You would never (I hope!) physically abuse your partner. But have you ever felt self-righteous about giving your husband “the silent treatment?” Or pushed off his arms and looked at him like he’s crazy for trying to hug you while you were stirring a pot on the stove?
We need to take behavior like this in our marriages more seriously. Researchers are starting to find that our brains experience physical and emotional pain much the same way.
Getting rejected activates the same areas of our brain that get triggered when we feel physical pain.
Now consider all the ways that rejection can creep into a relationship. Of course, emotional or physical infidelity is one of the most painful forms of rejection, but smaller slights hurt too:
- Shutting out your partner by not sharing or not bringing your true self into the relationship.
- Rejecting physical affection from your partner or not giving affection yourself.
- Criticizing or even showing contempt for your partner.
- Retreating into your work or your kids’ lives to avoid your partner.
- Micro-managing or making your partner feel incompetent.
You might think of these as petty misbehaviors in a marriage: Not great, certainly, but not at the level of abandoning or cheating on a partner. What I want you to take away from this post is that these behaviors aren’t as benign as you might think. They cause real hurt on a level we hadn’t realized before.
Let this knowledge give you extra motivation to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and kindness in your marriage. My book Strong Women, Strong Love can help you change hurtful habits that are eroding your marriage. Remember that harming each other emotionally is no more acceptable than causing each other physical pain.