Happy New Year, Friends! Susan here with my first blog entry of the new year. Even though we are a long way from spring, January seems like a good time for fresh starts as we step into 2023. As much as I’d like to hunker down and hibernate all winter, I feel God moving me to be diligent in my growth and productivity. Those are not easy words for me to soak in. There are several areas of my life that could benefit from diligent effort and I want to be intentional about where I invest my limited and precious energy.
I am a person who values beauty and nature. I used to live in sunny, southern California and I found much peace and enjoyment in the gorgeous year-round flowers and the stunning coast of the Pacific. It might be easy for me to ruminate over the reasons that led to me moving away, the lack of sun in January where I live now, my great distance from friends, and how professionally and financially challenging it would be to relocate. However, I know putting much energy toward those thoughts would not help me. Yet, it has been beneficial for me to recognize how much God’s beautiful creation and healthy connections positively impact me. While honoring my needs and accepting the reality of my current geographical coordinates, I can put my energy toward meaningful change. A useful plan of action for me has been to build new connections, find and create beauty where I am, and begin building the resources I may need to one day make a move. This has allowed me to have a sense of satisfaction and control.
In my work, I see this as something human beings struggle with quite often. In lieu of putting energy toward things they can actually control, anxious thoughts and feelings prompt people to exert effort that does not create change or growth. It can be helpful to pause to notice feelings and to reflect on what needs can be met before choosing a useful plan of action.
Today’s Question: How do I get through to my spouse the gravity of the pain & trauma our now grown daughter feels, due to growing up on the emotional roller coaster of his inconsistent moods and his emotional unavailability/often coldness? He doesn't show her enough compassion for her emotions & her need for love and approval from men, due in part to the lack of his efforts to bond more with her as a father when she was growing up. It's so painful to hear him make light of her emotions whether it be from their relationship or any heartbreaks she feels from her own destructive relationships with men.
Susan’s Answer: Thank you for submitting your question. Many women have similar questions that begin with, “How do I get through to my spouse”. That beginning leads me to believe there has already been an effort that has not created the outcome you have hoped for. I will assume that you have already had a kind, respectful, assertive conversation about your concerns. If not, that would be a great place to start. That conversation might sound like,
“It is painful for me to hear about our daughter’s heartbreak. I would love her to have good, healthy interactions with men. I know you love our daughter very much so it is confusing to me when I hear what sounds to me like you making light of her emotions. I imagine that is not intentional, but I am concerned that it may not be helping her. Is there anything I can do to better help support your relationship with her?”
Be prepared to give specific and concrete examples of what you have heard that cause you to believe he is making light of her emotions. Also, be prepared for him to say “no” to wanting more support. If he does not want support in being more compassionate, it won’t be beneficial to try harder to get him to want what you want for him.
If the response you get from having an initial conversation is dismissive, your spouse may not be interested in understanding the gravity of the pain and trauma he has caused. People with a growth mindset are open to hearing hard feedback from trusted others. Other people do not want to accept feedback and do not want to change no matter how lovingly and skillfully it is delivered. It can be very hard to accept this reality.
Whether or not he invests in personal growth is outside of your control. Even still, you have the opportunity to make sure you are a trustworthy person in his life and a safe and secure person for your daughter. A safe and trusted person is one who wants the best for the other without being coercive or demeaning, one who can be curious, steadfast, loyal, encouraging, and shows loving-kindness.
You may be fearful for your daughter and I can understand why. Seeking love and approval from men creates discontentment. In Galatians 1:10 Paul states, For am I seeking the approval of man or of God? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Your daughter’s value comes from God the Father, not from any earthly man.
You mentioned that your daughter is an adult. It is now her responsibility to find healing, have assertive conversations, and create healthy boundaries for herself. Her father may not offer her the apology, the understanding, or the change she longs for. Even so, healing is possible. Many people grow up with insecure attachments to a parent. I am sure it is painful for her to experience and for you to witness. As believers, we can find security in our attachment to a perfect and loving Father God.
Your pain may be prompting you to pour your efforts into getting through to him in ways he is not ready to accept. I wonder if there might be a better way to expend your energy that can help you with your pain. It sounds like your husband has shown inconsistent moods, has been emotionally unavailable, and has appeared cold for much of your daughter’s childhood. Has this only been true in the relationship with her? Have you experienced that as well?
I can imagine your marriage is not what you had hoped. Is it possible that it is easier for you to try to get your husband to change for your daughter than to talk about how you are being affected in the marriage by his moodiness, emotional unavailability, and coldness? Perhaps you have needs that are going unmet. Even if he does not change, what useful plan of action could you make for yourself to ensure that your needs do get met?
Beloved reader, what do you do to help yourself accept the truth and disappointment when a significant person in your life does not want to hear your concerns nor wants to change?
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