She Says: Sometimes I Snap at Him
Sometimes after a long day at work or with the kids, I snap at Mike. I don’t mean to take it out on him.
He says: I’m not the enemy
I understand that Emily’s had a long day, but she needs to work harder at looping me in to her emotional state.
Be grateful this is just an occasional problem. It becomes quite a different, gnarly beast when the snapping (or growling or staring down, etc.) hardens into a continual and mutually accepted pattern.
Reflex snapping, like any form of spontaneous, unwanted behavior, is not the real problem. Rather, it’s the symptom of some underlying need that’s not being met. So don’t dwell too much at the surface words being said or even to the stressors that seemingly cause them to erupt. Consider instead, what is the need inside Emily that a part of her is trying to meet by snapping at Mike?
For instance – and we’re just speculating here – it could be that Emily has a deep unmet need, unknown even to her, to be noticed and appreciated. It’s always there, but most of the time it’s dormant and asymptomatic. Sometimes, though, like on a day when she’s exhausted from all she’s done and received no recognition for any of it, that part of her snaps at Mike. And when it does, regardless of which words she chooses, what she’s really saying is, “Help! I need to be appreciated!”
Mike, you say you want Emily to work harder at looping you in on what’s going on inside. You’re probably right, and it’s a good thing to want for her and yourself. But chances are that you, too, could be doing more work to help her out.
For example, if she does have a particularly strong, unmet need to be noticed and appreciated, think of creative ways you could do that for her. And do them regularly, not just on the days when she’s exhausted. Also, when she snaps, try hard not to react or take it personally. Remind yourself that she is a whole person whom you love. She is much more than this particular part of her you’re momentarily dealing with.
Finally, Emily, make sure after episodes of snapping always to ask for forgiveness. Better understanding why they happen will hopefully lessen their occurrence, but it will never excuse them. And, Mike, remember Colossians 3:13: “bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.”
Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.