I learned something in my marriage recently that has eluded me for years. The main issue we have faced which has come around consistently is me feeling criticized and the arguments that would ensue from there. Julie would express her feelings about things, but it seemed that those things always came back to me doing something wrong. From hurt, I would defend myself and here we go again.
While I knew I wasn’t perfect, I also wasn’t choosing to point out her flaws nearly as often as it seemed she was pointing out mine. I would feel beat up and defeated from the thought that I just couldn’t get it right. The truth was and is that I am a pretty good guy sincerely trying to be a good husband and dad, so why the criticism?
I heard a friend’s wife who has been married much longer than us explain that she needs to give a voice to the emotions she has in order to move forward. She explained that life’s hurts, disappointments and misunderstandings that come from living in close proximity caused her pain and other emotions. She would approach her husband to redeem those emotions through acknowledging those emotions. She wasn’t attacking or berating him, she was being intimate with him. She wasn’t rejecting him, she was sharing with him. She wasn’t against him, she was for him.
That was it. All this time, Julie had emotions that came from interactions with me and when she wanted to talk about them, it wasn’t about me. She wanted to give the emotions a voice to resolve them and move forward. She loves me and is for me and doesn’t want to hurt me. At the same time, she doesn’t want to live life with me full of unresolved feelings.
It’s only been less than two weeks since this hit me and I won’t handle it perfectly every time, but this is a huge step forward. If I can receive Julie confident in my identity and not reactionary with emotion to her emotions, she can empty her cup without my interpretation of criticism, guilt, shame or condemnation. We can have healthy dialogue and things don’t have to pile up.
Men can sometimes be more comfortable with logic than emotion and women can sometimes be more in tune with emotions. One does not negate the other and one cannot ignore the other, either. We have an opportunity to relate to the other by not being offended by the other. We can receive the other without being defensive and the net result will be a oneness which puts a more complete picture of God on display than one or the other.