It’s Always All about You. Part 2

Scenario:

Again John ended up comforting his wife as she sobbed. She was in a lot of [emotional] pain.  He tried to reassure her that she was a good person – that he loved her.  What he felt was hollow, empty and hopeless.  Every time he tried to raise an issue in their relationship, she would take it as criticism of her as a person, as a wife, as an adult.  No matter how gently and non-judgmentally he would raise an issue, it was like he was burying a knife up to the hilt in her heart.  She got so deeply hurt that she became oblivious of him.  He had difficulty when she was in pain. He had troubling handling his own emotions and her distress triggered distress in him.  He found he would stop feeling his own distress if he focused on her.  He would let go of what he was trying to address, reassure her that he still loved her and that she was not a bad person.  At first, he was able to do this passionately because he deeply loved his wife.  Once she was reassured, with relief, they both enjoyed the loving feelings they shared.  But after so many interactions where bringing up his concerns turned into him consoling her, he felt confused, lost and alone.  Without any way to address change in their relationship,  John’s love was wearing thin.  He was at a loss of what to do.

This is a very difficult dynamic in relationships to address.  First of all, it’s difficult to recognize what is going on.  When your partner is in such genuine emotional distress it is difficult to recognize the pattern.  If you are the one  in such genuine emotional distress is seems impossible to realize that the intensity of your emotion is hijacking your partner’s concerns and issues.  Secondly, when you are hurting that much, it is impossible to stay concentrated on what your partner is talking about.

What to do:

Overly Emotional One

If you are the one who becomes so emotional when your partner brings up an issue, you need to explore what happens for you that you cannot stay engaged with your partner.

You need to stop taking what your partner is saying so personally. You need to be curious and interested in what goes on for your partner, then the two of you can work it out together. If it’s how your partner brings up an issue, e.g. blaming, sarcastic, judgmental, you can talk to him or her about that.

If you are unable to do this on your own, then seek professional help.

Partner of the Overly Emotional One

If you are the one attempting to bring up a problem or issue, there are several things you can do.

Bring to awareness the dynamic between you.   If your partner is not aware, he or she cannot change. Use communications skills, such as, Put the Inside Outside, to address the dynamic between you.

Stop trying to talk about the issue.  Try developing a strategy to change the problem you’re having problems with. Many problems can be solved this way.  Then when the relationship is better you may want to try talking about it again.

Invite your partner to go to couples counseling.  If your partner declines, tell your partner you’ll go by yourself – and go. Most people respond to change with change of their own. A therapist can help you change your part in the problem.  Your change impacts upon your partner who most likely changes in response to your change.

Awareness is the key to change. Once you and your partner are aware of this dynamic, it is possible to change it.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

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