By Cathy Meyer. Divorce Support Expert
Cathy Meyer is a Certified Divorce Coach, Marriage Educator and Legal Investigator. She works with people who expected to be married forever but are now facing divorce. Through her writing and individual coaching, Cathy provides clients with strategies and resources that empower them and equip them to grow through a time of adversity.
Cathy shares her expertise here on About.com, The Huffington and as the Founding Editor of DivorcedMoms.com.
Do you express your feelings or, suppress your feelings? How one feels about their feelings and what they do with them can have either a positive or negative affect on their marriage .
I had a conversation over the weekend with a friend and this subject came up. We talked about how our exes were convinced we were, “crazy.” Both husbands had been taught, as children, to suppress their feelings whereas she and I had been taught to express our feelings reasonably.
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I can clearly see how someone who suppresses feelings would view someone who expresses them as looney tunes. I can see it but, I can’t condone it.
It is far healthier to express feelings that to suppress feelings. When you marry someone who was taught, as a child, that bad feelings are a sign of weakness, that anger is scary and expressing feelings is harmful and can lead to them losing control of their feelings, it’s easy to understand them labeling someone who deals with feelings differently as “crazy.”
Below are common ways people who have learned to suppress their feelings protect themselves from their own and other people’s negative feelings.
1. They don’t put a lot of thought into their own emotional state. They go through life on auto pilot!
2. They view people who express feelings as being “out of control.” This could be the reason so many men label an ex as “Borderline Personality Disorder.”
3. They ignore negative feelings and “move on.” In other words, they don’t deal with or attempt to solve the issue that is causing negative feelings.
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4. They view people who express their feelings as “acting out.” People who are trying to get their way and not people who are simply talking about their feelings and trying to solve a problem.
5. They ignore or pay little attention to people who are sad or angry. Doing so can cause a spouse to feel rejected, dismissed or disliked.
6. They do whatever they have to do to keep from feeling negative feelings. This can be giving in to spouse or, completely ignoring the emotional needs to keep from having to deal with an upset or angry spouse.
How Does Suppressing Feelings Affect a Marriage?
Suppressing feelings can cause a spouse to feel rejected
and their feelings dismissed. Suppressing feelings interferes in a couple working through daily life stresses and even worse, major issues and problems that come up in a marriage.
If you are married to someone who suppresses their feelings and ignores your feelings it only makes sense that you won’t feel like your spouse is an ally that is as invested in the marriage as you are. This leaves the spouse who is open and honest about their feelings, feeling alone and lonely.
I’ll give you an example from my own marriage. There was an aspect of the marriage that caused me tremendous pain. My ex spent years ignoring me when I expressed the pain his actions caused. I eventually told him we needed to seek therapy. We made an appointment, he showed up and lasted about 10 minutes in the therapy session.
The moment the therapist said, “Can you try to listen to her and see the problem from her perspective” my ex walked out of the session. Marital therapy would have only worked in our situation if the experience had been similar to a fun day at the beach or, a trip to Disney World. Since it wasn’t there was eventually a divorce because my emotions suppressing ex didn’t feel that saving the marriage was worth him facing and working through his fear of negative emotions.
How Does Expressing Feelings Affect a Marriage?
Expressing negative feelings, within reason, is good for a marriage. Getting feelings out on the table gives both spouses the opportunity to address the issues and find solutions. It goes without saying that those who feel comfortable expressing their feelings are more likely to succeed at marriage.
But, when is it a bad thing to express negative feelings?
1. If nothing makes a person happy, they are a chronic complainer who constantly whines they will soon find their spouse withdrawing out of self-preservation.
2. Finding something wrong with EVERYTHING a spouse does, being hyper-vigilant and defensive is an unattractive trait. That isn’t “expressing feelings” in an attempt to be heard, this is being downright mean. Mean destroys marriages!
3. Expressing your feelings by using offensive language or in a loud voice is verbal abuse. You may have a negative feeling about an issue in the marriage, you also have a responsibility to voice that feeling in a respectful manner.
Suppressing feelings may cause a spouse to feel detached emotionally, dismissed and unimportant in the marriage. Expressing feelings can cause a spouse to feel flooded or overwhelmed by negativity if their spouse expresses their feelings inappropriately. Yes, suppression is more detrimental to a marriage but, obsessive expression of negative feelings can be just as damaging.
The trick is to find a healthy balance, one in which both spouses are heard and all feelings are validated.