You may have heard the story about a Native American grandfather talking to his grandson. The grandfather told the grandson there are two wolves inside of him having a war. One is mean and angry. The other is kind and loving.
Curious the grandson asked, “Who will win?” Grandfather replied, “The one that I feed.”
I have heard this story a few times and every time I nod to myself that I too want to feed the right wolf. I want to be kind and loving, not angry and mean. And I bet if you are reading this right now you would agree with me.
This is how I grew up. I got hurt, but didn’t have the skills to talk about what was bothering me, so I resorted to yelling at the person who hurt me. This is common when some of our needs are not met.
Many of us in relationships get our feelings hurt. This is pretty normal and happens even when we love our partners. But some of us when we get our feelings hurt get really, really upset. I know I used to do that too.
When we get really upset, well we can’t think straight. Our minds narrow with maybe one thought. We got hurt and someone has to pay. This is common if we didn’t learn how to understand our hurt feelings.
I didn’t while growing up. There was a lot of yelling in my family and I grew up thinking that yelling was the way to solve things when upset. It works in a family of yellers, but most people don’t grow up this way.
Humans are very complex. We can be in two feelings at once. We can love our mates, and be extremely mad at them and we can feel both of these things together. That is how the mind works. All of our minds work this way.
It is very common to get our feelings hurt when we are in a relationship with someone we love. Loving a person requires us to move away from barriers we place around our heart. We push them aside and love deeply another person.
And because these barriers are not there to protect us, when we get our feelings hurt, we really, really hurt! There is no protection around the heart to keep the heart safe and that’s why it stings so deeply.
All of us in relationships come into our union with the skills we learned growing up. Many of us might have come from homes where the problems never got solved. Some of us might even be new to even thinking about saying, “I am sorry.”
That’s how I grew up. My family was full of love and deep connections, but the display of those emotions was buried under a lot of anger and disappointment. When someone drank the milk and another family member wanted some, that person would yell, “Who drank the milk?” If someone answered, then there would be an argument about why they drank all the milk.
Most of us if we are in a relationship often feel that our partner does things that hurt us. I know I have been in this position too many times to count. But I know in my heart of hearts that my partner loves me. I mean he really loves me.
And I bet that in your tender moments, if you look at your partner, you will tell yourself the same thing: “My partner loves me too.”
But when we get our feelings hurt, we forget that we are loved and instead feel unwanted. When we get upset, we put a protective layer around our heart and maybe lash out or pull our feelings inside ourselves and feel terrible. We try to defend ourselves when we get hurt. It’s only natural.
I was running in my neighborhood one Thanksgiving Day. The streets were empty, and smells filled the air. I was thinking about the meal I would be eating later, with loved ones, when a sharp yell pierced the air. It was a woman screaming at a child.
I heard it come from a home across the street so I couldn’t see who was yelling, but I got an instant picture. At first I felt pain for the child, but then the mind traveled to the one who was yelling and I realized something else. It was something familiar I must have felt as a child, something this woman could be feeling at this moment.
I worked with a couple recently. The man was very angry at his wife. The man wanted his wife to end a work situation that he resented. He resented this work situation very much and considered this to be the problem, the only problem in the marriage.
The marriage was suffering. The wife was unhappy. The husband was unhappy. He believed that if she left her work situation the marriage and their happiness level would improve. The wife however, LOVED her work and derived a lot of joy from it.
She felt empowered by it and carried a great sense of pride over what she had accomplished. These feelings were discounted by the husband as proof that he had been left. His anger prevented him from feeling anything except her not valuing him.
When we get into a scrape with the person we love we often wind up in a difficult place. We sometimes hurt and feel unloved. Maybe we get mad at our mate and sulk or lash out. These are very common positions that many couples engage in. No one likes them. They are difficult and unpleasant.
As a couples specialist I am always trying to understand how to explain relationships in the simplest ways so people can improve how they interact with the person they love. And as I was thinking about this concept it occurred to me that there are really two places we end up occupying after a fight. We are either doing something about our partners or we are doing something about ourselves.