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My guest today, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, lives into this question. Her son, Finn, died by suicide two and a half years ago.

The pain Rosemerry felt was extreme. Her world crumbled.

 

 

Hurt can disguise love

All her neighbors and friends hurt for Rosemerry. They could feel her pain and they wanted to help.

But they were also terrified. I remember one woman saying to me, “If this could happen to Rosemerry (who she felt was an amazing mother), this could happen to anyone.”

It’s true. We all are vulnerable to deep, crushing pain. This is terrifying.

This terror distorts our pain. Instead of kindness and tenderness, we run. We hide. We want to disappear…all because we’re terrified.

As a result, instead of our love and care looking friendly, it morphs. Then our “love” is disguised so completely that our spouse can’t even recognize it as love.

 

Use a love-translator

Many people, with the best of intentions, said things to Rosemerry that were odd or insensitive. Rosemerry could have taken offence. But she didn’t.

She chose to believe in the love.

She believed people were trying to be loving, so she vowed to hear every word people said with her “Love-translator.”

If people said something inane, she decided to hear, “I love you.” If people said something insensitive, she decided to hear, “I love you.” If people projected their fears onto her, she decided to hear, “I love you.”

 

Are you free to receive love with an open heart? 

We shut down our hearts for all kinds of reasons: the pain is just too excruciating. Or maybe you feel lost or misunderstood. This loneliness can cause us to hole up inside ourselves licking our wounds.

Think of how you behave when you’re lonely, misunderstood, or otherwise in pain. You withdraw, right? Or you might lose your temper. Or you might just sit on the couch eating the WHOLE bag of potato chips.

 

What messages do you send to your spouse?

In those moments, when you’re in pain, if it’s possible, look at yourself through your spouse’s eyes. (Sometimes pain can be so severe that we can’t ask ourselves to do anything except breathe in. Breathe out. This is understandable. Be patient with yourself.)

If you are able to notice yourself, you might see how you aren’t capable to reach for a hug. You might blame. Nothing feels right, so no matter how much your spouse tries, you don’t feel satisfied.

Can you see how your spouse, instead of seeing your pain, might feel pushed away? Alienated? You chose the chips over their company. And, now your spouse is lonely, in pain, and feels misunderstood.

 

Unavoidable pain and the resulting cycle

If you live a life on planet earth, you will experience pain—deep pain—at some point in your life. We all hope to have our spouse to rely on during those moments of pain.

When we feel grief, we might withdraw, get angry, or find comfort on the couch with a bag of chips. These are all normal responses to grief, but without realizing it, we set in motion an undesirable cycle with our spouse.

You might hurt your spouse with your reluctance. Your spouse might feel alienated, so they withdraw.

Then, understandably, you withdraw too. And so on and so on.

 

When trouble comes…

What do you do when you’re upset? Hide? Run? Eat chips?

When you notice your patterns without judgement, you grow compassion for yourself.

That’s love too.

 

Connect with my guest

Teacher, speaker, and poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer served as San Miguel County’s first poet laureate, and was a finalist for Colorado Poet Laureate in 2019.

She has been writing a poem a day since 2006, and sending those freshly written poems into email inboxes all over the world.

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