Taking Your Spouse Seriously (Part 1)
Ok, so we all know that marriage is supposed to be a partnership. That is all about two people agreeing to working together, supporting each other, and empowering your spouse to become all that God has intended for them to be. The problem is a lot of you are failing at one of the single most powerful tools you have to make this a reality in your marriage. You are failing to take your partner’s emotions seriously.
Emotions are an extremely powerful force. This is why we have crimes of passion and the spouse is the first suspect in murder investigations. Emotions are big and messy. They take up a lot of mental real estate, sometimes leaving very little room for logic and reason. Emotions are experienced on different levels over different things. What may send you into a tailspin of rage or euphoria may not seem to affect your spouse at all. They are a mystery drawing on all the experiences of the past to color each moment of the present, but rarely submit to the scrutiny that would unravel the mystery of their origin. My emotion makes no sense to my husband, and his are nonsensical to me.
This is not say that his emotions are wrong or that mine are inferior or not as valid as his. It is simply that neither of us have the same conditioning experiences to draw from. Certainly as you travel through this thing called marriage, you begin to build new cache of new shared experiences to draw upon. Experiences that begin to subtly align perceptions and understandings to evoke emotions shared by both, but even then there are always going to be slight variances that lend hues for one unseen by the other.
But we don’t like acknowledging this. We like to think that our emotions are normative. He should feel what I feel. I should feel what he feels. We should be on the same page because we both just experienced the same event. As fabulous as that sounds, such a thing is a rarity, and that is a good thing. It is part of God’s design for marriage because in all of His infinite wisdom, He knew that no single human being will ever experience the full range of emotions available to us, but we can experience more when we allow ourselves to see the world through the eyes of someone we love and trust.
But we fight it. We resist the opening our hearts and minds to the power of empathy that almost supernatural ability God has granted to us that allows one person to experience the reality of another. Instead, we demand that circumstance be experienced from our singular point of view. If I am enraged then he should be enraged. If I am heartbroken then he should be heartbroken. If I am delighted then he should be delighted. Because anything less is seen as an indictment that my emotions are wrong, that my view of the world is flawed somehow, but even more to the point, I as a person am flawed.
The truth is our perspective might be flawed, but to accept that we have to be willing to accept correction. We have to humble enough to that we are not the one who gets to define reality for anyone else, even our spouse. And do not get to legislate the emotion they feel over any given event. This is not to say that we have to accept all displays of emotion as proper or correct, but note what I said there - displays of emotion. Rage that results in throwing things, insults, or physical violence is unacceptable. However, acknowledging that one is angry is well within the bounds healthy human relationships.
We can also help our spouses reframe events that elicit destructive emotions. We can provide alternative points of view, redirect them to truth with love, and encourage them to seek counseling if the emotions they are experiencing are persistent or are a reoccurring pattern. But even in this process, we need to acknowledge that their emotions are real, valid, and have value. We can not demand that they deny or stuff their emotions simply because it makes us uncomfortable. Love demands that we provide a safe place to experience and address even the messy parts of who we are.
So we have a choice. We can either see our spouse’s emotions as a burden or we can see them as window though which we can view the world through another’s eyes. If we make the correct we as an individual will grow to accommodate these new found emotions. Our understanding the world will enlarge and the colors of life will become more vibrant. Our capacity to experience and extend compassion will multiply, but most of all, the intimacy we share with our spouse will deepen, creating a stronger bond, and uniting you to each other as nothing else can.
This is the first part of a three part series on taking your spouse’s emotions seriously.