I was listening to a friend talk about her childhood. She grew up in a city, surrounded by streets and buildings. She talked about how in the middle of a certain street there was a break in the concrete and a tree grew up through the ground.
This tree was so unique that if you drove that street, you would have to drive around the tree. That tree lived and thrived, even though everything was aimed against it. And that tree was full and amazing and it had to squeeze itself through cracks in the street.
All we really want from the one we love is to know that we matter, and we are special to our partner. It is a very specific feeling that we must receive from the person we love. Because we love them so much, we must feel they love us just as much. And we feel it so fiercely when we don’t get it.
And when that happens we end up feeling as if our mates just don’t care enough. I saw this recently in a client. She was hoping to see her beloved for a special day but the partner had other things to do. On any other day, this might have been OK, but not on this day.
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.
Being unhappy in a relationship is pretty common. Having an affair because of that unhappiness is also pretty common. When people feel lonely they will do almost anything to relieve the loneliness, including starting a relationship with another person.
I have counselled several couples where one of the mates turned to another to relieve whatever they were feeling. Usually they think they will never be caught by the other, but it often happens that the other already knows.
We all want to feel connected to the person we love. So, why is it so hard, when we get our feelings hurt, to feel connected? Why does it feel as if we are miles away from that space and as though there’s no way of getting back to it?
Getting hurt by the one we love happens in all relationships. Look back at your family when you grew up. Did you ever get your feelings hurt by someone? Maybe this happened because you fought with a sibling. It might have happened because you disagreed with a parent.
I met a new couple recently. They wanted to see if I could help them “fix” their relationship. They had been estranged for a while, but were hoping they could work through their issues for the kids.
I listened to each of them and I was struck with the hardness they both felt for each other. Each had been holding on to what was done to them in the years they had tried to make their relationship work. She felt betrayed. He felt attacked. Both were sad and disappointed.
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.
I hear couples talk a lot about connection. In fact, feeling disconnected is probably one of the biggest difficulties couples face. Often one of the partners will say something like, “I just don’t feel connected to him.” But it could be a man saying this too. Feeling connected is something we all feel inside our body, and it is different for every one of us.
Some of us live inside our feelings and literally feel everything that happens to us. That’s me. I am a right-brain-dominant person, which means that I experience the world through my feelings. Imagine how frustrated I felt when I coupled with a person who is left-brain-dominant. That means he interacts with the world through his thinking mind. He thinks first. I feel first. We are different.