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When we seek to hurt others, who do we hurt most?
This is a question I pondered over the last few weeks as I considered the actions of someone that is close to me. Instead of celebrating a wedding and making it into an inclusive, intimate, and special occasion, a woman I know decided instead to make her wedding into a political statement and excluded family, friends, and loved ones in order to hurt and embarrass them.
This woman really let herself down, and I have been considering the motivations for such a callous act. What would motivate someone to wound those closest to her? Was it for attention? Was it for revenge? Was it a need for others to feel and experience the hurt she felt inside? Or was it to escape the invisible pressure and expectation she felt at being the last member of her family to get married?
At a time when a family should be celebrating matrimony, parents, siblings, and loved ones are now disjointed and divided, riven with regret and hurt feelings. I wonder if the approach this woman took was wise, and indeed necessary, considering the ensuing fallout that is likely to occur. The hurt she wielded indicated to me a deep vulnerability within herself and her place in the world that she is not yet ready to deal with.
I talk with a lot of people about feelings, particularly people with marriage problems who are struggling to find meaning from what is going on around them. When a marriage starts to fall apart, I am met by people feeling confusion, sadness, frustration, anger, and hurt. Of all these feelings, hurt is the one feeling that we understand the most.
The issue for you and other couples feeling hurt is in finding meaning from this feeling and developing an appropriate response. We can communicate our hurt to our partner or loved one and expose ourselves to vulnerability, or we can suppress our hurt and let it manifest itself in other forms. The issue is that if we choose to suppress our hurt it can manifest itself in a way that damages the relationship. We can choose to let it explode at a critical moment and wield it with such power that it does the maximum of damage, or we can hold it in and let the feeling poison us, or we can use it to humiliate someone at a selected moment.
But who do we really hurt? There is no merit in wounding others. There is no merit in turning your marriage into a competition. There is no merit in turning your hurt into strategy or a weapon. The person you let down is yourself. And the most wounded party is the relationship.
Acknowledge your hurt using "I" statements. Understand why you feel hurt. Has someone deliberately hurt you? Have your expectations of someone been diminished? Has a loved one touched on an issue that you haven't fully dealt with? Has someone touched on one of your fears?
I want your marriage to be remembered for the moments that take your breath away, the moments when you feel so interconnected with your partner it feels as though its crushing your heart. I want your marriage to be remembered for including your partner in your life and your emotional journey. And I want your marriage to be remembered for loving your partner enough to tell them about your feelings, foregoing the temptation to suppress, and to love them enough to expose yourself to vulnerability.
A successful marriage is about exposing yourself to the full emotional spectrum as a couple, and living each moment and emotion to its fullest extent. It's times like that when you are fully exposed and vulnerable that you can be most connected. Next time you see your partner, tell them something about yourself that scares you. Ask them to do the same. At that moment in time you are connected in your most intimate self. It may be your first step towards healing your marriage.
And you both win.