"Ouch? No, no, let me explain."
by Steven W. Harley, M.S.
Ed and Nancy were really enjoying themselves at the Wilson's party. They had not been out together in weeks because of how busy they have been. They even were able to have the babysitter they most trusted to watch the kids. Things were going very well.
As Ed and Nancy stood together talking, Ed felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to see who it was. As he turned, he felt his elbow hit something.
"OUCH!" someone yelled.
He turned around to look at what the commotion was and noticed Nancy holding her nose with a look of surprise on her face.
"Why did you do that?" she questioned Ed.
"Do what?" As he looked closer at her nose, it began bleeding. "Oh, my goodness, honey. How did that happen?" he asked.
"How did that happen!? You elbowed me in the nose is what happened!" she said with a subdued yet angry voice.
Ed looked closer at her nose to see if it was broken. Meanwhile, a friend brought a damp rag for the blood.
"Look honey, I don't understand why it should hurt so much. In fact, I'm not sure why it should hurt at all." Ed stated.
A shocked look came over Nancyﾒs face. "What!?"
"Listen, you know it was an accident, don't you? Of course you do. You know I would never do this intentionally." he said with a Perry Mason like attitude. "So, if I had no intention of hurting my beloved wife and if you accept the fact that this was just an accident, then the pain should go away and everything should be fine again. See?" Ed said. He then stepped back with a strangely confident smile on his face.
"Now," he continued, "this is a rare night for us to get out. Let's not spoil the occasion. Besides, it's in the past."
Tempted to hit him back? Of course hitting is not the answer. However, you can clearly see that Ed lacks the ability to understand the true nature of what happened and what he should do about it. Amazingly, this type of logic is used all too often between couples. Not with physical pain, but with emotional pain.
How many times have you heard your spouse, or you for that matter, say "Oh, you know that's not what I meant to say." or "No. You just heard me wrong." There are countless variations on this theme, but the message is the same: If pain is caused unintentionally, then the pain should not exist.
What Ed should have done was to acknowledge that it was his elbow that caused the pain, demonstrate care by attending to the wound, and, even though she knows that he wouldn't do such a thing intentionally, he still needs to apologize for the pain he caused. Ideally, he would also let her know what he is going to do differently in the future in order to prevent this from happening again (future protection).
Sounds like overkill? Hmm... If you think so, then your Taker must be reading this.
Food for thought...
Steven W. Harley, M.S. is the Director of the Marriage Builders® Counseling Center.