We all dream of a marriage where there’s lots of fun, good connection, deep understanding, frequent sex, abundant money, perfect kids, beautiful rainbows, and dancing unicorns.
But marriage can be as much a battleground as a playground at times because spouses will hurt each other from time to time. You can’t live with someone, day in and day out, and not…
- Get your feelings hurt.
- Feel devalued.
- Be misunderstood.
- Feel put down.
- Be taken for granted.
Before we look at how to get past the hurt, we need to understand it.
Most of the time, spouses hurt one another unintentionally. They don’t mean to inflict harm on one another. It just happens…like stubbing your toe or stepping on a Lego.
Most unintentional hurt comes from three basic differences between spouses:
Family of Origin.
We tend to underestimate how much our upbringing contributes to our marital hurt. For instance:
- If you were raised in a family where raised voices were a sign of unacceptable anger, but your spouse was raised in a family where raised voices were a sign of lively discussion…you’re going to get your feelings hurt.
- If you were raised in a family where both spouses jumped in to keep the house clean, but your spouse was raised in a family where one spouse was responsible for the house and the other for the outside…you’re going to get your feelings hurt.
It’s funny how the personality we fell in love with often winds up being the personality we’re frustrated with. For instance:
- If your personality is to be very structured and planned, but your spouse’s personality is to be very free-wheeling and spontaneous…you’re going to see your spouse as inconsiderate and hurtful at times.
- If your personality is to be very private with most things, but your spouse’s personality is to be very open with most things…you’re going to butt heads and feel some hurt.
Both you and your spouse deal with different pressures and stressors in life. These pressures and stressors can easily leak out in your interactions with one another, causing unintentional hurts.
- If your boss has been on your case with one demand after another, a request for help from your spouse might cause you to react with an icy, do-it-yourself tone of voice…leaving your spouse wounded.
- If you’ve spent the day with kids clamoring for your attention and climbing all over you, your spouse’s sexual advance may be met with a cold, back-off-before-you-lose-that-hand kind of response…leaving your spouse rejected and hurt.
All of these are unintentional hurts, but they need to be talked through and worked out.
But what if the hurt is intentional?
There may be times when spouses will hurt each other intentionally. Where unintentional hurt is like stubbing your toe, intentional hurt is like sticking out your foot to trip each other.
Intentional hurt typically occurs when we’re…
Trying to Defend Ourselves.
If we are feeling attacked, our automatic response is often to defend ourselves. For instance, if your spouse comes at you and wants to know why you haven’t unloaded the dishwasher, your first reaction might be to say “I’m sorry.” If they continue to press, your defensiveness goes up and you begin to make excuses for why you didn’t unload the dishwasher. But if your spouse continues to press, you might lash out in anger and say something like, “I’m not your servant! If you weren’t so busy staring at your phone you could do it yourself!” Though it was said in the heat of the moment, this was an intentional hurt inflicted on your spouse.
Trying to Get Even.
If our spouse has hurt us in some way (intentionally or unintentionally) we might react in such a way as to hurt them back. This is often done in a very passive-aggressive way. For instance, suppose you’ve asked your spouse repeatedly to let you know when they’re on their way home from work, but they never seem to remember. You might try to get even by: not preparing dinner, going out with your friends and not letting them know when you’ll be back, or not picking up the phone when they’re trying to get in touch with you. These are all passive-aggressive attempts to get even with your spouse.
Trying to Get Our Needs Met…Apart From Our Spouse.
This category can involve getting involved in habits or hobbies our spouse does not enjoy. But mostly this refers to emotional and/or sexual infidelity. It’s when a spouse seeks to meet an emotional or sexual need with someone other than their spouse. Spouses who have done this will tell you they never intended it to happen. This can make it sound like the hurt they inflicted with their infidelity was unintentional. But somewhere they made an intentional choice to step outside of the marriage, making it an intentional hurt. (Note: we will have more to say on infidelity in a later post.)
As I said at the beginning of this post, spouses will hurt each other from time to time. Hopefully, it’s more unintentional than intentional, but it will happen. The quicker we can recognize when and why this happens, the easier it will be to fix and avoid it in the future.
But sometimes the hurt (big or small) will stick with us. We take it personally…to a fault. The hurt cuts so deep we can’t seem to forget it or get over it.
When this happens, what can we do? I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but this post is already too long. So, you’ll need to check out the next Normal Marriage post to find out!