I had a very rough summer this year. This summer, two of the elders in my family passed away. I struggled to balance my life in the US while returning to Taiwan to be with my surviving family members and to say goodbye to my deceased family members.
As the summer rolled out and the fall rolls in, I can’t help but feeling exhaustion. Death and dying always teach me something about myself and life. It reminds me how I often focused on the things I need “to do” and forget how “to be” with my loved ones. It also reminded me that there are many things in life, such as death, is not about what “to do” but how “to be.”
It got me to think about “to be” vs. “to do” and how it works in one’s relationship with oneself and his/her partner.
Five things to say instead of saying “Stop Crying.”
Many couples struggled “to be” with each other’s emotions. The conflict often escalated when one of the partners start to cry.
“Stop crying,” one of them said.
“Stop yelling at me,” the other one said.
The good news is, the reason that the first partner would like the second one to stop crying because he/she feels hurt to see his/her loved ones crying. When we see our loved ones hurt, we feel the pain. However, at times, when we don’t know what “to do,” we asked our loved ones to stop doing what they were doing, which was crying, to avoid the pain and hurt we feel.
“This is crazy!” I know you must react to my explanation this way. However, you also know what I said was right. The truth is that we learn how to deal with our own emotions or our significant others’ feelings based on what we learn from our family of origin. If your parents or your primary caregiver didn’t teach you how “to be” with the emotions, your immediate response would be “stop doing that behavior.”
Think about it, “stop crying” might be what you heard when you were crying as a little boy/girl.
So, what can you say instead to show your partner that you are with him/her?
“You are crying. Are you feeling ________ (sad, upset, frustrated, hurt, etc.)?”
“I am sorry that you feel _______ (sad, upset, frustrated, hurt, etc.). Tell me what happened?”
“I am here with you. Take your time.”
“I am not going anywhere. Whenever you are ready to talk to me about it, I am here.”
“It’s hard for me to see you crying. It made me feel _________ (sad, upset, frustrated, hurt, etc.). We will work it out together.)
Many people feel responsible for their partners’ emotions. It is hard to hear your partner said, for example: “I am crying because you yell at me.” Try to stay with your partner and knows that your behaviors (do) made your partner sad but you are not a bad person who caused your partner harm. Knowing that your actions don’t define you as a person is very important to stay with your partner’s emotions. You are not a bad person to make your partner cry.
There are many things in life that we cannot do anything about it. Emotions are one of them. We feel how we feel. However, as human beings, we want to “do” something to “make it better.” By doing something, we feel a sense of power. By “being with the emotions,” we feel powerless about the situation. However, we are innate with emotions. Babies are born with feelings, and that’s why they communicate with their parents before they acquired language.
So, by being with your own and/or your partner’s emotions, you are doing something to make it better, just like all parents do to comfort their babies who haven’t acquired the language skill.
“If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh (Check out the recordings. He said it so beautifully in this recording.)