Updated: Jan 7
A formula that we could practice that would help us feel less intensely hurt when our husband says something that feels mean or insensitive.
Ever heard the phrase “Your children’s wellbeing is 50 percent Tefillah and 50 percent Shalom Bayis”? I’m not sure about the source, but if that’s not motivating, I don’t know what might be. The other day, I was coaching a client. She asked me:
“How could I feel less hurt from my husband? He is a good person, but he will criticize me or snap at me, and I find myself reeling and feeling crushed. It is so hard to get over it and move on.”
Great question. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a formula that we could practice that would help us feel less intensely hurt when our husband says something that feels mean or insensitive?
First, let’s discuss what does NOT work well.
Something all too familiar to most of us.
When we feel hurt and start to explain and talk about how hurt we are, our husbands become more defensive.
They feel bad.
And instead of being empathetic and apologetic, they are busy trying to protect their sense of being a good man and a good husband.
So we are more frustrated.
We think we need to lay on the guilt even more.
Bring up what happened last week which makes THIS comment even more hurtful.
"How could they not see how inconsiderate and insensitive and downright hurtful this all is?"
But instead of getting the apology we feel we need and deserve, we end up feeling more frustrated, more unheard, and even worse than we did originally from the initial comment.
We may even say some pretty unkind things ourselves that we are not so proud of.
And now we AND our husbands feel miserable and hurt and misunderstood.
"But of course, it is really their fault. Why couldn’t they just admit they were wrong and say sorry?"
And even if we manage to drag an apology out of our husbands, it doesn’t feel so great, and it doesn’t give us the healing and peace we craved.
So what is a more effective way?
Start by saying a simple, “That hurt,” without intensity or blame.
There is no need to explain it more. Our husbands are smart and they could figure out why. The less talking we do, the more space we allow for our husbands to reflect and take responsibility. As tempting as it is to go on and delve into a lengthy speech about how and why you are so hurt, show incredible self restraint by not going on. It ultimately does not serve you well.
Now you might want to leave the room, take some deep breaths, a quick walk around the block- whatever it takes to help you calm down.
With a more relaxed mind, you might also want to consider:
"Is there anything I may have said or done that contributed to the atmosphere leading into my husband’s critical/hurtful/controlling comment?"
"Did I say something disrespectful, critical, or demeaning to him first?"
That does not give him a license to say mean things, and he is always responsible for what he says and does. But I always want to take ownership of MY side of the street. If I said or did something disrespectful to my husband, I need to be accountable and clean that up. I need to apologize to my husband for being disrespectful.
"But wait! He is the one that said something really mean!
Still. I do my part. I am not a victim. I am powerful. I own my behavior and I am accountable. There is almost nothing more attractive than being accountable. This is brave!
I invite you to go ahead and apologize for your piece.
Keep it short and simple. This will go a long way in restoring the peace and connection.
It is very likely that your husband will own his part and apologize as well.
Even if it is not in the typical form of an apology, it may be in another manly form- being extra helpful, complimentary, or kind.
Receive that as his apology, his desire to make it up to you.
Don’t be stuck on the apology looking or sounding a specific way because that is what you envisioned you need. What you really want is to know that he cares and is connected to you. And he is.
What if you thought about it and you really did nothing to contribute to the negative vibes and energy- his hurtful comment was completely unwarranted?
He was stressed or exhausted or in a bad mood and let it out on you? That is on his page. Your side of the street is clean.
Take care of yourself.
Do something you enjoy or find nurturing or reenergizing.
And most importantly, use your mind to help your emotions. (Tanya 101)
Did your husband specifically want to hurt your feelings? Was he out to crush you? Most likely not. If you think about it, you could probably come up with lots and lots of evidence that your husband cares deeply for you, he cares about your feelings, he loves you and wants to make you happy. Lean into that connection. TRUST the connection and that he really does care for you. This is very powerful work. Most of the time, it isn’t the actual comment or criticism that is so painful, it is the story we attach to it. Our narrative.
It is so liberating to know that we don’t have to feel so hurt from an insensitive or rude comment.
We could say “that hurt” and trust that our husband cares deeply for us.
Maybe we could even find his heart message, how that comment might in fact be coming from a place that cares about us?
A heart message is a feeling of concern, of love, or a value that is hidden behind his words or behavior.
Take the woman whose husband criticized her for not getting their son to school on time. It had been a long, chaotic, and stressful day. Instead of getting sucked into the blame game, she said:
“I know you're not out to blame me (trust the connection) and I appreciate how much you care about our son's Chinuch!” (Heart message)
Surprisingly, her husband agreed! He said:
"Yeah, I don't expect you to do everything yourself, but if you see you aren’t managing to get our son to Yeshiva on time, please call me for help! I would have helped you figure out a way.”
That’s the magic of hearing a heart message.
When we train our minds and hearts to go into the space of trusting the connection, we don’t feel nearly as hurt - it just isn’t as intense or painful- and the hurt doesn’t last nearly as long.
Our husband feels the positive energy that we are emitting, and most likely will reflect that back to us.
Best of all, we chose connection and intimacy over conflict and pain.
Possibly the greatest gift Hashem has given us is the gift of marriage.
Why waste precious time- hours and days- feeling hurt, lonely, depressed, and miserable, when we could be enjoying closeness, connection, friendship, and intimacy?
And of course, 50 percent Shalom Bayis is enough to bet on. What wouldn’t we do for our children? Not to mention for ourselves.