If you've ever wondered why someone would attack you verbally, you're asking the basic confusing question of why the world is the way it is.
A very wise man said (and though I've heard it many times before, this time when I heard it on Sunday afternoon, it really hit me):
"An attack is a cry for love."
So if your wife strikes out at you, then, yeah, you know somewhere deep inside herself she's starved for love. And you know that it pretty much has nothing to do with you. It's just that you were the one who triggered her.
And if we attack back, or close down, explain ourselves, explain things, defend ourselves - we miss the opportunity. We miss the opportunity to act with compassion and love in the moment, instead of responding with hurt and offensiveness and taking it all personally, and then either "letting her have it" later, or making excuses for her bad behavior.
Our instincts are to strike out at her - at any one - when we feel threatened, or frightened or offended, or disturbed. When we feel out of control we want to strike out and want to strike back. We want to master the situation. In other words, we're crying out for love, too.
And... she can't hear our cry for love, either. she only feels her own lack of safety and needs to strike out, strike back, get her balance back. So this is what fear does to us. This is what our traumatic histories have left us:
In an endless place of feeling as though the rug is being pulled out from under us, and that love is like a fine mist that just dissipates and disappears and blows away.
If we can learn to hear with new ears, and find love and compassion BEFORE we react with fear and habit, what we get is peace and more love. And in that peace and love... we find that our urge to DO SOMETHING fights with our urge to DO NOTHING!
It's hard to sink into a do-nothing place, because when something's going bad around you, you want to fix it!
We ALL do! We want to "answer back." We want to "straighten things out." We want to MASTER the situation.
So, if you're ever feeling "mowed over" by someone, try this:
1 Take this position: People really want to be loving. They just have learned ways to speak in a loud voice that is very different from the way you learned to speak - in a soft voice.
2 Feeling Messages are the key to this next step:
Start by saying...."(put person's name here) - I hear you, and I feel triggered."
"It feels like the way I used to feel when people in my life yelled at me."
"I know you are not yelling at me, but it feels like that."
"So, I know it's MY stuff, and yet, I wonder if we're meant to interact this way so we both learn something?"
"I feel I'm hearing a message, though I don't know what to do with it. I'll just try to listen and see what's going on for me...."
Then, See what she says.
If what she's saying still feels to you like an attack, then...
Just repeat yourself!
Say exactly what you said in Step 2.
Try "Taking Turns"
If you're worried about her - if you think she's attacking because she's feeling attacked and mightily triggered - you can help the situation tremendously by "taking turns" being triggered.
You can do this by letting her go first if she gets triggered first, and then teaching her by EXAMPLE how to "hang" with YOU when YOU'RE triggered.
Just do your best to stay in your feelings, stay aware of what's going on, and stay away from acting defensively.
If she starts talking, you can say "Tell me more..."
You can even ask "Are you okay?"
You can heal a relationship and a situation by not reacting defensively to whatever she does or says while she's being triggered.
This healing happens if you can do your best to not react with an attack, and yet not ignore it and act like everything's okay when it isn't.
Once you acknowledge that you've been triggered - that you have feelings, and that what's happening doesn't feel good - and asked her what she'd like to do to make things better, you open the door to a great relationship.
Sometimes, owning YOUR side of whatever's happened -- if you forgot the "4 Steps" and said or did something she'd consider disrespectful or controlling - apologizing is the most powerful thing you can do!
Try all these things and see what happens!