When We Can’t Think Straight

So mad you can't think straight? This guy is too.

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.

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When We Love and Are Mad at the Same Time

Couple in love and mad at the same time.

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.

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Do You Apologize When You Hurt Your Mate?

Do You Apologize?

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.

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Feeling Unwanted in a Relationship When We’re Hurt

Feeling Unwanted in a Relationship

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.

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Why People Yell: How You and Yours Can Manage Pain

Why people yell. Young couple screaming at each other. Photo.

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.

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Love and Anger: The Wedge Between Our Hearts

Love and Anger, the Wedge Between Our Hearts

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.

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Conflict in Relationships: Help Make Peace, Not War

Conflict in Relationships

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.

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How to Control Anger Issues in Your Relationship

How to Control Anger Issues in a Relationship

Figuring out how to control anger issues in your relationship can be challenging. Everyone gets mad. Some of us even blow up.

Controlling anger issues in a relationship means blowing up less often and learning how to minimize the damage when, despite our best efforts, an episode occurs after all.

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Taking Responsibility in the Relationship

One of the hardest things I see couples struggle with is the idea that each person in the relationship is responsible for his or her own part of the problems that surround them.  It’s not uncommon for people to want to blame the other person for how they feel as if the partner did something to cause the upset.  Something bad happens and people start pointing fingers at the other person.

Many couples actually live this way for a long time; looking at their partner as if he or she is the tormentor.  When couples live with this pattern it keeps them feeling helpless to change anything in the relationship.  Each person keeps waiting for the other person to do something different to make them feel better.

It’s as if both are waiting to feel more appreciated, valued, important to their partner and loved.  But the longer they wait, the more tempting it is to blame the other person for not supplying those good feelings.  Sometimes couples will even spend the next few years building cases against each other.

You know you’ve done this if you say these kinds of things to your mate, “You did this to me so I had to do this to you.”  “You didn’t do this for me so I did this to you.”  “If you had only done this than I wouldn’t have had to do that.”  All these phrases hold the partner responsible for how you feel.  They leave the person blamed feeling helpless and the accuser feeling empty, a sad place for both.

When the relationship has turned into two separate camps, I like to encourage couples to think about a couple of things. The first has to do with intent.  What is the intent of your partner when he or she does something that makes you cross?  Do you know?  Sometimes people just assume they know what their partner intended and it’s usually not very good. I like to encourage people to find out if there is any ill will coming from the mate.  To do this all a partner has to do is ask.

It could sound something like this, “Hey, when you left those dirty socks on the bed did you do that to make me mad?”  I know this probably sounds silly, but chances are if you got mad because your mate left dirty socks on the bed you might want to find out if he or she did it on purpose just to piss you off.  If they didn’t, don’t they deserve to forget, make a mistake or just be oblivious once in a while?  Find out what they were trying to tell you, if anything, with the action before you explode. 

The second thing is understand how you impact your partner.  If you accuse him or her of doing something to harm you, you are blaming them for something.  Ask yourself what it feels like when you get blamed.  It feels terrible.  Usually we get defensive and want to argue back.  Try and put yourself in your partner’s shoes before you level the criticism.

If you say something you feel bad about, apologize.  That’s what considerate people do.  This does not make you weak.  This makes you a good person.  It also sends a message to your mate.  It tells them, “I don’t want to stay mad at you.  I want to get closer to you.”

And that’s what all couples want, closeness, connectedness, love.

Send your comments linda@lindanusbaum.com


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How Problems Begin in a Relationship

As a couples counselor I’m sometimes asked if there are common themes among the couples I treat.  I usually answer this question with a no because I believe every individual is unique, and that difference contributes to the special qualities of each couple.  No two couples are the same.

But lately I’ve begun to realize that couples with difficulties do share a common theme.  They all experience some sort of misunderstanding.  When people don’t feel understood they can feel left out.  Sometimes they get angry or experience isolation from their partner.  And if these misunderstandings just get swept under the rug without receiving appropriate attention, a couple may be headed toward difficulty.  Unresolved misunderstandings are the beginning signs that a relationship could use some help.

You might be saying to yourself, it can’t be that simple.  Misunderstandings can’t be the culprit alone, right?  You are right, it’s not just the misunderstandings, it’s what follows.  When one person feels like the other person did not understand or “get” them, they feel like they were not seen by their mate.  They feel like their partner who is supposed to know them doesn’t understand them.  This is the beginning of feeling misunderstood by the person who is your partner.  If the one who feels misunderstood continues to try and explain and this still doesn’t work, hurt feelings may result.  If those hurt feelings don’t get attention and understanding, they can build into something harder, like anger or resentment.

Feeling understood by your partner is not only essential for your relationship, it’s necessary for you as a person to feel good in the world.  Humans are hardwired to connect to other humans.  When we reach out and we can’t get that connection we feel let down, and sad.  This can even lead to withdrawal.

Maybe you’ve noticed your partner withdrawing after a disagreement.  He or she may be feeling misunderstood, and that can lead to feelings of loneliness and a belief that you are unlovable.  Not every disagreement will evoke these emotions, but chances are if you and your partner spend a lot of time misunderstanding each other it’s likely both of you feel pretty lousy about yourself and your relationship.   You might even feel angry at your mate because you believe he or she is supposed to “get” you no matter what.  And if your partner doesn’t get you, you might tell yourself it’s because they are just too stubborn to care.  Those thoughts lead to even more separation between two people.

Sometimes in relationships when couples aren’t getting what they need from their partners they can start to blame the other.  “It’s his fault.”  “It’s her fault.”  “He makes me feel…”  “She always complains that I…”  What drives the complaint is how we feel.  If those feelings had words they might sound like, “I’m unhappy here.  I wish you could just understand me.”

Some couples go years without ever feeling understood by their partner.  If this is your life it may mean you are essentially living alone inside yourself, without having an ally or best friend to share your thoughts and feelings with.  Imagine a relationship where you always feel understood, and you could share your thoughts and feelings with your best friend who wanted to share them. Now that makes a great relationship.  I believe everyone can learn new skills to communicate with their partner.  Like learning how to listen to the other person and how to ask for what you need, essential tools to avoid misunderstandings.

Send your comments to linda@lindanusbaum.com

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