In my very first blog post on Make Some Wonderful (now nearly one year ago) I wrote about biting my cheek and how in marriage our emotional “sore spots” are difficult to avoid.
Click here to read the original post, “Ouch, That Hurts.”
“Sore spots” are the areas of our life most sensitive to criticism, usually due to past experiences of deep emotional hurt. Touching these sensitive spots can lead to an ugly fight or end one by going too far.
Marriage is simultaneously the most protective and most vulnerable place on earth.
When I meet with couples for marriage counseling I like to see them fight. Ok, I don’t really like it but your medical doctor doesn’t need to see the parts of your body that are feeling good.
When I see couples fight, I can see the sore spots that need care and attention.
The sore spots are often the ones being pushed, bit, and exposed in the fight. It can take some time to uncover the real wound and many couples are unaware of the extent of their own sore spots and those of their spouse.
Unlike the biting analogy in my first post, in marriage we tend not to re-injure ourselves over and over, it is our spouse we re-injure.
This has to stop.
After you have a fight with your spouse you can reconnect, stop the re-injuries, and end the pattern of interaction that makes the same fights come up over and over again.
- Express care for your spouse and their emotional health. Look them in the eye and slowly express your love for them and describe in detail three things you love about them.
- Acknowledge you may have hurt them and gently ask what hurt.
- Listen without becoming defensive. This is the key, and the hardest part. Hear them out, listen for their heart, not your defense.
- Express empathy for their hurt (validate their feelings) and reaffirm your love for them.
- Stop. Do nothing else. Ok, maybe a hug, but nothing else. No more words. Stop. It may feel like there has to be more for the argument to be resolved, a winner must be declared or your side must be heard now. Nope. Just stop.
The healing is in the connection. When you respond with care to hurt, you are fixing it. To heal past relationship hurts, you must build new emotionally healthy interactions. If you try to do or say more, the risk of getting sucked back into the same destructive pattern is too great.
The success of your re-connection depends mostly on the willingness of one partner to be vulnerable and for the other partner to respond softly toward connection and away from defensiveness. If this is too risky right now, wait until emotions have cooled a bit more and you have the emotional space needed. If your relationship is too contentious to have a conversation like outlined above, please get professional assistance. Find a counselor and start the healing.
You won’t always be able to avoid the sore spots in your marriage. But when you are well connected the emotional relationship injuries will be infrequent and less intense. When you intentionally heal past hurts, rather than continuing to cut each other, marriage feels great again.
What do you do after a fight to reconnect with your spouse?