In couples therapy, we talk a lot about hurt. Hurt and pain are what drive people to come to couples therapy. They are hurting in their relationship, because they have been hurt or caused hurt. I spend a lot of time helping hurt partners be able to express their hurt to their partner. I spend a lot of time helping their partners hear and comfort the hurts of their loved one in a way that heals and connects. In a nutshell, this is often what couples therapy is all about—healing hurts so that couples can feel connected again.
Now, there are a lot of reasons partners need help in sharing their hurts. Sometimes, they have kept their hurts so bottled up that their partner is somewhat unaware of the depths of their hurt. More often, their unsuspecting partner is aware of their coldness, their distance, their busyness, how tired they seem to be all the time or possibly, just that their spouse doesn’t want to have sex with them. Other times, the hurts have been talked about over and over and over, but it never seems to get anywhere. The conversations go unresolved and with each conversation that goes nowhere, the relationship starts to deteriorate.
Attacking versus Sharing
Let me give you the secret to ensuring that your relational hurts will never get healed. It’s the magic formula overwhelmingly used by stuck couples everywhere. Stuff/Attack + Defend/Shutdown = No resolution.
Oftentimes, I watch a hurting spouse hitting their partner over the head with their hurts. It’s a ball of fire, a relentless round of bullets, leaving their partner nowhere to go but to duck and take cover or try to fire back.
Now, if you really want to make sure that these hurts never get resolved, you should also throw in some name-calling, character attacks and disbelief in your partner ever doing it differently in the future. That should seal the deal…this hurt will remain and your relationship will divide.
In every hurting partner’s defense, there are few things in life that can create a rise out of us, like the feeling of being hurt by the person who vowed to love and care for us until death do us part. Feeling rejected, forgotten, dismissed, betrayed or hurt by your spouse can be overwhelming and all-consuming. It can lead to reactions in us that are equally overwhelming to our partners. And the cycle goes round and round.
How to Get Unstuck
Let me give you a different formula for resolving hurts. Share + Comfort = Connection.
Here is what sharing is not:
1- Sharing is not delivering data. You forgot my birthday this year, and our anniversary for the past 3 years and your son’s birthday when he was 4 and Mother’s Day in 2009.
2- Sharing is not judging. You work so much because you are a workaholic who cares more about your job than anything or anyone else.
Then What is Sharing?
Sharing is simply that. Sharing your hurt. It is saying, “here is my hurt. Here’s what it makes me feel. Here’s what it makes me think about. Here’s why it hurts me so much.” Sharing is about you. Attacking is about your partner.
Hurting partners tell me how much they long for their partner to be empathetic to their pain. It is very difficult to be empathetic when you are being attacked. It is way easier to be empathetic towards the hurt feelings shared from a place of vulnerability. “I cannot be empathetic to you if you are telling me how awful I am. I can be empathetic to you if you are telling me how my actions hurt you.”
- Stuck couples everywhere use the same hopeless formula: Stuff/Attack + Defend/Shutdown = No resolution.
- Try this formula instead: Share + Comfort = Connection.
- Sharing is NOT delivering data or passing judgment.
- Sharing is about your feelings, your thoughts and why it hurts so much. Sharing is not about attacking your partner.
- Sharing is your best chance at an empathetic partner.