We’re a sensitive bunch, aren’t we? We take everything very seriously and very personally. What I’m talking about here is not the Mount Everest of abuse and betrayal. Rather, I’m on the first rung of a small ladder, looking at some of the little things that cause our feelings to be hurt. As we all know, the little things can build up over time and all of a sudden, we’ve climbed up the entire ladder, wobbling at the top. See if these two examples ring true to you.
Example A: Your wife gets home from work an hour before you do, and proceeds to watch the most recent episode of “Survivor” without waiting for you. Example B: You plan a weekend sightseeing in San Francisco, and your husband unilaterally spends $1,000 on Warriors’ tickets when he knows you HATE basketball. In either scenario, an argument will naturally ensue and the patterns of your relationship will no doubt emerge. “You have no consideration for me.” “You are selfish.” “You never want to do anything I want to do.” Sound familiar?
So, what’s really going on here? When your wife overtly dismisses your desire to watch “Survivor” together because she’s impatient, how exactly does that make you feel? When your husband deliberately makes an extravagant expenditure that he knows will cause conflict, how exactly does that make you feel?
Please consider these two points:
- Hurt feelings are a choice. We always have the option to let the behavior bother us or let it roll off our backs. Additionally, we can choose to let it bother us for a finite period and then let it go. I often set an internal timer for myself — I’m going to stew about this for an hour and when the timer goes off, I’m over it. Believe it or not, that strategy works because you’re giving yourself permission to feel hurt, angry, betrayed, embarrassed, etc., for a period of time that’s commensurate with the infraction. In other words, if your spouse forgets your birthday, you might need more time to stew than if he/she forgot to stop at the grocery store for milk on the way home from work. Make sense?
- What were the other person’s intentions. Was it your wife’s intention to completely disregard your request that you watch “Survivor” together? Maybe she thought it wasn’t as important to you as it actually was. Regardless, asking about the other’s intent is a smart, cut-to-the-chase concept. Once you discover the intention behind the action, you will be able to deal more appropriately with your hurt feelings.
Notwithstanding the tools I employ in the mediation process, I strongly believe that the most successful strategy of all, especially when dealing with those who are closest to us and therefore are most easily able to hurt our feelings, is to assume the best rather than the worst. Try it next time and let me know how it works.