their spouse focus on their methods rather than on just enjoying the relationship. If, for example, you tell your spouse that you learned you need to find one thing to agree with in what he or she says so that your spouse will feel validated, it will cause multiple problems. First, it sets up an expectation that you are supposed to be doing something and your spouse will monitor you for that. It will also feel to your spouse that you are not being genuine when you agree, but that you are using a technique to manipulate them. The truth is we do manipulate people’s feelings by the way we treat them, whether it is smiling, making eye contact, empathizing, agreeing, or any other relationship building behavior. But, those should help your spouse or others to enjoy you more rather than being the focus of attention. You might think of this like spice in a food. It should help you to enjoy the food, without being overly noticeable.


Telling your wife you are reading a book to help you learn how to attract her is far less attractive than simply doing what the book says. The same goes for things that wives learn to attract their husbands or to have good boundaries.


Reconciling and making relationships depends mainly on being the kind of person the other person enjoys being with and going at a pace that fits the other person. Start by being relaxed and friendly, don’t let your behavior get ahead of the other person’s emotions and keep the relationship growing with good connection skills. Aim to re-attract a rejecting spouse rather than letting them know how attracted you are to them. And don’t try to convince they that they should give you a chance because you are learning or changing to become the way that they want. That kind of pursuit is a turnoff to anyone. By learning to build your relationship with your spouse in a way that you would if you were single, you can help your spouse to have feelings for you that he or she may not have had for you in a long time.


[Podcast wrap-up]

Announcer: Thank you for listening to Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack. Visit to learn more skills for reconnecting with your spouse and restoring your marriage.