Recently my guy was telling me about an interaction with a colleague where the other person was incredibly rude, swearing at him, making accusations and issuing ultimatums. The guy is known as a hothead throughout the organization, but this was beyond his normal antics. I found myself getting agitated as he described the discussion that had been going on for days at that point. I was not able to offer any kind of resolution, in fact, I reminded my guy of several times in the past when the co-worker had done similar things and tried to get my husband to see that this was not going to get better. I resolved in my mind that the next time this jerk came to our home, I would make it very clear how I felt about him.
A few days later my guy walked in our door while laughing and joking with someone on the phone. When he hung up I realized he was talking to the same guy that had said terrible things to him days before. I was incredulous. I couldn’t believe that my husband could just let him get away with that! Apparently they had talked it through after the man had cooled off and everything was all right. But it wasn’t all right with me! I wasn’t ready to forgive and forget.
Have you ever done this? It’s called a secondary hurt – the pain you feel when someone you love is unjustifiably hurt. You conjure up enough emotion for the both of you and want to do damage to that person who hurt your loved one. As strongly as I feel this sometimes for my guy, who can certainly take care of himself, the feeling is exponentially greater when it happens to my children. This is exactly the reason that we counsel young couples not to go to their parents or siblings when they argue within their marriage; those who love you most cannot hear your side of the story and reasonably conclude that you both were at fault, and need to work it out together. Family members react just like I did with my guy, reminding you of all the times your spouse has done something similar and worse, and probably predict doom and gloom for your whole situation.
Not helpful. But understandable.
When you are in the midst of an argument with your spouse, who do you talk to? Your parents, who know your faults but are loyal no matter what? Your high school best friend, who predicted this would never work years ago? Your co-worker, who perhaps has never even met your beloved? We should all have someone in our lives who champions our marriage, who can listen and withhold judgment and turn you back towards home to work it out. I have personally both failed and succeeded at this very thing over the years, and when I fail I have to admit and seek forgiveness. If you have children who are married, the best thing you can do for your adult children (beyond praying) is encourage them to have a mentor couple in their lives, someone who wants them to work it out as much as they do, and will help them do just that. It’s normal to empathize with those we love but sometimes we need to extricate ourselves from a situation in order to help the very people we love most.