We say that we want to know what our spouse feels or thinks, but do we really? The infamous line by Jack Nicholson from the movie “A Few Good Men” captures it best, “You can’t handle the truth!” Sharing our feelings openly, honestly, and directly is often the best approach, but we have to be sensitive to our delivery and approach. If we express ourselves with kindness and respect then the hope is that the recipient will respond appropriately. Unfortunately it doesn’t always go that smoothly. Sometimes when we’re expressing our disappointment, frustration, or hurt, the person reacts defensively and may lash back or shut down.
The best way to resolve negative emotions is to share them constructively and ultimately release them. The intention is not to hurt or harm, but instead to let go of the negative feelings instead of hanging onto them. However, if your partner often gets defensive, angry, and attacks back when you’re trying to share your feelings, it doesn’t motivate you to talk openly about your emotions. We don’t have to agree or even fully understand each other’s emotions every time, but we need to acknowledge and accept them. That’s what validation is all about, allowing our partner to express themselves without defending or justifying our position. Many couples struggle with the implementation of this strategy, but it’s effectiveness is significant.
Opening up and sharing feelings can be very difficult for anyone, especially if the information is used against us at a later point. Remember that trusting others with our emotions can build greater connection, but how it is received is crucial. Ideally we can talk through conflict, share emotions openly, validate each others feelings, and let go of the emotional pain. It sounds so simple and easy, but it’s obviously more complicated and difficult. The hope is that this framework will provide you with a guide to express and resolve your emotions rather than hold them in or constantly lash out. It is normal for people to be hurt, angry, and upset with each other, but our job is to be able to accept feedback without feeling compelled to justify or defend ourselves and validate each other’s feelings before responding to the content. When we can respond rather than react, the results are often more favorable. As already mentioned, we can experience greater connection and intimacy when we successfully work through conflict and resolve negative feelings. Believe it because it is true.