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.