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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: October 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Angry and Hurt and Still In

"It is possible to be angry and hurt and stay in the relationship."  ~ A colleague of mine during a discussion on marriage.

She was not referring to abuse.  And how we define abuse can vary.  Our discussion was about this common dynamic between many couples:

The woman does not feel loved or loved enough.  The man does not feel respected or trusted enough. (And this plays a part in him not being able or willing to convey the right feeling to her).

Because she does not feel loved she may act in a way that feels
angering or criticising or distancing to the man.  The man then does not step up and show
love.  (He withholds loving words or actions or is less present or is mean).  The woman then feels hurt (and fearful too, often) and she lets him know it in ways that have the effect of  making him feel more angry or hurt or like a failure so he backs up even further.

Sometimes, all she wants is some kind words or simple actions.  Some reassurance that he does love her, that she is safe with him, that he wants to take care of their relationship, and of her.  That she and their relationship is his priority. Sometimes he needs some help knowing how to do this, and she does not want to have to spell it out for him.  She gets frustrated that he does not just intuitively know.  He feels like a failure for not knowing and he either backs up further or he gets angry and then withdrawals even further, giving her even less of what she wants.  Seemingly, this confirms her fears that she does not matter to him.

Often, women want or expect their man to continue to know how and to give them the loving feeling they long for even if the woman is doing or saying things that make the man feel angry, frustrated or hurt.  As if he should ignore his feelings (or not have them) and always feel like giving her the love she needs, no matter how she acts or what she says or does.

So that's one dynamic.  There are so many others of course.  (Stay tuned).  And what's the answer?  Well, in part, it's this:  We can survive feeling angry and hurt and work it out if we are willing to look not just at what our partner has done, or is doing wrong, or that hurts us, but what the dynamic is in the couple.  And it is possible to find relief by looking at what we long for and how we help ourselves get it or not get it.
And from there, how to help our partners step up so that everyone can get more of what they want and need.

We often have the idea that if we are angry, we cannot  stay.  That we cannot live with other people's character issues, mistakes or wrongdoings, that somewhere out there is a person who will not ever make us angry or neglect us or hurt us.  But often when we work on unpacking our longings, wishes and beliefs, we may find new ways of dealing with old ideas that leave us so much more fulfilled than we ever thought possible.  And we can save and nourish our relationships in a much deeper way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Past and Present

"The past is like a school house; you go there to learn, not to live."  ~ Anonymous

I wish I could credit the person who told me this, because it's a great quote.  And here in the office the past does get visited quite a bit.  It is helpful to take a look at what has shaped us, what continues to shape us and what informs our values, character and desires.

Often, in the context of couples work, the past can be tricky territory.  We do carry with us old hurts, resentments,  feelings and experiences.  We also may be carrying with us old stuff that predates the old stuff from current relationships.  Meaning, that as relationships go, there is the stuff of the relationship itself, and its history, and the stuff of our childhood.  Sometimes, it all gets mixed together, even if it does not seem so at first.  Sorting it through can shed new light and lead to new progress both in our relationships and within ourselves.

Some brief simple examples:
Feeling repeatedly let down by one's husband might also link to feeling disappointed by one's father.
Feeling criticized by one's wife might link to feeling like one's mother was not always there for them.
Feeling suspicious of one's boyfriend may link to feelings about a parent's marriage or divorce.
Feeling out of control as a parent may link to feeling vulnerable as a child.
Feeling depressed may link to feeling ignored as a child.
Feeling anxious may link to feeling misunderstood or neglected as child.
And on and on, in so many different ways...

Knowing that our own past may influence how we respond or react and how we think and feel about our  partner, friends, bosses, children does not mean that they are not responsible for their behavior, actions, or character.  Or that our feelings are not right.  Both our current and past feelings are valid in their own right, and can often can shed light on each other and help us to learn about our deeper selves and to make our current lives better.

So when old hurts remain unexplored and unhealed, old resentments still cause us pain, fear, doubt and insecurity and anger, it's a sign that we are living somewhere in the past, either the past of our current relationship or the past of our childhood, or some combination of both.  If past pain is still present, still alive, we may have to decide to take a look and see what we need, what purpose it serves us to have the past still alive in us.  Does it help us or hinder us?  What can we learn? Will we feel better if can link things more clearly and understand more about what we need and how to get it?  I believe so.  I think the links lead to relief and release, to vitality and to better moods and better feelings and better relationships.