The hour is late and the air is tense, the couple is sitting in my office taking turns describing the values that are most important to them. "Acceptance, appreciation...." he states. She is looking off into the distance. "I just want to be accepted for who I am," he continues looking at her intently, imploringly, body tense. As their counselor, I am hoping that she will turn to him, make eye contact, smile and say something..even just "OK" would be nice. He has been shut down for months--even years and has not shared his feelings. He is vulnerable and this is a big step. She says nothing. "Do you have a response to Edward's statement?" I ask after minutes have ticked by. "No", she replies. Edward deflates. Soon time is up. They head toward the door. As they leave, I sigh and think about the lost moment---an opportunity to grow closer--to understand and to truly know each other but pride got in the way.
Many times in marriage a negative cycle is started. One of the partners will do something not particularly positve and the other will respond in kind and back and forth and on and on--the cycle has begun and who or what is going to break it? We know that we are in a negative cycle but we wait for the other to interrupt it--we wait for their apology, for them to wake up and change--after all they started it--or did they? We often can't remember. Instead of waiting for the other to make everything all better--what can we do to interrupt this cycle of hurt and pain that leaves us feeling alone and sad? Think about your reasons for holding on to anger and the hurt. When our partner reaches out, can we recognize it and respond positively? What stops us from doing so? It is amazing how sometimes very little has to happen for the cycle to be broken: a smile, a touch, a compliment. Feeling that you are right and justified and wronged prevents you from being the first to reach out, but do you really like it this way?
Reach out, don't be afraid to be the first to break the cycle of negativity and crack the protective shell of pridefulness. The available closeness and happiness are worth the risk.