I often say that one of the things people most want in a romantic partner is to feel seen and understood.  What I mean by this is that if a person can make us feel as if they see what we are truly about and love us unconditionally anyway, that's a feeling of acceptance that most of us have been seeking for our entire lives.  And we will often want to fight for that relationship because, needless to say, it will be extremely important to us and our own well being.

So what happens when we start to feel like we are not being seen?  Or like we are not understood, heard, or known?  Well, it's quite painful and disappointing.  And, if unchecked, it can cause trouble in your marriage.

Here's a rough example.  A wife might explain a situation like this one: "my husband doesn't really understand me or seem to know the real me.  I serve as our family's breadwinner and I have a job that forces me to turn off my emotions and my creativity during the hours of 9 - 5.  I do this because my job is well-paying and it allows my husband to stay home with our family - which is very important to us both.  However, when I was much younger, I was very creative and artistic.  I published short stories and wrote poems. I was very passionate about photography.  For the last couple of years, my son has asked about music.  He has been taking private violin lessons.  He auditioned for and made a summer chamber music group.  Their concert was at our local performing arts center.  During the concert, the strings played while the chorus sang.  It was absolutely beautiful.  And tears sprang from my eyes.  Yes, I was crying because I was so proud of my son.  But, I was also crying because the look on my son's face as he played the music told me he had found his passion and that he was blissful while pursuing it.  I cried because I was disappointed that this is no longer the case for me.  My husband looked at me like I was an emotional wreck. Later at home, he asked me why I made such a big deal about everything.  I told him that this made me realize that I had stopped being a creative person and that this lack had created a huge void. My husband told me to 'paint on the weekends or something.' And he said these words in a very condescending way - as though I asked too much.  It made me angry.  I don't think that it's wrong to want beauty and the arts in your life. But he doesn't get how important this is to me.  Or he simply doesn't care.  I feel like he doesn't even know the true me.  And that he only wants me to be the serious breadwinner and that he will not support me in any other way."

Finding Compromise And Satisfaction: I know that this must have hurt. But I think that there is probably a compromise here.  I too need art and beauty in my life.  If I had my way, I'd be writing very creative fantasy novels with no worry about whether they sold or not.  So I do know how you feel.  I know that my dreams of novels about topics that only I care about are not realistic for my current life.  So, much of the time, I am able to fill my artistic yearnings with my blog, with my crafts, and with research of my choosing. And I am grateful for that opportunity.  I insist on finding time to pursue creative hobbies that have no end goal whatsoever.  For example, I often do crafts for family, friends, or charity.  Mostly, I make children's sweaters or blankets.  This allows me to experiment with different yarns and designs and I know the finished project will keep someone warm, which makes me feel wonderful. I also make it a point to listen to classical music while doing tasks like cooking or walking my dogs.  Do I wish I could do more?  Absolutely.  And I am working on that.  But for now, I take what I can get and am grateful to be getting it.  I've found that so long as I have a creative outlet somewhere, I can fantasize about novels and still feel okay about life.

Frankly, my husband doesn't get how important these things are to me.  I think there are times when he doesn't completely understand why I take family or couple time to do my crafts.  But when this comes up, I explain to him that it is my time to recharge and unwind - just like working in the yard is for him.

Allowing Differences To Help Rather Than Hurt: Often, we are not being malicious when we don't understand our spouses.  We just have different personalities.  I have been guilty of this also.  At one point, we moved to a new home.  While packing, I found old baseball cards that were not stored properly. They were cracked and had started to curl at the edges.  I put them in the bag to give to charity.  Later, my husband asked if I had seen the cards. "Oh honey, they were damaged," I explained. "They are in one of the charity bags."

My husband was extremely upset with me and I honestly did not understand why.  I told him he really didn't like and wasn't even good at baseball.  Then he almost tearfully explained that as a child, his grandfather lived with the family while he was ill.  The cards were the last thing he had to remember his grandfather by, since they used to spend time together collecting the cards.  And, my husband also explained that although he was not good at baseball, he did love it and he missed it.

This was a sad situation, but both my husband and I were guilty in this misunderstanding.  I was not maliciously trying to throw away things that were important to him.  And he had never shared memories of his grandfather or love of baseball with me.  Often, your spouse is not trying to hurt you or show you that they don't know you at all.  And they are usually a little shocked when you get so upset.

Perhaps it's time to have an honest conversation to clear the air.  You might say something like: "I'm glad you support me in exploring art on the weekends.  I intend to do that and perhaps even more eventually.  I probably haven't always made it clear how important the arts are to me.  And I guess I have allowed life obligations to get in the way of me pursuing this.  That isn't your fault.  But in order for me to be as fulfilled as I can possibly be, I'm going to need to take time to do this for myself."

I think that you might be surprised to find that your spouse might be more supportive than you thought. Most of the time, our spouses don't want us walking around sad and unfulfilled, but they don't know how to help us or they aren't clear on what we need.  The fact that you have defined exactly what you need means that all he has to do is support you.  And I suspect that he will have no trouble doing that.  My husband and I now try to attend baseball games as often as possible and he's very happy about this. But I would not have known how important this was to him if the "baseball card incident" hadn't happened, which forced him to share.

Don't be fooled though and think that I always knew these marital truths. I used to not check in with my spouse nearly as often (or care as much about how he was feeling) and it caused us to separate. You can read more about how I fixed this (after making far too many mistakes) on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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