We have enjoyed finding and eating ripe red tomatoes from our garden. We didn’t stake or cage them so it’s quite a process to find the red ones. We have to lift up the vines and really search but when we have a glimpse of a red one, we’re motivated to make that search. We know the reward is well worth the effort.
Feelings are like this too. Feelings of anger and resentment, for example, are usually close to the surface, easy to recognize. We don’t have to look very hard to find them. But what’s underneath those feelings? Sometimes we’re afraid to look or we convince ourselves there really isn’t anything else. But there always is.
When couples share their “surface” feelings, I often ask them to “dig deeper”. What’s underneath that? And what’s underneath that? If they’re willing to really make the search, they find that underneath the anger is usually something like hurt or disappointment or concern. Those are like the green tomatoes. And with a little more searching, they too can find the red tomatoes. But sometimes they’re hesitant to make the search – afraid it might be too painful. The truth is, it’s usually just the opposite. Underneath those feelings of hurt and concern are feelings of love and caring and those are the real rewards, the red tomatoes. Those are the feelings they can pick – hold on to – and share with their spouse. Those are the feelings that will nurture their relationship and strengthen their marital bond. They are there, underneath the surface, just like the red tomatoes.