My partner, who loves me dearly, cannot understand why I am so afraid of her moods and feelings. She cannot see why even if I am not afraid, I am still so bamboozled, or as we say in Australia, left so 'bushed' by them.
Feeling is her language. It is a common womanly trait, allowed and indeed purposely inculcated and praised in little girls. It is beaten, sometimes literally, out of little boys and men.
The reason it is so hard to listen to her... to feel her feelings... is that they terrify me! They are a foreign language. Someone I love, and whom all my upbringing says I should cherish and protect is screaming at me in a language I do not understand and seems out of control and at the mercy of wild feelings that are utterly incomprehensible to me. The fact that she is feeling angry, but fully in control and just needing to 'talk' aka 'yell' about it to me is beside the point. She feels OK (I'm told later) but my whole being tells me she is not. I need to do something... that's the reason I am here... where did I get that idea?- and I can't even work out what the hell is going on! I can become so panic stricken that I do not notice that I raise my voice far louder at the cricket... in approval of the play... than she is raising hers at the moment!
Feelings have always meant trouble to me. They meant my Mum was angry at me. They meant my Dad was disappointed in me, which I think I felt even more. They meant I was being crushed by teasing by the big kids, or scared of being beaten by the school bullies.... and so it goes. Feeling when the bull was charging and finally dropped dead at my feet on the last shot, would have killed me. You do not feel. You stay hard and in control, or life will crush you. You don't feel as you walk down to the school bus each morning, or you will simply not be able to go. You don't feel when you are scared shitless of the guy who is 8" taller than you on the footy field or you won't be able to play, and you'll get even more crap tipped on you for being a chicken. You don't feel as you struggle through that last hard year of school or the feelings of 18 years will rear up and crush you and destroy everything. Twenty five years later I am now nearly able to go back. You don't feel when your wife has gone troppo... or at least that's how it seems to you... because you might just belt her one.
I will never be able to hear my partner, and feel with her (empathy and compassion) until I have learned to feel for myself... and until I have learned to become comfortable enough with my feelings that they do not terrify me.
I am slowly learning to listen to her as I am dealing with my own feelings. I am doing this by spending time going slowly in life and listening to me. Just understanding where things came from, and why I was hurt by them, or afraid of them years ago is beginning to set me free of them. I am more able to listen to my partner's feelings.
I seek to remember, "This is a feeling. In the end, it cannot hurt you."
I constantly remind my self as her feelings flow, "This is not your problem. This is not your fault. Don't solve it. Just listen." Sometimes... more and more often in fact... it works.
I try and feel with and for her. I don't concentrate on the problem. I try and feel her feeling. So that I am not saying, "Well, maybe we could do....." But so that that I say, sometimes quite spontaneously, "Oh sweetheart. That's not fair! Why on earth did they say that?"
Have you noticed that's what women do when they talk? They seem so off the planet sometimes... they don't deal with the issues at all! They "Ooh" and "Oh no!" and let's be honest, they gossip... "Oh that's just like my husband..." All that impractical prattle and tearful tattle (sorry ladies) is actually about listening and feeling-with! Us guys would do well to notice that instead of being terrified by it, they kind of enjoy it. It must have been a woman who first talked about having a "good" cry!
July 12 2001
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