Fights and Fears. All relationships have them.
Because I’m a human being, I’m not perfect. I’ll say and do things that will hurt, frustrate, and wound Nelson. Because Nelson isn’t Jesus (perfect) or a robot (predictable & unemotional) he’s done and said things that have hurt me. Certain words, looks, actions and tones will poke at very real feelings.
Here’s what happens when Nelson hurts my feelings: my fear is awakened.
Humans, means we are wired to protect, and sniff out and feel fear.. it’s what we do.
When Nelson pushes my button, it startles my fear. I’m not talking about a scary spider or being in a dark basement kind of fear. I’m talking about relational fear;
Invalidation.. to name a few.
It looks like that one time Nelson started back at his old job, working with ex girlfriends and men who are if not all- divorced and happy. My primary relational fear is not being good enough, second is loss. There was something Nelson said to me that pushed my button, really hard. My fear of not being good enough and a story of him finding someone better, was awakened from the depths of my soul, and I wanted to run away and hide because it scares me to feel it. There’s not enough room to write how that began when I was a child, but here’s the short version. I grew up and the lie “I’m not good enough, thin enough or pretty enough, and someone else is always better, and men leave for those people.” was written into my heart. I believed it for so long it became part of my relationship script.
I had boyfriends, and they would leave for someone else, I’ve been cheated on.. by all of them, I’ve slept with a married man, I’ve watched my parents marriage fall apart. I grew up in a house where if I got 95% on a test... if I tried harder it could have been 100. Where my weight was an issue for my mother, and I was never considered important enough to be heard. This left me with believing “I’m not good enough, and everyone always leaves.”
I know I’m not alone, Everyone has relational fears to some degree. You can be so emotionally healthy that it takes a lot before you fear is awakened. That’s great! But the opposite may also be true; your fears may easily be triggered. Fear is your flight or fight responses waking up- either you explode, express emotion, maybe get angry.. want to talk. Or some implode, where you pack it away and avoid the uncomfortable feeling.
Fighting and fleeing create a negative response. Negative responses create additional conflict and disconnection. When you are ready to fight or flee, your partner feels your negative response. Your initial negative response actually pushes your partners hot button, awakening his or her fear. When is your partner’s fear is awakened, he or she will respond negatively to you. Guess what happens next? Your partner’s negative response triggers your fear again, and you do the same thing you did last time: respond negatively. This starts a cycle: you feel hurt and react. Your reaction hurts your spouse- they react.
What I’m getting at, is what I originally thought was the problem, (his job, the hours causing disconnect..) wasn’t the real issue. The main issue was fear, fear of him getting annoyed of my insecurity of him working with women, ex’s, and finding a more confident, prettier, smarter.. funnier woman- and falling in love.
The bottom line: Most of the time, what couples described as their issues aren’t actually they’re real issues. They could argue about sex, money, in-laws, whatever, but the real issue is that their fear was awakened.
Putting these facts to practice in your marriage/relationship has the potential to change the way you argue with your partner and make the outcome of any conflict more beneficial for the health of your marriage, and you as a person, as you grow and learn. Your partner isn’t the enemy in the conflict and you’ll learn to fight this fear instead of fighting with each other. You have two things to work on: the first is finding what is your unique primary fear, the second is dealing with the fear that was awakened, and how you respond.
If you understand that these fears are what you are fighting with- not the spouse- you will be able to resolve conflict more thoughtfully, love each other more deeply, and move to forgiveness and healing more quickly.
I could have easily gotten upset, and wanted to be quiet and listen to sad songs .. or I could dig deep, and be truthfully honest and have the hard conversation about my fear, and what’s bothering me.