When you live with someone, no matter what state your marriage is in, you are bound to engage in a hurtful argument from time to time.
And what can be the most challenging part is the aftermath:
How do you deal with the pain in a way that honors you and your feelings, and also makes space for the two of you to come back to a place of connection?
It is very easy for things to escalate into a standoff about who’s right. And, in order to get back to a feeling of love and respect, it is important to stay focused on that being the ultimate goal.
I am going to share with you five steps you can take to weather the storm and actually allow it to build on your intimacy.
1. Respect your emotions
Rather than either denying your emotions and pretending everything is OK, or staying stuck in anger and resentment, take some time (10 – 60 minutes) to really feel the pain and hurt the argument or situation caused.
Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” and “What do I need for this not to happen in the future?”
By respecting your own emotions you are showing yourself and your husband that your feelings matter – which is important for the final goal of erasing the pattern that caused the pain.
Only through giving yourself the opportunity to feel the most vulnerable emotions will you be able to complete the rest of this exercise and find true peace.
2. Express your feelings and desires
Once you have identified how you are feeling and what you need, you can construct a simple statement to express to your husband:
” I feel [feeling] about [situation you are upset about]. I want [desire]. “
I invite you to fill this in as simply and as deeply as you can.
Be vulnerable instead of critical – it will help him to hear you and allow the connection to flow. Focus on how you feel and leave out the blame.
3. Let go of expectations
If while practicing this exercise, you have already decided on the only acceptable response for your husband to have, you will always be disappointed.
You husband is a different person than you and has his own ways of expressing his emotions.
Remember that men have different ways of showing they are sorry and want to restore connection. An apology is not the only way to show you are sorry. This understanding alone can be a game changer in your marriage!
Be open to a different reaction than the than the apology you were hoping for.
Even if he responds negatively, or with silence, don’t get drawn into the aforementioned ‘who’s right’ debate. Feel good that you expressed yourself vulnerably and let if go. When you don’t engage in the discussion, he has no choice but to hear what you said.
4. Show not tell – resist teaching or criticizing
I know that it is tempting to explain to him what he did wrong and what he has to do in the future. I’ve been there! But, think honestly:
How have those conversations worked for you in the past?
Has he even listened or did he respond defensively?
And even if he agreed, did it make a difference the next day or the next week?
When we feel attacked we put up defenses and fight back. That is how your husband feels when you criticize or complain about his actions.
Instead, show him what he did that hurt you by not taking part in that situation in the future. You can always walk away from an interaction that feels painful before it escalates into a fight with the confidence that it serves neither of you to engage in it.
5. Apologize for your part
Remember when I told you to forget about your expectation and desired response for your husband to have to you expressing your pain? Well, before you do that, take note of it. Because in all likelihood your husband feels the same way you do right now and would like the same type of reaction.
We don’t usually hurt unless we feel hurt. No matter who started it this time, this reality still stands.
Ask yourself what you may have done to hurt him and own up to it. Not only will you be doing your part in restoring the intimacy, but you will also be bringing this positive pattern into your marriage making it more likely your husband may engage in it as well.
A vital part of being in a safe and intimate relationship is being willing and able to show up that way at all times. I invite you to try this approach the next time you feel hurt – and be sure to share with me your experience!
I look forward to hearing from you!