How are you doing? It’s getting a little lonely and boring, isn’t it? Yet I hope you are all safe and your loved ones are healthy. As a part of the “community,” share with all of us some of the good television series and books you’ve been reading during this time. I just finished “The Choice” by Edith Eger, and am starting “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. Great reads about the resilience of the human spirit during these tough times. I also just finished watching Unorthodox on Netflix about an Orthodox Jewish woman trying to escape a very conservative Hassidic Jewish Community and find a new life. It was extremely interesting. But I could use some lighter fare. Something funny would be good. Suggestions?
Also, I’m doing a workshop Tuesday, April 14th on How Long Should You Keep Trying and How Will You Know If the Change is Real. I will be providing you a detailed worksheet to take notes and live questions. If you would like to attend or know someone who needs this, please register here.
Question: I’ve chosen to “stay well” in this relationship as I see him working towards being closer with the Lord and speaking with a therapist about his past. However, he seems to be getting worse with his self-discovery in emotions and it’s being taken out on me.
Is this normal when digging into past things that you tend to see worsening emotions and actions rather than better? Or is this a sign of how this will continue for the rest of my life?
Answer: First, I hope you are taking good care of you as your husband is doing his work. What he does or doesn’t do, has an impact on you too. Be careful. As your husband is doing his work in counseling, he is beginning to feel emotions that he’s never allowed himself to feel before. Perhaps in his family of origin, he wasn’t allowed to feel sad, or scared, or hurt, or angry. He may have experienced abuse, loss, or trauma that he has never acknowledged or processed. So, if he’s looking at his past and experiencing strong emotions, it may be very scary territory for the both of you, especially if he’s been a stuffer his whole life.
However, if he is expressing his new emotions in destructive or frightening ways, that’s not okay or a healthy way to heal. You didn’t mention specifically how he is taking them out on you or how his newly discovered emotions are affecting you. But if you’re feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, have you shared how you feel with him and/or his counselor? Does that matter to him? Does he show any compassion and empathy for you during his healing?
Sometimes the treatment feels worse than having the disease. For example, if you are diagnosed with cancer, having surgery or chemotherapy may feel far worse than just leaving the cancer alone. However, for long term survival, you have to go through the chemo or surgery.
If your husband is working through abuse from his past, he may feel a lot of anger and shame. He may be withdrawn, or he may feel clingy and needy. Or maybe he’s angry and scares you with his temper. You can feel care and concern for him while he’s experiencing these new feelings but with good boundaries.
Here’s something you might want to say to him. “I’m grateful that you’ve being brave and starting to do your own work. Yet your newly discovered emotions are getting a little overwhelming for me. I feel ________ when you ___________(and put in your own feeling when he behaves in ways that upset you).
Stop. See if how you feel matters to him. If it doesn’t and it’s still all about him, his healing, his needs, his feelings, then you will know that despite him being in therapy, nothing significant is changing in the destructive dynamics of your relationship. However, if he takes note of that and feels compassion for you then continue with something like this.
“I want to help you in any way I can but I can’t be the target for your rage (or whatever he’s taking out on you). I need you to discuss what’s happening with your therapist so that you can find safe ways for you to experience your emotions. I don’t want your healing to harm me or our relationship even further.”
Then pay attention to what he does not what he says. If he is truly healing and getting better, he will do his own work but also see that it’s not okay to damage you or your relationship further and learn how to manage his emotions in a safer way.
His healing may take a long time, but hopefully, his self-awareness and ability to exercise some self-control over his strong feelings will happen sooner rather than later. But ultimately you are responsible for your well-being and I hope you speak up and develop some good boundaries if you are going to continue to stay well. Click To Tweet
Friends, how have you learned to stay well and have good boundaries for yourself, while you wait whether your husband’s healing includes caring for your safety and well-being?