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Although I usually write about things you can do to keep a marriage on track, this article contains a tip of what to avoid doing. I have seen this pattern so often in couples attending a two-day intensive with me that I want to get the word out- “Don’t do this!”
What I’ve heard a lot from spouses considering leaving their marriages is, “Where were you when I needed you?” Women often ask this question of their husbands when, in the past, they have had some kind of health issue and felt their husbands weren’t supportive. They had frightening diagnoses or surgery and felt very much alone because their partners weren’t by their sides or weren’t involved in negotiating through the medical world to find the best treatment or to demand better treatment when things went awry. Getting sick or requiring medical attention is one time that we become very much aware that in illness no one feels what we feel physically or emotionally. But- and this is a but- this existential loneliness can be made better by having loved ones who are nurturing and who plant themselves near you to hold your hand emotionally and if needed, physically. When this doesn’t happen, when one’s spouse doesn’t seem to “get” the significance of what’s happening, the hurt, anger and resentment are often monumental.
Keep in mind, health issues aren’t the only reason a spouse may wonder, “Where were you when I needed you?” The importance of “getting it” is also essential when it comes to other life-altering events such as the death of a parent or other loved ones, a miscarriage or any major disappointment.
Having said all this, the truth is, sometimes it’s hard to know when you are letting your spouse down. Too many people expect others to be mind readers and say nothing when they need more emotional support. Rather than risk asking for what they need, they keep their thoughts to themselves and feel abandoned and hold grudges. Unfortunately, many people are excellent grudgeholders; they can do it for years.
If you are someone who has mistakenly been oblivious to your spouse’s needs in the past, don’t beat yourself up for it. We can’t change the past. But one thing is for sure. You can certainly make better decisions about your future. You need to pay close attention to what is important to your spouse. Even if you think you wouldn’t require similar support, that’s irrelevant. It’s what your spouse thinks and feels that matters. You have to show your love and caring when your spouse needs you, not when you feel like it. When you do, you will insure that the answer to the question, “Where were you when I needed you,?” will be, “Right by your side.”
2009 Copyright - Michele Weiner-Davis. All rights reserved.
© Michele Weiner-Davis Training Corp. 1996-2006. All rights reserved.