Linda: By virtue of being close to each other, we will surely bang into each other’s sore spots. The sore spots are the left over wounds from childhood and sometimes wounds from previous adult relationships. Somewhere in our history there are people who let us down, lied, betrayed, exploited, took advantage, ignored, judged, criticized or in some way did not meet our needs. Some of us have had many wounds and are sore all over our body.
When those places get touched, we can scream out in pain at our partner, making them bad and wrong for being such an inconsiderate brute, or we can use the pain as an opportunity to heal the sore places. Not all of the wounds come from our original caregivers (usually mom and dad) but many of them do. And the wounds are deep because we were tender, vulnerable, and young when they occurred and were captive in our childhood home, repeatedly exposed to the same wounding.
The choice is present when we experience pain in our tender spots to report out to our partner the specific nature of the wounding. Here are a few examples:
“When you work long hours, I feel unimportant and unloved, just like when I was a child and my dad didn’t notice me.”
“When you complain, I feel ashamed and incompetent, just like I did as a boy when I could never live up to my mother’s huge expectations of me.”
“When I make a request of you and you’re too busy and distracted to pay attention, I feel horrible like I did as a kid, that I was a nuisance and a pest to both of my parents.”
“When you take that third drink, I feel terror that you are sliding into alcoholism like that of my mom’s that destroyed my family.”
“When you refuse my sexual advances, I panic that I will be stuck again for years in a sexless marriage like my last one.”
When there is enough awareness present to know what the sore spots are and enough self-discipline to not act out the pain but to report out about the nature of the pain, the couple can work together. Until we are aware of our wounds, we are doomed to criticize the person who touches that sore spot. We are crying out for them to meet our deepest needs, but the negativity and blame accompanying our cries make it difficult or impossible to hear us. When we instinctively pull away from the assault no learning and understanding occurs, the needs continue to go unmet and the sore spot remains sore, or is even more painful now from re-wounding.
Once we at least identify what the old wound is, we have an option to soothe ourselves until we are calm enough to explain where the pain emanates from. Only then can our desire to have our partner understand our pain, and the fear that the need will continue to go unmet has a chance to be heard. Even though our partner loves us, they can’t read our mind to intuit our needs. We have to know what those needs are and take responsibility for communicating them in a way our partner can hear us. When our desires are communicated in a vulnerable way, never as demands or commands, it does not insure in that they will be met, but it does stack the deck for success.
It is a good idea to be prepared for a “no”. Sometimes our partner will not be able to meet our request even if an excellent job is done in making it. But it is not a rejection or who we are, only a refusal in this moment. Out of the understanding how important the need is, another moment may yield a different result. Both the consciousness of the wounds and the skill in communicating an effective request are the winning combination for the wounds to at long last become healed.