Feelings Matter; how to deal with emotions in aftermath of a vicious, cruel remark from your spouse

As I prepare the foundation to offer a mentoring program to talk one-on-one with people who are feeling emotional distress in their relationships and marriages — a natural offshoot of being a Wedding Officiant, I feel, as a quasi love “broker” — this week’s letter to Slate magazine’s weekly advice column, “Dear Prudence,” has made the basis of this new program all the more solid. Please read it below, and then I will tell you what I’d be mentoring “Paying for Everything” to do. In advance of that, though, I’d like to stress that the beauty of the ancient technology that I’m mentoring requires no confrontational conversation to be had. It’s all accomplished in your own mind. Couples therapy this is definitely not.

Dear Prudence,
My husband and I are both freelancers in creative fields of work and do well financially. We save a little more now that we’re older and we never want for anything. My husband has always made more money more consistently than I do, and with his salary, we are more than comfortable. I am in a field that pays generously but sporadically. Last night, I picked a fight I probably shouldn’t have—it doesn’t matter what it was about. At one point I said, “My feelings are hurt when you talk to me like this.” And he responded with, “Your feelings don’t matter, because I pay for everything.” I was dumbfounded. We went to bed angry, and, honestly, I’m so shocked these words came out of his mouth that I don’t even think I can look at him. What can I do or say here? Should I just keep my mouth shut? Do I have any ground in which to stand—because, as he said, right now, he is paying for most things. I feel like a 1950s housewife all of a sudden and am questioning everything about my marriage.

—Paying for Everything

Prudence’s Reply:
The good news is that there is no minimum income requirement for feelings. Everyone gets to have feelings regardless of how much money they contribute to the household, and there’s no financial threshold where your feelings suddenly start to matter more. What your husband said was vicious and cruel, and even though loving people can say vicious and cruel things in the heat of the moment, the fact that he didn’t apologize for it in the morning is concerning. It makes me worry this is something he thinks he had a right to say. By no means should you keep your mouth shut. Making more money doesn’t buy your husband the right to shut down arguments by belittling your sense of worth. Have a conversation about his remark (not about the original fight) and insist on getting an apology—if one isn’t immediately forthcoming, the topic of conversation just got much bigger.

My Take:

I do like Prudence’s reasoned reply. At one point in my life, an apology from my husband for making such a vicious, cruel remark might have soothed me. Either that or as is more our style of communication, a gift from him. But now I know that a forced apology (or gift) does not address or offer a correction on the topic…which already is much bigger — and has always been there beneath the surface. The dynamic at play here is hardwired into our status culture. The person who controls the most money has the most power. One need look no further than political campaigns to know this. So what’s an apology going to do? Not change this cultural and personal dynamic. But there is one way to change the dynamic…

This guy’s wife, Paying for Everything, shares this belief with him or she would not be so nonplussed as to write to Prudence. Ideally, the husband would have said this vicious, cruel thing to her…and she would immediately recognize the utter absurdity of it. And replied something like, “Do you really believe that? Because I don’t.” Thus sending the belief along with the underlying emotion back to her husband’s mind from whence it came. That the husband said this at all is because he was probably losing whatever little spat they were having. He was feeling criticized (perhaps she was judging him* or maybe she was just trying to have an honest conversation about something on her mind) — and therefore he became momentarily emotional. An emotional person is emotional because they think they’re “losing.” And besides, we are taught to hate or avoid our emotions. So hah! The way for him to not feel his emotions is to project them on his wife with this cutting remark. Volley for serve! Now he has regained the masculine role (which is not gender specific but depends on the circumstance, e.g., if the wife made more money and said this to him). That is, he no longer feels his emotions because she has accepted this illogical belief. He’s turned the tables on her. She is decidedly in the feminine role. Which we can know because she is the one who’s now emotional (the receiver of the projection). When in actuality, she is only reflecting him, his emotions. But now she’s stuck with them. And guess what? He is not feeling the emotions anymore. Which makes him one-hundred-percent sure that he is right to say this! Therefore, “Paying for Everything” should not be expecting or even wanting an apology. Neither ought she be planning on having a big conversation. He won’t know what she’s talking about now, and she will likely become emotional all over again. Unless…she goes into the emotion and finds in her own mind the beliefs that caused it. Then…she must let the beliefs go, which she will know is done when a feeling of calm replaces her feeling bad. The belief will go back to the husband, who must then deal with his own emotions. As it should be.

There is much more to say, but that is a highlight of what I offer long-distance via Skype or locally over coffee. If “Paying for Everything” were to contact me for a session, I would sit with her as she relived the incident and felt the emotion that went with it. We’d look for all the beliefs she accepted (or else already had, if she were honest with herself) to cause the emotion, bringing up as many as we could over the hour — probably leading to uncovering similar incidents in her life all the way back to a childhood memory and her parents — where the belief may have taken hold, i.e., the person with the most money gets to lord it over the feminine.

But this is not easy or comfortable. I mean…she has to f-e-e-l the emotions viscerally — and stay out of her intellect in the process, not be looking for “reasons” as to her husband’s behavior. There is no reasonable excuse for her husband’s cruelty. (Remember, we are taught to hate/deny/escape our emotions, which is why it helps to do this with a mentor.) Then I would help her to see that those beliefs are lies, not true. Until a feeling of peace would be restored to her.

As to what this would mean for her husband…he’d be back to being the emotional one, with the false beliefs firmly back in his own mind. Then he could call me, next, and I’d do the same with him. Only letting go of his defensive beliefs would be much easier for him, because he was in the masculine role when he made the remark…that is, he projected his false beliefs onto his wife (for which the vicious, cruel remark was only a weapon of deflection). No matter that “Paying for Everything” and I would do this after the fact. The results would be the same as if in real time. And if there were to be a next time…she’d be ready, with some practice.

It’s important to know that only the person in the masculine role can project. So that makes it easier for the masculine to clean up judgemental beliefs causing emotion. (Only the masculine side of our mind has beliefs.) While most of the time, the person in the feminine role (meant to be the creative, wisdom side of our mind) might have no idea where these thoughts ricocheting around in their head even came from, yet believing the thoughts are true by erroneously believing it is her/his own voice telling her/him so — making it much more difficult to root out the real belief holder and reject the beliefs installed therein.

So I am here to help untangle your beliefs and emotions with you. Help you figure out what role you are playing at any given moment*, why you’re emotional, and get you to drop the lies, restoring you to peaceful calm.

*Let’s say the wife was judging the husband when she “picked a fight.”  That would mean she was playing the masculine role. In this case, the husband would have started out in the feminine role, being projected upon by her. He felt her emotions…because he believed her belief himself. So he started reflecting her same emotions. He could have just stopped himself and as easily said to her, “You can have that belief, but I don’t share it” —- compassionately assuring her that whatever she was thinking was not true — sending the emotion back to her mind. Instead, he was desperate — because his emotions were telling him, so it would seem due to psych reversal (which I won’t even get into here), that he was losing, that what she was saying was true — desperate to gain the masculine role, where emotions are not felt. Thus, he pulled out this extremely vicious, cruel remark…stopping his wife in her masculine tracks and catapulting her into the feminine role (no one ever wants the feminine role, usually, because of this). It can be very tricky. We are most often vying for the masculine role in all our interactions. Which makes a lot of marriages a struggle for power, or else eventually places one person permanently in the feminine role, where s/he becomes very downtrodden. Yet it does not have to be this way with what I mentor. What I mentor is win-win for both, and aims to get rid of roles all together.

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