How do you react to someone that has hurt you? Do you drop them, punish them, yell or get passive aggressive with them? Maybe your defense is to ignore them for hours or days until you feel like you are over it and have shoved your hurt feelings down enough to simply move on?
Whether it’s a friendship, spouse, or any relationship, remember that most of us are not mind readers. We may sense when something is wrong in our relationship with another but may not have a clue what we have done wrong unless we are told.
I was working with a woman the other day and she was very upset with her husband and how he had treated her. She told me his excitement over taking a family trip to visit his parents had hurt her feelings and that “he should know better and know how she felt.” She and his parents don’t get along, they have hurt her in the past, so she felt like he was ignoring her feelings and being intentionally hurtful.
I asked her if the relationship with her husband was worth staying in and she replied yes but that “he is so hurtful when it comes to his family.” I asked her if she felt like he wanted to keep this marriage, her reply was yes. I said that if her answer is yes and the relationship is worth keeping or staying in, then she must tell him how she feels to make a change in their relationship. He won’t get this on his own and the cold shoulder treatment isn’t going to change him. He really doesn’t know or understand!
WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO TREAT OTHERS UNLESS WE ARE TAUGHT OR TOLD.
We must teach others how we want to be treated. Most people are not mean, spiteful and hurtful. So when we feel hurt by someone we are in relationship with, we need to express this. This is a boundary, and boundaries teach others how we want to be treated. Now, I didn’t say anything about confrontation or yelling, I said speak up and TEACH others how we want to be treated. Boundaries can be done without yelling and is very different from a confrontation. Typically when I encourage someone to set a boundary, they respond with, “but I don’t like confrontation.” Boundaries are quite different from confrontations. Confrontations are when we come at someone ready for a fight and can result in yelling or screaming. A boundary can simply be a conversation and it’s done.
In the case of my above client, she had a conversation with her husband and expressed that his words and actions were hurtful and the she felt disregarded in her feelings (and in their relationship). She then modeled for him the words and actions she wished she had heard from him in the beginning. She put her hand on his arm, looked into his eyes and spoke the words of comfort and support. The modeling was so powerful that it actually made him tear up. He heard her. He finally understood where she was coming from and said, “you're right, your version sounded much more loving and supportive.” In the end, they felt better and stronger as a couple. It really is THAT SIMPLE!
When we know the person we are in relationship with cares about us and is interested in keeping the relationship and even making it better then we must speak up for ourselves and let them know when we feel hurt. If we don’t, the relationship cannot survive. It may only take an expression of what we are feeling and what we need to make things better.