We had been dating for six months. We had met each other’s families, his in Pennsylvania, mine in Ohio. We had spent long evenings together in New York City cafes and restaurants, studying (sort of) and talking until early morning. And we had talked about marriage, at least in the abstract
But I was bothered by the question, “Would David ever really know me?”
In some ways, I felt like he didn’t really “get” me. Sure, we had the same interests—theology and philosophy and good friendships and deep conversation—and we had the same life vision and priorities. We shared the same faith and mutual desire for a family some day.
But I wondered, “Does David really understand me?”
When we argued sometimes I felt like he didn’t actually see my side. He listened and was respectful, but I could tell he often thought I was being overly emotional. And it made me feel that if he didn’t understand my emotions, he didn’t understand me.
One day after a doctor appointment in which I found out that I might have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility, I was distraught. I had always had this irrational fear that maybe because I wanted children so badly I wouldn’t be able to have them. David tried to comfort me by reminding me that we didn’t even know whether I had PCOS or not—and if I did it didn’t mean that I would be infertile. But to me his words seemed to downplay the situation. Instead, I wanted him to recognize what a big deal it was to me. I wanted empathy.
But instead of saying so, I snapped defensively. And David withdrew, angrily but silently.
One thing I now admire about David is that even if he doesn’t always understand me perfectly, he does always try to understand me. Shortly after that argument, he set up an appointment with our college counselor to ask her what he could do differently.
She helped him to understand that feelings are not necessarily irrational, but in many cases are right responses to reality—for instance, the feeling of sadness is a right response to the reality of the death of a loved one. Later, we came across Pope John Paul II’s teaching about the “feminine genius”: the idea that women tend to have certain strengths—for instance, empathy—that men can learn from.
So we both compromised and met in the middle. David learned to appreciate my emotions as a beautiful and sensitive response to my world and experiences—and I learned to judge better when my emotions were unhealthily controlling me.
And so now, five years later, I no longer worry that David doesn’t understand me. He has learned to do so, and in the process, he also helped me to better understand myself, to see myself more clearly.
Have you ever felt misunderstood? How did you handle it?
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