We have been married for 43 years. We will never divorce, but sometimes he says very hurtful things to me. Then without much communication after the event, life just goes on, but the hurt is still here in my heart. What can I do to heal and communicate better with my husband?
I admire your shared dedication to your marriage and recognize that staying married that long isn’t always easy. At the same time, marriage doesn’t need to be an endurance contest. Even though you’ve been together a long time, I do think it’s important to work on improving your relationship so you’re not living alone together.
It’s important to pay attention to the emotional pain you’re feeling. This doesn’t mean that you need to become preoccupied with it, but, instead, pay attention to what it’s telling you. You’re hurt by some of the things your husband is saying. While I don’t know what you’ve addressed in the past with him, the fact that the hurt is there tells me that this isn’t resolved. Just because there’s currently no communication in the face of ongoing hurt doesn’t mean it has to stay this way.
Give yourself permission to feel hurt and upset when you are spoken to in a way that diminishes your value. These emotions are a signal that there’s a breach in the connection between you and your husband. There are several ways to address disconnection in a relationship. Sometimes we can easily let things go and sometimes we need to draw close to our partner and seek repair. Since these hurts are likely part of a bigger pattern that has continued without resolution, speaking up may be what’s required.
Find a quiet moment when both of you aren’t preoccupied. Express your need to discuss something important. Take ownership for your participation in the pattern of avoiding important things that need to be addressed. Let him know you want to be closer and there are hurt feelings that are getting in the way. Make it as clear as possible that this is only coming up because you value your relationship.
It’s important to address specifics about the different hurts as well as the larger pattern of ignoring hurts in the relationship. See if you can work with him to find a way to talk through hurts that surface. Of course, he might have his own stresses or emotional challenges that get in the way of connection. Always seek to understand his perspective as you ask him to consider yours.
It’s likely this might be overwhelming to both of you, especially if you’ve spent years avoiding each other. Couples therapy, even after 43 years of marriage, can offer tools and strategies to improve communication. A neutral third party can guide you both towards understanding and reconciliation.
Remember, your desire to address this and seek betterment speaks volumes about your commitment to the relationship. True love is tested in the crucible of adversity, which includes hurt feelings and misunderstandings. By seeking solutions, you’re taking a step towards deepening the bond you share with your husband.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com
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About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.