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Improving Couple’s hurt feelings

Psychology Consultants’ Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald has completed her Clinical PhD in the area of relationship therapy, particularly couples and family relationships.

Her project examined ‘hurt feelings’ in couples, especially those in the first five years of commitment.

Jenny puts her study into perspective …

“Think for a moment of two porcupines huddled together on a cold winter’s night in Alaska . They desperately need to huddle close for warmth, but the closer they get to each other, the more risk there is of hurt or injury from their sharp spines.

“It has been suggested that the human condition can be likened to these two porcupines: most of us like and need the closeness, warmth and sexual fulfilment of a couple relationship, but the closer we get to each other, the more risk there is of personal hurt.

“There are many ways that couples can hurt each other. Retraction of a partner’s love and commitment, ignoring a partner’s needs or wishes, criticising, or betrayal can all be damaging to the victim of the hurtful event, and will ultimately damage the couple’s relationship.

“Couples in my study described a wide range of hurts. Consider for a moment a pregnant woman with “morning sickness” criticised by her partner for lying in bed to avoid chores, or a young man whose wife went overseas for a business trip and engaged in an extra-marital affair.

Resolving ‘hurt feelings’
But how do couples get over such events? Jenny says effective resolution became the focus of her research.

1) It helps for a person who feels hurt to express their feelings clearly, but not harshly. It doesn’t help for the hurt person to “bottle up” the feelings too much.

2) It helps for the person who has been hurtful to acknowledge their partner’s hurt and apologise. It helps for this person to demonstrate sincerity and make efforts to change the hurtful behaviour .

3) In the study, couples acknowledged the importance of understanding each other’s needs, feelings and perspective. As one male partner said, “When each of us has our fixed points, that’s when it becomes difficult for us to sort things out.”

4) Couples also acknowledged the importance of timing discussions with their partner – some believed an issue was too important to put off and should be addressed immediately. Others felt an issue was too important to rush and they needed time to calm down and think things over.

For help with relationship issues, please contact Psychology Consultants using the enquiry form or by phoning either office.

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