Monday, September 27, 2010

Healing Emotional Wounds

A good way to understand emotional wounds is to simply compare them to physical wounds. First of all, they hurt. How helpful is it if we are physically hurt – say we’ve sprained an ankle – for someone to say “Don’t feel hurt” or “You shouldn’t feel hurt”? That definitely does not ease the pain. What does help is for someone to say “Where does it hurt?” or “What can I do to help?” or “I’m so sorry you’re hurt.”

These are such “no brainers” for physical hurts and wounds but why do we treat emotional wounds so callously? Probably the main reason is because emotional wounds involve relationships. When you go to the doctor with a physical wound, his or her only concern is taking care of your wound. However, when you go to your spouse with an emotional wound, what often happens is that the wound becomes secondary to the defenses given for not causing it (or not intending to cause it). Meanwhile, like the sprained ankle, you’re hurting.

The Bible tells us that when we’re offended (emotionally wounded) we should go to the one who offends us. This includes spouses. How helpful is it when we do this if our spouse denies our feelings (“you’re being overly sensitive” or “you shouldn’t be offended”) or gives reasons why he or she is not to blame? This response does not help the pain and certainly does not facilitate healing.

A much better response when your spouse comes to you with an emotional wound is to simply and sincerely say “Thank you so much for sharing that with me” – no defensiveness, no denying of feelings, but rather focusing on the wound and the desire to heal it. Another step, of course, is to say “I’m so sorry” and “What can I do to help?” You may have a hundred reasons why you did not cause the wound or did not intend to but the fact is your spouse is hurting – the wound needs attention now.

Husbands and wives can be very effective “doctors” for each other by focusing on what needs to happen to facilitate healing rather than denial or defensiveness. And healing is what we all really want.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Is Your Spouse Your Best Friend?

After my husband and I had been dating for a while, I sensed that my roommate was feeling a little left out because of all the time I was spending with this “new guy”. My feeling was that tried and true friendships are so much more important than relationships with guys that may not even last more than a few dates. So I was all prepared to tell this “new guy” in my life that I thought we should stop seeing each other. I planned to tell him right after our date. But then something happened that I will never forget. As he got out of the car and walked around to open my door, something occurred to me. This “new guy” was my friend. He wasn’t just another guy. He, like my roommate, had become my good friend. Needless to say, I didn’t tell him we should stop seeing each other and the rest is history. He now is not only my husband but my best friend.

Ask yourself, is your spouse your best friend? And if so (and even if not so), how do best friends think and behave? For starters, best friends back each other up. They give each other the benefit of the doubt. They know that each has the other’s best interest in mind. They are honest with each other, even at times when it’s hard to be, because they know the honesty is based on genuine love and caring.

Best friends share sorrows and joys. They know and accept each other – warts and all. They don’t give up on each other. They hang in there. They value and respect each other’s opinions and perspectives. They sometimes mess up but they apologize and forgive because they are best friends.

Best friends also put each other first in their lives. They take the time and the thought and the energy to nurture their friendship. And as they do this, their friendship becomes a sort of buffer so that disappointments and frustrations in other areas of their lives (even other relationships) don’t hurt as much. They derive strength from each other and they give strength to each other.

At this point, you may be tempted to say, “My spouse doesn’t do all those things for me.” That may be true, but the expression “to have a friend, be a friend” is as important in marriage as in any other relationship. Ask yourself, what can you do to improve your friendship with your spouse? What can you do to truly become best friends?