“She snapped at me,” George said forcefully, “and I’m not going to put up with it. I don’t know if this is worth it.” He looked at me for my approval.
Forty-five and a successful businessman, George was in a mood as he spoke to me during an individual counseling phase of his Marriage intensive. He spoke as if he were in charge of a business meeting, rather than in his marriage. I had been working with he and his wife when Sandra, his wife of twenty-two years, had said something that hurt his feelings.
Like many others, George’s first reaction was to react to his wife. He wanted to blame her for his feelings, focusing on her words and actions.
“You heard her,” he continued. “She didn’t need to say what she said the way she said it. She can be so hard. I’m just not going to put up with it.”
“Hold on,” I said. “Let’s slow all of this down and take a closer look at your emotions. Let’s see why you are reacting the way you are.”
“I know why I’m reacting,” he said angrily. “It’s because of her.”
It’s expedient for us to blame others for our feelings. Actually, George couldn’t really identify that his feelings had been hurt—only that she was to blame for snapping at him. He didn’t have ready access to his feelings, nor could he really understand why he acted, and reacted, the way he did. Like many others, he reacted when upset instead of identifying feelings, wounds and personal issues. He showed little ability to ‘hold his feelings,’ process them, and respond effectively.
Sandra had, indeed, snapped at George after he had said something offensive and biting to her. Unknowingly, George had started the volley of offensive words and the fight was on.
Such is the case for many couples. Unaware of the power of their words, or the ‘raw spots’ just below the surface, couples find themselves in a fight without knowing how it started or how to end it. Oblivious to the process, they react to one another, never discovering or healing latent wounds.
Consider that most of us walk around with emotional wounds from our past. We don’t know that we carry those wounds, because they are hidden, buried and suppressed. We spend little time trying to discover our wounds, let alone embark on a healing journey for them.
This leaves George and Sandra, and the rest of us, vulnerable to having our wounds “triggered” by each other. We rarely intend to hurt our mate, and yet we do so on a regular basis. While we may believe our mate is “trying to hurt us,” this is unlikely. We act out of our wounds.
Thankfully, marriage can be a place to discover and heal our wounds. Marriage can be a place where we notice how and why we are “triggered,” and with special help we can set on a journey of healing.
Consider these steps for healing from wounds created earlier in your life and those created in your marriage:
One, pay attention. What are the typical “triggers” in your marriage? Do you get your feelings hurt when your mate says something sternly to you? While that would bother anyone, it may also be that is an old wound that is being triggered? Do you react defensively? This may be an ineffective mechanism to protect you from being hurt further.
Two, take note. Spend time reflecting and take note of what you discover. Watch for the patterns and write them down. Consider how and why you became defensive. Look beneath the surface for clues to deeper issues.
Three, seek professional help. It can be difficult to notice patterns when you are so close up. What may be oblivious to you may be readily apparent to an impartial observer. Professionals also have strategies and tools to help you uncover the ‘root causes’ of your distress. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
Four, pray for guidance. Our relationship with the Lord can be a close friendship and he loves to help you. Pray for wisdom and guidance as you seek healing for wounds. Some of your wounds may be recent, while others may be buried from years ago. Ask the Lord to guide you in your search for hidden wounds.
Finally, ask your mate to help you with healing. In stead of being adversarial with your mate, ask them to help if they notice you being ‘triggered.’ Ask them to be gentle with you and to help you discover hidden wounds. Together you can form a powerful team that brings health and wholeness to your marriage.
Are you carrying around wounds from your past? Would you like healing so you can relate to your mate more effectively? If you would like to stop reacting and learn ways to heal deeper wounds, please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com. Please send responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
Publication date: May 5, 2015