Chances are throughout your life, someone somewhere has said something unkind to you. We’ve all experienced negativity from another person and we all know how much it hurts.
It’s hard not to take those harsh words personally. Deep down, we all want to be loved but it’s hard to see ourselves as being ‘loveable’ when somebody acts unkindly towards us. However, with age comes wisdom and it’s now easier to see that someone who is lashing out is not always doing so because they don’t love, it is more than likely their behaviour is because they don’t know how to show love.
This was the case for Joe*, early in his marriage to Teresa*. Joe admits that he is a sensitive man. He is deeply in love with his wife, but he says in those first few years of their relationship Teresa would lash out and he found it draining on his emotions.
“I really started to question what I had done wrong,” Joe says, acknowledging that he was so hurt he started to question the longevity of their marriage.
“Teresa and I both worked. Our jobs came with a deal of stress. I was often frustrated by Teresa’s inability to ‘switch off’ when she came home and I could see that over time she became less happy,” Joe says.
He says he felt her unhappiness was because of him, but Teresa denies this.
“I felt consumed by my work environment. I was working long hours and still never felt like I was getting things done. I would come home in the evening and see that Joe had prepared dinner — a beautiful thing for him to do — or would have put on a load of washing. I was too tired to do any of those things when I walked in the door and I felt I was letting him down,” Teresa says.
Teresa says the stress of her work life created several health issues.
“I put on quite a lot of weight, but I didn’t feel I had the time nor did I have the motivation to do anything about it. I was starting to spiral and I began to resent Joe for the balance he had in his life,” she says.
It was only when she made the decision to let go of the stresses consuming her that Teresa turned her life around, and as a result Joe says they were able to strengthen their marriage.
“Teresa was holding on to so much negativity it was affecting how she interacted with others, especially the people she loved,” Joe says.
What then can you do to relieve yourself of pain and suffering? Joe and Teresa say there were four steps they worked on as they walked the path towards healing.
1. It’s not personal
When Teresa would say something mean to Joe, they both recognised it was because she was hurting inside and did not know how to ask for the love and understanding she truly needed. Joe says that although it was difficult to put those hurtful words behind him, he would look at his wife with compassionate eyes and choose not to respond to her behaviour. “It very quickly diffused the situation and the frustration Teresa was experiencing,” he says.
2. Replace negative with positive
Teresa says she would often have negative thoughts about herself and others, making her feel increasingly angry and frustrated. Her thoughts centred on the feelings that she was somehow inadequate — in her marriage, in her job and as an individual.
“I had to start loving myself again, and that was hard,” Teresa says. She says she needed to replace her negative thoughts with positive action and this led to feelings of fulfilment and happiness.
3. Love yourself unconditionally
“I realised that if I couldn’t love myself, how was I to expect someone else, like Joe, would?” Teresa says. “Sure, there are things I still don’t like about myself, but I am more accepting of who I am, what I look like and that in itself makes it possible for me to drive any change I wish to make.”
If you cannot allow yourself to push passed the poison you will continue to feel bad, according to Joe and Teresa. Joe says he is forgiving of Teresa because in doing so he is able to let go of the negativity that would otherwise consume him.
“I remind myself that it’s not personal and that Teresa’s behaviour is because she needs more of my love and not less of it,” Joe says. “It also helps to remind myself that I’m not perfect and when I’m feeling angry Teresa is the one I turn to for support.”
By letting go of the stress and negativity Joe and Teresa say they are more able to focus on the things they love and want in their lives.