When you find yourself feeling resentful and angry at someone, hurt feelings are often the cause.
Due to an overwhelming response with emails after my article/blog “Sleeping with the Enemy,” I decided to write in a different format. I received 183 letters from people all over the U.S. (the article was posted in Chicago as well as the East Coast), and I found myself feeling limited and unhelpful with my template, explaining I was not authorized to give out individual advice. I decided to take a letter from one of my readers, change the names, and post it here for all of you. The letters were incredibly similar, and my intention is that this will help you in your own life and relationship. Thank you to the reader who let me use their letter….what a gift you offered me to share.
Dear Mary Jo,
I read all of your articles, watch you on TV, listen to you on Mix 96-5, and watch for you on HLN and CNN. Your article on “Sleeping with the Enemy” brought tears to my eyes. I was sad all day, and when my husband (Joe) came home, I showed the article to him. He looked at me and walked away. We have been married for 8 years. We have two beautiful children ages 7 and 3. My husband is a wonderful dad and provider. He and I have no marriage though. We don’t talk or touch, and we haven’t had sex for months. I feel alone and have begun criticizing him. He doesn’t want to hear me talk, and usually to avoid a fight he walks away. All we share is the kids. Two years before I was married, I was dating a man who treated me terribly. Everyone use to tell me how beautiful I was, and wondered why I stayed with such a creep. Inside I felt ugly and hollow until I met Joe. He was everything the guy who dated me wasn’t. Now I am finding myself feeling like he is just like the guy I use to date. He doesn’t care about me, hurts my feelings, and takes me for granted. I know you believe in marriage, can you help me save mine? Thank you for all you do, Erica
I am sorry for all you are struggling with, but what an opportunity this article and your feelings are presenting you with. You are awake and peeling off the denial that has most likely trapped you for years. It sounds like Joe is a wonderful father and provider. I am grateful for that, as many times that alone can help hold your marriage together while you are both working toward a solution.
Joe is most likely withdrawing because he doesn’t know how to “fix” your pain. He may feel as though you are blaming him for your sadness, and it sounds like you may be doing that. However, this pain and sadness is left over hurt from a situation that happened long before Joe came into your life. It sounds like your anger and resentment roots from feelings from your past boyfriend. It is likely that you are angry at yourself for allowing that situation to continue. Many times, when we are hurt or angry we take it out on the person closest to us, which in this case is Joe. You talk about how beautiful you were, as if that should have saved you from an abusive relationship, but no matter how beautiful we are on the outside, the inside may suffer with insecurity and hurt. I am wondering if you ever shared the inside with your friends or Joe. Joe cannot help you feel more loved if you are afraid of being intimate and real with him. No man (or woman) can read your mind.
It is time to sit down with Joe and tell him that YOU are sorry you have been treating him with anger and resentment. Tell him that you want him to know how you are feeling and that you have expectations that he will be able to love you in a way that helps you feel connected. Tell him also that you understand these feelings are impossible for him to know without you telling him about them. Make a plan with Joe to save your marriage and your family. Below are 7 things to get you started:
1. Find a therapist that both of you like. Ask friends, family and talk to your provider to see who is on your plan. Therapy is going to help support your marriage and guide you through this murky maze.
2. Tell Joe that he is not the problem, but the way you communicate with one another is. Make a plan to begin touching more each day. You may find the hurt makes you not want to touch; do it anyway because emotion often follows behavior. You may find the connection comes sooner with touching than talking.
3. Both you and Joe should make a list each Sunday night for the week ahead, and identify two behaviors that will make you feel more loved and cared for. Make sure these are doable; in other words, if having sex is on your list, make sure you break that down to perhaps kissing, massaging, and/or cuddling. Having sex when you are angry may not be possible, but touching or kissing is possible.
4. Tell your children frequently that you love each other, and you love them. Tell them you are going to see a “teacher” just like they do at school. Kids love that and understand. Children know when their parents aren’t getting along and it does affect their ability to focus and concentrate.
5. If you don’t pray, this is a wonderful time to start. On your knees, sitting or dancing, make sure you and Joe pray together. There is no one single thing that will offer your marriage more hope at this time than praying for it together.
6. Remember that many times our hurt feelings are misplaced and projected on someone else, but are actually meant for us. What areas have you neglected in yourself, Erica? You are a mom, a wife, but what else? If you have let your passions die and have not taken time to take care of developing your own interests, then that is not Joe’s fault. It should not be part of the reason you are criticizing or blaming him either.
7. Joe, stay the course. Walking away when you don’t have anything to say looks like abandonment to the person who is being walked away from. Part of “fixing this problem” is listening and understanding the feelings.
One day at a time, Erica. You can do this, and if you and Joe both want the marriage to work, you can overcome these feelings of hurt and become closer to Joe in the process. Bless you, Mjo
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