It breaks my heart when I hear that a relationship has ended. Especially when it involves two good people who desperately tried to make their relationship work. A friend shared with me recently that a couple I know is living apart. It reminded me of the pain that I went through when my husband and I were living apart for a brief time in our marriage. I was hurt, he was hurt, and we didn’t know how to get back to one another. We had 20 years invested in our relationship. Hurt, it’s like an infected wound. How do you return to someone who has caused you pain? The way out of our pain, whether you stay together or end your relationship, is through understanding. But understanding our partner and ourselves is complicated.
I want to share how understanding can bring you peace, but first I want to address the complexities of a relationship that can make “getting to understanding” extremely complicated.
The layers of complexity of a relationship make it challenging to work on. When I work with couples, I am endlessly surprised by the complexities that unfold in our work together.
Examples of the complexities that unfold in a relationship:
- Holding on to hurt and not sharing it with your partner, so it goes on to fester like an infected wound
- Childhood wounds that are felt again and again in our relationships
- Feeling as if we are not being seen for whom we are as a person
- Imbalance and unfairness
- Growing apart and struggling to reconnect
- Misunderstanding and miscommunication
- Feeling misunderstood
- Unmet needs
- Blame and accusations
I could go on and on…
If I am completely honest, a part of me believes that my husband has hurt me more over the years than I have hurt him. I know this is not true. But it is easier to recognize my hurt than to feel the shame of how I hurt him. I am well acquainted with my hurt; it is easy to access within me. It is challenging to access the shame of how I have hurt my husband over our years together.
There is one way out of pain, and that is mutual understanding.
The trap of understanding is that we want to be understood before we extend understanding to our partner. And I understand why, it is because we are hurt and we want it to stop and stop now.
I want to be very clear about understanding.
Understanding does not mean that we accept someone’s bad behavior; it only means that we understand where it comes from.
Understanding does not mean that you abandon your side of what you go through with your partner.
If you hurt someone, you may struggle to extend compassionate understanding to yourself. Ask yourself, was this intentional? Or were you hurt and you hurt your partner in return? Stay out of “right and wrong” thinking.
Attempting to understand each other
Who is Right and who is Wrong?
Do not work together
The understanding that I am referring to is getting at the root cause of our actions. If you’ve hurt someone because you were hurt, then you have the opportunity to learn from it. What can you do differently next time? And, when you do this work, extend self-compassion. Recognize the humanness in all of us. And understand your hurt. Did your partner bump into an emotional trigger? Is that why you hurt your partner? I could never address all of the many reasons that we hurt one another. However, if you can try to move a bit out of how you’ve hurt and get to understanding you (and, of course, your partner), you will be the one who benefits.
If you’ve been hurt, you may feel like you are giving up something if you extend understanding to the person who hurt you.
It is important to attempt to move into understanding “when you are ready.” Believe me, I know what it feels like to not be ready to move toward understanding. I have had many moments when I was not ready, and that’s okay. Honor where you are now. But when you are ready, know that you are moving toward peace.
I have had experiences when I understand why my husband hurt me; mostly it came from his emotional triggers. Understanding allowed me to move closer to him. And I have had experiences when I’ve been hurt by other people and have chosen to move away from that person. I understand why they struggle in life; however, if one is not ready to take ownership of how they hurt, it is time for me to move forward but with peace and understanding. Know that this is not an easy task. I have had experiences of being hurt that have taken a very long time (years) to understand why someone has hurt me. I have also had times of being hurt when I can get to understand relatively quickly. Either way, both experiences of understanding bring me peace of mind.
Relationships are like walking a tightrope; taking responsibility for hurting our partner, as well as understanding why our partner hurt us, and then extending understanding. Oh my, I wish I could say this was easy, but I hope this is a beginning so that you can get to a peaceful space for you.
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One more thing…..I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. I know it is not easy to do! Believe me, I know, it took me a very long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you! When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section. Thanks for reading!
Details of the any stories told in my blog have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
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