Healthy Minds, Healthy Souls: Silent Suffering

“Why did you buy the unsalted nuts!” Her husband said this with little regard for her feelings or appreciation for all the prior instances she had brought home things he enjoyed; from small treats to random gifts just because. “You know I like the salted ones,” ge uttered, as she felt herself slowly shrinking and chills rushing through her bones. Already feeling unappreciated and taken for granted for all that she does do, “How dare he complain about something so silly. Does he not put his moment to moment desires into greater perspective of thinking of others?” she thought. His words cut like a knife, but it wasn’t the first time his needs came before her feelings.

Her mind began to race as she was instantaneously filled with anger. “I do so much for everyone.” She went on. “I’m always thinking of what makes my husband happy/ I care for our 3 children in a way that he doesn’t have to worry about anything. I take care of our home, and even juggle all the extras that come up in life all while holding down a career of my own! It seems foreign to me for someone to think so much about themselves amidst an environment where there are so many needs to fill and consider. Does he know how much I handle?”

As a pleaser, she knew she was in part responsible for his expectations. As a person, she was generally focused on service to others and for the most part, she was okay with it. It made her feel good to make others’ happy. But somehow this moment just felt different. What was so wrong with his complaining? What did it mean? Why did it matter so much this time? I asked her. “I think I suddenly realized that the idea of seeking out what makes us both happy was no longer a mutually worked upon goal. It seems one sided. He now just expects his needs to trump everyone else’s.” “How did we get here?” she asked.

Her mind filled with raging thoughts of his self-centeredness, “When does the focus ever shift in his mind to what I might need?” she asked. “Has he ever stopped to consider how it might make me feel when he complains?” or “Does he even think anymore about what makes me happy?” “So what if the nuts were unsalted, what if I prefer them that way? Even still, could he not just keep his complaints to himself in light of consideration for my feelings and a greater perspective of appreciation for all I do?”

She suffered in silence, as she chose to say nothing in reaction to his comment. She knew little of how to respond with all the raw emotion she was feeling. She only withdrew into her hurt, feeling alone and knowing she couldn’t yet speak with finesse to address this without hurting him with her words. She contemplated sharing her experience, but how? How do you tell someone you feel they are being self centered without drudging up a list of all the times they could have considered you, but didn’t? “How do you not feel selfish in asking someone to think of your happiness?” She asked.  “I just don’t know how to get past this without resentment or a fight. Neither or which I want.”

She remained wishing he would do something considerate, helpful, sacrificial or kind to squash her assumptions. Yet, only more of the same. Now she seemed to notice it all the time. Their connection grew more distant, as she continued trying to be the “good wife,” serving and doing for their family. Outside she was quiet, inside she was angry and resentful. Not even a “What’s wrong dear? You seem distant,” did he mutter.

Feeling hopeless, yet close to God, she leaned into prayer. “Help me God to let go of this upset, and move past this broken feeling.” She cried out. “I am stuck in a battle between my head and my heart. Help me to let go of these awful feelings that are driving me away from the man I want to love.” Hoping relief would follow, she was frustrated by still feeling stuck. Eventually, her husband did notice her upset, but it was with disdain that he made mention of it. Criticizing her “sour mood,” he was angry about how she was acting toward him. “Once again, its about him,” she thought. “Now what? “Why God are you not helping me through this?”

Perhaps what she didn’t realize was that God was answering her prayers. When feelings won’t go away, we must ask ourselves why? Could those feelings be coming from the kind of productive anger that breaks through to tell us what’s important to us? Remember God gave us emotions to help us pause, reflect, and understand ourselves better. Its productive because her strong and unrelenting feelings were trying to tell her that she needed to feel appreciated, loved and cared for. Ignoring this only drove her further away from her own happiness.

Ultimately, I suggested sharing what she realized with her husband, “I need to know that when you think about your needs, that you think about mine too. I need to know that before you complain, you remember to show appreciation for just how much I do to make you happy. I need to know that you you too, take steps to consider what makes me happy and go the extra mile even when its not always convenient. I realize that I’ve been feeling taken for granted lately and instead of talking about it, I have distanced myself in an effort to avoid dealing with it. I’m sorry for my distance because I love you too much to let this come between us.” This conversation became the beginning of an important transition in their relationship toward mutual gratitude.

Make it a point this week to remember to say two words to the people you love, “thank you.”  Pay attention to the small things that others’ do for you everyday to love and care for you. Make notice of it even if they don’t tell you they need that. You can never go wrong with giving thanks and remember to think twice before complaining! Our families are gifts from God, and how we care for them is our gift back to Him.

1 John 4:16: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

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