I watched as Stephen winced when his wife made an abrupt comment about his daughter. He had shared previously about feeling protective of her and that he and his wife, Jessica had fought about her.
“Did you notice Stephen wince?” I asked Jessica.
She looked over at him and then back at me, appearing puzzled. She paused as she collected her thoughts.
“All I said was that he is too attached to his daughter,” she said defensively. “Is there something wrong with that?”
Stephen and Jessica had only been married for two years, having come out of failed marriages and now experiencing distress in this new relationship. They had dated for two years before marrying two years ago. She brought two young children to their marriage while he had only one adolescent daughter.
“You are blending two families,” I said. “And, I suspect this is a raw spot between the two of you. Typically bringing two families together has its share of issues, and plenty of raw spots.”
“What do you mean by raw spots?” Jessica asked.
“Great question,” I said. “Every couple has raw spots—places where, because of previous trauma or pain, they feel particularly sensitive and vulnerable. There is nothing wrong with having raw spots, but we must let our mate know that we are sensitive and ask for tender loving care around it.”
Stephen looked over at Jessica.
“I feel that way about my daughter, and maybe you feel that way about your kids. I’d like you to walk a bit softer when talking about my daughter. I’m certainly willing to be sensitive about how I talk about your kids.”
Jessica wasn’t too quick to sign up for this. She appeared to be reflecting upon how she typically talked and whether she should have to change anything.
“I’m not sure about this,” she said. “I speak the truth and sometimes the truth may hurt. I shouldn’t have to tiptoe around him or his daughter.”
“Have you noticed, Jessica, that when you ‘speak the truth’ it doesn’t always land well?” I asked.
“But that’s not my problem,” she countered.
“I suggest to you that it is your problem,” I said. “It’s actually your problem combined with Stephen. You two, together, must agree upon how you’re going to talk about sensitive issues. Most couples do better when they dance lightly on topics that are raw.”
“May I also share a Scripture with you?” I asked.
“Certainly,” they both echoed.
“Ephesians 4:29says ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’ What if Stephen needs you to dance lightly around the topic of his daughter? Could there be a way to address your feelings without being blunt or hurtful?”
“Yes, that makes sense,” Jessica said. “I can work on talking about sensitive topics more carefully.”
Consider a few additional truths about raw spots.
First, everyone has raw spots. These are typically topics or issues where we feel extra sensitive. Perhaps we’ve been wounded in this area in the past and don’t the layers of protection we might otherwise have. We may feel raw or vulnerable about a person, a character trait or even a subject.
Second, raw spots suggest we have healing work to be done. While we will always have raw spots, these vulnerabilities also suggest opportunities to do healing work. We can gently ask ourselves why we are extra sensitive about the topic? What are the feelings hidden beneath our sensitivity?
Third, our mate can help us heal. Marriage, or relationships, can be an excellent place to work on these raw spots. Agree together that raw spots are a normal part of relating, and together you can create safety to explore them and heal from them. Raw spots are often revealed in our relationships, and thus can be a great place to talk about them if we can create a safe environment to do so.
Finally, agree together to respectfully face raw spots, finding the balance between honoring raw spots and talking about them carefully. We need not dance around raw spots, but only dance carefully around them. We need not avoid these issues, but only agree together that these issues deserve, even demand, gentle attention. You will do your mate a great service by honoring these vulnerable issues with one another.
Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com and YourRelationshipDoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. Please feel free to call for a free, twenty-minute consultation.
Publication date: October 22, 2012
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