After a disagreement or fight with your spouse do you...

  • find it difficult to set it aside and focus on something else?
  • choose to remain disconnected and not give affection?
  • feel the need to stay distant for a little while?
  • feel that your spouse needs to put in some work to be worthy of regaining your love?

Answering yes to any of these questions is a sign that the momentary pain that was just caused by your spouse has awoken unresolved pain from your past. So, to some degree, you are blaming your spouse for pain he or she didn’t cause.

Your spouse stepped on a landmine, triggering deep wounds. But those wounds were there before the two of you ever met.

During the argument, your spouse stepped on a landmine – and perhaps they should have known better. But who put the landmine there in the first place? Where did it come from? You weren’t simply born with it. And, even if your spouse did do something wrong, why does it awaken such an extreme response of hurt and rage within you?

Newsflash: Your partner has little to do with how hurt you are feeling.

Your spouse triggered deep wounds. But those wounds were there before the two of you ever met.

Think about it:

If you truly felt whole and positive about yourself and your life, would your spouse’s words, actions, or inactions result in such feelings of outrage, pain and sadness?

It may feel to you as if your spouse is the root of your hurt because what he or she is doing elicits these potent feelings of betrayal, hurt, and unworthiness. But chances are you are blaming your partner for pain that was planted in you way before he or she ever stepped into your life.

And when you’re focused on your spouse’s culpability for your pain, you miss out on discovering the underlying role your past is playing in the feelings you’re experiencing in the present. That prevents you from working through those lingering issues and traumas, resolving them, and moving forward to build a healthy life and a relationship of tranquility and joy.

So how can you know if your present pain is rooted in your past?

Here are three signs:

Sign #1 – You’re completely closed to your spouse's point of view.

Are you absolutely sure that the way you're viewing the situation is the only correct way to look at it?

That's a sign that the present disharmony with your spouse is awakening acute pain from your past. This pain is usually dormant, but it's always there in the background. That's why you're so sure that your perspective is the only correct point of view. Because what your spouse said or did hit a sore spot that is part of the entire framework from which you experience everything in your life. So when your spouse triggers that pain, it’s as if your entire reality has been provoked – and you can’t see anything outside of that.

Sign #2 – You Feel All-Encompassing Pain

Does a minor infraction by your spouse cause you to feel major pain? Does a small misstep by your spouse lead you to feel like your entire relationship is way off and worthy of being torn down completely?

If the hurt you’re feeling is out of proportion with your spouse’s offense, that is a sign that the hurt is rooted in past traumas that predate your spouse. The hurt you feel is not merely an effect of what your spouse did now. There's something bigger and deep-seated that is coming to the forefront.

Sign #3 – You Feel as if you’re being Erased

Do you feel like any little disagreement must be resolved right away? Do you feel like nothing else matters if the two of you can’t “figure this out” right here and now? Do you find it impossible to go on performing other responsibilities and activities if disharmony exists in your relationship?

The inability to allow for disagreements and contain disharmony signals a lack of independent self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love. You seek personal validation through your relationship, so you feel like you’re being blotted out or erased when your relationship isn’t operating in-line with how you think it should be.

When you experience any of these signs, and you focus your attention and blame on your spouse for triggering them, you miss out on two important components of any healthy relationship:

  1. 1. You’re so laser-focused on your spouse’s transgression that you lose sight of your piece in it all. You don't take a step back to ascertain where you can make a proactive change to improve your situation.
  2. 2. You’re so wrapped up in the emotions you’re experiencing that you don’t take a moment to empathize with your spouse and what he or she is experiencing. You don’t give yourself a second to enter into your spouse’s reality and consider where he or she might be coming from and what he or she might be feeling.

How to Get Unstuck

The solution is to get mentally and emotionally unstuck. Up until now, you’ve been so overwhelmed and caught up in your emotions and your perspective that you've lost sight of everything else.

The next time you’re getting flooded with these sorts of negative and painful feelings and thoughts, try this instead:

  • Remove yourself from the situation and find a secluded place.
  • Take a second to step outside your pain and emotions and get centered.
  • Describe for yourself the feeling that you're experiencing that is underneath the hurt.
  • Have you felt that feeling before? What was the first time you recall having that feeling?
  • Envision yourself back in that moment, with that person in that situation, only this time you are determined not to be hurt by them no matter what they do. Envision them utilizing all their methods to hurt you and break you down, but you stare back at them with disdain. You allow whatever that person or situation does to you to wash over you like water off a duck's back. And you simply relate to their smallness with a sense of pity.

By doing this exercise, you'll make yourself bigger than that person or situation that left you with a wound that was never resolved. By reliving these experiences in a way in which the catalyst of your trauma is powerless and you are victorious, you expand yourself to contain those experiences of the past, move through them, and put them in the rear-view mirror. (This exercise should ideally be done twice a day for 10 minutes a day, for two weeks in order to experience real and lasting healing and transformation.)

Now that the pain of your past has been reduced, you can deal with the actual issue at hand that has arisen between you and your spouse – a singular issue, not a landmine that triggers an emotional apocalypse. Having released some of the bonds of your underlying hurt, you will find it much easier to step outside of yourself for a moment and consider that your spouse has their own past through which he or she experiences your relationship. Perhaps your partner acted the best he or she could, with different intentions and motivations than the ones you ascribed to them.

And ask yourself where in the relationship you can make things better. Then, without criticism or blame, share what you feel with your spouse in an open and heartfelt way.

By approaching your spouse in this balanced and introspective manner, you’re much more likely to be successful in problem-solving and relationship-building. By coming from a place that’s respectful to yourself and your spouse, you infuse your relationship with love, care and harmony.