Monday, July 7, 2008
The Total Truth of Anger
A woman recently told me that she had just informed her husband that she wasn’t in love with him any longer.
I encouraged her to look deeper into her emotions as “no longer in love” doesn’t give her husband anything to work with and isn’t the full truth. I explained the stages of anger, “Underneath anger is hurt, fear, responsibility, understanding, want, appreciation, and love. Once the total truth is explored, then you can work together to make new agreements.”
Using this woman’s scenario as an example, the total truth might sound like this:
I am really angry that you spend so much time away from home. I feel that you have clearly prioritized work over family, and I feel that I—we—just don’t matter that much to you. I get so frustrated having to raise the kids myself and having to explain to them again why their dad isn’t home for dinner, or for the weekend, or there for the school play, or why we are going on vacation without you.
I am hurt because I thought that “I do” meant that “you would” be more involved with the kids and me. I ache from loneliness, and it makes me sad to think that I would be so lonely within my marriage. I am sad that so many other emotions besides love come up when I think of us. I feel like my sadness is drowning out the love.
I am afraid that our marriage is going to fall apart. I am afraid that the damage is going to become so great that we aren’t going to be able to rescue it. If I’m really honest, I am afraid that I won’t be able to resist when someone else offers me love and attention because I miss being intimate with you.
Responsibility: I realize that I have not always made our home an emotionally safe place for you to come home to. When I am unhappy or wanting something more from you than you have to give, I can see that I actually make your work a more desirable place to be; even with all the stress there, the stress at home leaves you with no safe place to just let down your guard. I apologize for not expressing my gratitude more for all you do.
I understand that you are working hard to ensure our financial security. Without that, our family would suffer far greater stresses than just missing you. I know you work as hard as you do in part to please me, and it must be really frustrating to you to feel as though I am not appreciative. I know your work is extremely stressful and that adding the stress of my unhappiness only makes everything harder for you. I realize that you are doing the best you can with the current set of circumstances.
What I want is for us to have a loving marriage again. I want us to be a happy family—with both parents present. I want for the two of us to spend time alone together again, falling back in love, being romantic, laughing together, and enjoying life—like we used to. I miss you. I want us to make our relationship a priority so that it doesn’t just slip away unconsciously. I want to feel fully alive and in love with you again. I want to grow old with you, in love.
I deeply appreciate all that you do for our family and how great an effort you put into everything you do. The truth is that I love spending time with you, or this wouldn’t even be an issue.
I love you and cherish you as my husband, my friend, and my lover.
I’m sure you can see that this is a far cry from “I’m not in love with you anymore.”
Once the total truth of this woman’s emotions has been expressed, her husband is far more likely to be able to “hear” her and to make agreements.
Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week: What is underneath your anger?
Love Tip of the Week: Sometimes just thinking through your emotions by yourself will move you to resolution, and you will have no need to discuss the matter with your partner. You may be able to gain understanding, take responsibility, achieve forgiveness, and let go of the anger just by becoming aware of all that you are feeling. If a discussion and agreement are necessary, the total truth will be far easier to work with than just the anger.
*Excerpted from How To Love Your Marriage