One of the most common difficulties I witness when I meet a couple is that one of the partners can’t show his emotions. And maybe that’s because in our culture men are encouraged to “tough it out” so many are not used to even knowing they are feeling something in the first place.
This works of course, especially when there is business or other financial or important dealings. Not feeling or knowing what you feel has its place. But when it comes to relationships this system can be a problem.
I was walking the neighborhood recently with a friend and we passed by a car parked on the street. The windows were down so I could hear a young couple sitting in the front facing each other and having a discussion.
I heard a few words from the man. He was explaining something to the young woman about how his feelings were hurt. I could feel his earnestness, even after just a couple of moments. I also could tell that he was trying really hard to get her to understand him.
Every one of us has hurt someone we care about. Unless we live alone in a cave and don’t interact with another human being, we will sometime in our life be hurting someone we love. It just goes along with being alive and interacting with others.
But when we hurt the person we love and are in relationship with—well, that can weigh heavy on us and make us feel pretty terrible. I know there have been many times I have been cross or said something sharp to my husband. I also know that even the slightest shrug of the shoulder or snappy reply has an effect on him.
So if we do things that are bigger than a rolling of the eyes, like hanging up on our partner, cussing them out, or slamming doors and leaving, well we have made not just a statement, we have made a big impact on the person we love.
As someone who is interested in what causes behavior, I am convinced that the madder you are, the more wounded you have been. It’s hard to think of an angry person as in pain though. Most of us want to get away from someone who is angry. We feel their fierceness and we just want to back away and not have anything to do with them.
I tried to calm him down. I did so three times. The fourth time I just let him rage, and that’s exactly what he did. He raged and raged and raged. And when he was done he got up and left the room. I continued with the wife and soon after the session ended. I felt a lot of emotion in the session and a lot of it was mine. I felt helpless to help him. I felt very sad for his inability to find a way to be understood by his wife. I felt him trapped inside himself and having no way to express himself except with a big booming voice that no one could tolerate.
A friend of mine suggested there is more to the fairness issue than just understanding you are always looking for something to be even. I thought about this for a moment and realized that I agree, there is more. Here is more.
When we are looking for something to be fair, or we are disappointed because things are not even, we come from a place where we have been hurt. Our hurt helps us see right and wrong in a very visceral way. It’s everywhere. It always exists. That’s how we evaluate whether we are treated properly, we ask the question, “Is it fair?”
Do you think of yourself as “miserable” in your relationship? It might take you a moment to really think about how you feel most of the time, but if you say “yes,” you are miserable in your relationship. Well, let’s talk.
All of us, at times, feel terrible in our relationship. That just goes along with the nature of getting close to another person. People are complex. You and I included, now add your significant other. We are all so intricately different and unique, it’s no wonder we might get frustrated and upset when we try and get along with them.
I was listening to a talk recently and the speaker was telling us about how our brains are wired. He said that when something good happens it doesn’t stick in our brain because our brain treats the good like Teflon. But when something bad happens, our brain acts completely different, it becomes Velcro.
It doesn’t make sense that our own brain would act so contrary to what would be more helpful to us in our lives. It would be much better if all the good things in life were to stick like glue and the bad things would just roll off, but that’s not the way we are wired.
It may be hard to believe, but some people don’t get mad. I mean everyone gets mad, but some people don’t show their anger. This article is about those of us with the first response getting mad and expressing it. This is the way I am wired, and I know there are a lot of you out there wired the same way.
There are many theories about why we are wired the way we are, but I would like to boil it down. It all started when we were children…
All of us who are in a relationship have many things in common. First off, we all probably want it to work. We most likely want to live peacefully with the person we love. Another thing we probably all agree on is that we don’t want to fight. We just want to get along and experience good feelings with each other.
Yes, I believe we can all agree on what we want. Now here’s what we don’t want. We don’t want to get our feelings hurt. We don’t want to get mad at our mate. We don’t want to feel bad about ourselves or work too hard for our partner. I bet we can all agree on what we don’t want too.
As a counselor I often intervene with couples when they start to argue about who said what and who remembers what because that conversation can sometimes turn into a fight. I usually go into some sort of education to help them understand that they each have different brains, life experiences and ways of processing how information is received and stored.
This conversation helps reduce some of the tension and then we can continue our work in the session. But recently I fell victim to feeling so violated because my husband did not remember something I had told him three times!