The Wounded Wife  – Story from the Healing Table

This story follows from last week’s story about Patrick, The Man with Sobbing Shoulders. In this case, Carrie, the Wounded Wife, traced her ongoing conflict with her husband to dynamics with her father.

wounded wife storyCarrie, a 34-year-old mother of three young children, had arrived for her poolside massage wearing a wet, sandy bathing suit. It was windy and she said she was cold. I wrapped her in several towels and worked on one small, exposed part of her body at a time. I soon saw that she wasn’t getting anything out of the massage. She criticized whatever I did as too hard, too slow, or “not right”.  Finally, with eight large towels covering her, it was clear that nothing was going to satisfy her. I realized it wasn’t about the wind, or me.  She had all her defenses up and would not let anything I did penetrate. She had shut down. I had no idea why. In fact, when she had talked with me an hour earlier to set up the massage, she had seemed excited at the prospect, open. I was baffled by the change.

I paused for a moment to tune in to my intuition and got the idea to tell her Patrick’s story. Before I even finished telling it, she started crying. She told me that her husband had just hurt her feelings a few moments before she lay down for the massage and she was still upset. They were on a special vacation, away from the kids, and she wanted this trip to Hawaii to be full of romance and reunion. He hadn’t noticed all the special ways she had tried to make herself beautiful for him and to make the trip romantic. Instead, he had barely spoken to her, acting cold and aloof.

Relationship dynamics going back to her father

After listening to her story, I said, “It’s not really him, is it? The pattern goes deeper than that. Did your father treat you the same way?” I paused. As those words left my mouth goose bumps bloomed on my arms – bingo, my physical-intuitive signal for truth. “Are these painful feelings now, of not being seen as beautiful and valuable, what you also felt with your father growing up–especially as you were growing into womanhood?”

She smiled up through her tears and nodded.

I explained how those are common issues between fathers and daughters and that a woman’s choices in men often reflect those issues. Specifically, women repeatedly choose men who are emotionally unavailable or don’t seem to appreciate their womanhood because that’s the model they learned from their fathers during adolescence. They keep giving themselves opportunities to work it out for the better. Fathers (men) can have mixed and conflictive feelings about their daughters growing into womanhood and often respond by pulling away emotionally. Carrie said that that was her experience with her father: he pulled away emotionally.

Connecting the dots

I could feel her getting excited by the connections she was making. Energy was zipping around her body and she was getting warmer. I told her about a book,[1] that helped me understand my own patterns with men. It explained how we unconsciously choose relationships with people who can help us revisit and heal the dysfunction of our upbringing. By this point in the massage, I was working on Carrie’s legs and she was warm enough to forego some of the towels. She said she wanted to read the book even if it was challenging. She was ready to look at her own part in the drama with her husband. I pointed out that that is the only thing she has any control over, anyway. Her mind and her body seemed receptive to all this. That was a good sign.

A story shows the way

I told Carrie about a couple, friends of mine, who used to pick on each other until the bickering escalated into war. Each one could point to the other’s barbs and claim the other had goaded him or her into being hurtful. When I recommended that same book to my girlfriend, both of us thought her husband was not the kind of guy who would ever read a relationship book like that. My girlfriend was so fed up with the fighting though she knew she had to do something different, even if he wouldn’t participate.

In reading the book and doing some of the exercises, my friend began to see her own role in the recurring battles. When a verbal sparring session would start, she would watch herself and refrain from jabbing back. Instead of flaring into a battle each night, the bickering began to fizzle out after a few nips from him. After a couple of weeks of this, he noticed that something had changed. His sparring partner wasn’t sparring with him any more. She explained what she had learned about her role in their hurtful patterns and that she had decided to change her behavior.

Later that night he grabbed the book out of her hands saying, “Let me see that book!” and started to read it for himself. He got it, too. The new perspective and relationship tools that they learned from the book catalyzed changes on many levels for them. They are now an extremely loving, married couple who are learning how to handle conflicts that come up without shredding each other in the process.

Same Hurtful Dance

Carrie said she recognized the pattern. The steps of the hurtful dance she and her husband were doing together were probably those they learned from their parents. She repeatedly felt unloved because of her husband’s withdrawal and then would lash out at him with criticism. His part in the dance was feeling unloved because of her criticism. Then he’d withdraw into pain and silence. In this dance, there is no “he did it first,” or “she did it first.” The hurt just keeps cycling around, spiraling tighter, until one person decides to break the cycle from within. And Carrie seemed to be ready to change.

As we talked, I felt her open up energetically. One by one, she let me take off the towels. It felt as if an old protective husk was falling away and she was intently and eagerly looking at the issues that troubled her with new understanding. I could tell I didn’t need to say anything more. I felt that Spirit or her Higher Self was working to teach her something, and my role was simply to point her in a certain direction, to ground the feeling or impression with a few words and let her work it out. By the end of the massage, so much energy was flowing in her body that she was warm and no longer needed any towels.

My telling the story about Patrick gave her permission to acknowledge the pain she carried. It cut through her defensive shrewishness to the hurt underneath. I could have simply said, “You need to read this book”. But the story of how that book helped my friends illustrated the pattern so she could see it clearly. Now I’m retelling Carrie’s story with the hope that the helpful cycle will continue.

Finding your own balance if you are a wounded wife, or daughter…

wounded wife story

If in your working life if you have become a constant producer, dwelling on the productive, masculine, yang side of your nature, you may have learned to push yourself, to keep going long after you know you should stop and rest. You want the light without the dark, productivity without fallow periods, and joy without sorrow. That’s understandable. But life on planet Earth doesn’t work that way. The wheel eventually comes full circle.

Sooner or later you have to let down, rest, grieve for your losses. It’s easier and more productive in the long term if you recognize this before your body yanks your chain and forces you to deal with what you have been stuffing down. It’s a welcome relief to embrace the feminine–the yin.  Give yourself permission to be idle, soft, and vulnerable from time to time. This also means allowing in all your feelings including fear, sadness, anger, outrage and vulnerability. This means letting in joy. You may tend to bond with people in the negative.  But complaining and comparing how the world’s done you wrong will shut down your joy. Your working life will be more productive when it is balanced with rest, gentleness, and inspiration (i.e. breathing in). With practice, your rest will be more restful.

For more stories like this, cartoons, exercises and the full scoop on the Issues in Your Tissues, read the book!


#emotionalrelease   #emotionalhealing #issuesinyourtissues   #storiesfromthehealingtable #maritalconflict  #danceofintimacy    #woundedwifestory

[1] Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendricks