This is a preview. The full article appears in Neil's book: Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship
Note: This is the third of a three-part series. Click here for part one
Suppose your intimate partner said something that hurt your feelings and you retaliate with a cutting remark. You are angry and you try to think of the reasons why s/he was so hurtful to you. So you come up with a story about her that justifies your behavior and your anger. “She’s so insensitive to my feelings.” “No matter what I do for her, it’s never enough.” “If she really loved me, she wouldn’t talk that way to me.” These thoughts are your “answer” to what happened, they are what your mind manufactures in the service of your righteous anger. In fact, these thoughts about her further intensify your emotions, causing you to distance yourself even more from the love you feel for her.
Instead of justifying your feelings with your thoughts, try staying only with your feelings by asking yourself, “What’s inside me that’s making me angry right now?” or “What’s going on that’s making me hurt right now?” You can substitute any other emotion in this question and arrive at the answer that your emotion is trying to signal to you.
Usually you will discover that your intense reaction is due to something greater than the current disagreement your are having with your partner. For instance, when somebody important in your past disapproved of or criticized you, you may have felt “bad” or unlovable. Your intimate partner’s critical message and tone of voice may have re-ignited your emotions from the past.