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Discussion Starter #1
This is our pattern: A little minor disagreement happens and generally he insists he's right at the time - he's pretty firm and insistent about being right. A short time later, I say something like "I felt bad because ..." and try to explain how I feel that he doesn't seem to respect or listen to my opinion.

This is a problem, because I've just switched the conversation from the initial issue we disagreed about, to the way he spoke to me during the disagreement. I've heard that is a difficult switch for men. Maybe I shouldn't do this, but I am feeling disrespected. Here's where it gets bad for us. The conversation almost always goes like this:

Me: I feel bad because ....
Him: (Silence)
Me: (Feeling frustrated and unheard because of his silence) I just want you to understand how that makes me feel. I feel....
Him: (Silence)
Me: (Feeling even more badly) Do you understand?
Him: (In an angry, harsh tone that clearly indicates the opposite of what he says) Yeah, whatever! I understand, I give up, whatever!
Me: (Feeling pretty darned hurt now) I feel your tone indicates that you don't agree. It sounds like you want me to just shut up. Can't we talk about this?

Yes, I keep trying to talk, and he clearly doesn't want to. So I understand that I'm pushing him into an angrier and angrier position. Maybe I just need to stop, but I am hurting and I want us to come to understanding and make up.

By the way, I'm really good at conflict conversation: I don't raise my voice, I use "I" statements, not "you" statements, etc. But it doesn't matter.

The whole thing ends one of two ways. Either I shut up and just try to swallow my hurt. Or I keep pressing, and eventually he starts saying horrible things (all "you..." statements about how I "always" do this, I "enjoy torturing" him, I "love conflict," I am "totally unreasonable," I "always have to be right"). Again, I have two choices: I can shut up and swallow the hurt, or I can press. If I press it builds till he storms out for a few hours.

Today when it happened we were in the car just leaving to drive to another city for the day. He turned around, drove home, and when he stopped in the driveway I said "I don't know what I should do." He said "You should get out." So I got out. He drove off to the other city without me.

He will come back in 3-4 hours, and this will be the conversation:

Him: I'm sorry.
Me: I'm sorry too.

And nothing else will get said. By this time I'm so stressed and exhausted, I can't possibly try to engage in any further discussion. Also I'm also just really glad he came back.

Yes, we end with saying sorry. But it's just driving me crazy because I feel like he has all the power. My only choice seems to be to swallow my hurt and shut up. And the sooner I can do that in one of these conversations, the better. I never feel heard or validated.

Caro
 

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Discussion Starter #2
<sigh> It has been 4 hours, he went to the city we were going to have lunch in, stayed there a while, and is now going to a different city, not home. I texted him a simple "I'm sorry honey" an hour and a half ago. No response.
 

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Sorry you're having to deal with this........ Would he be open to MC and/or conflict resolution resolution?

Women filter everything using emotion; men do so with logic/rationale. And most of the time emotion cannot be explained with logic/rationale. Very difficult sometimes when both parties don't understand where the other is coming from. This is where a good MC might be able to help both of you.

Hopefully he'll return home soon and you two will be able to work things out.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks Heavensangel! I hope you are an angel sent to help us. I think he is open to MC. He said so once when I suggested it 2 wks ago (in the middle of our last fight). I don't know if he remembers that, though.

He came home a bit ago, and didn't appear to be going to say "Hi" even, let alone "sorry". I was doing the dishes and said "hi" in a relatively light voice, and he answered with a somewhat curt "hi" & went to the other side of the house.

After I finished the dishes I followed him to the other end of the house and tried to talk to him... he's still somewhat angry, but it's more restrained now. I asked if he had gotten my apology text and he said "yes" and didn't appear to be going to say anything else.

After a pause I apologized again and tried a bit of reflecting what I thought he might be feeling ("Did you feel like I was just going on and on too much?") to which he answered "yes," but he was still not really opening up.

After some more prompting, he said he was "mad that he had to spend his whole day alone." (In my mind I'm thinking... well that was his choice...) But I said I was "sad that I had to spend my day alone, too." (I changed the word "mad" to "sad".) During this conversation, there was lots of face to face eye contact, but still a strange barrier between us.

I started to try to tell him how I felt, but then stopped. He seemed too closed ... I didn't think he was receptive to hearing it. I did say I loved him, and he didn't respond for a while, but eventually said something like "I gathered that."

I asked him how he was feeling now and he said he was "tired" - when I prompted him for more he said "tired about talking about how I feel." I bit back any more words then, just stopped talking - I know that's what he wants, but it's SO hard. He shuffled some papers around a bit and then went to the other room.

I am sitting here typing this with tears rolling down my face. He's in the other room doing some work.

None of these responses, though they could have been said harshly, have sounded harsh - they just sound, honestly, tired. I don't think he's trying to be mean. He just drove close to 200 miles, so I'm sure he IS tired, let alone the emotional drain of all that anger.

But I still don't understand why I can't seem to get him to listen to how I feel. And truthfully, there has never been a time he was gone THIS long and was THIS distant when he came home. That's a little scary.

But I guess I have to just eat the hurt again.... The tears will stop if I distract myself. So I'm going to go make dinner now.
 

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Hi Caro,

I can offer some suggestions that I think you may find helpful if you can take them into your heart. I don't know how to say things except by being pretty direct, so please bear with me and understand that I'm speaking with an aim of helping you, even if my words seem hurtful at first glance.

I see a few problems going on in your communication with your husband, and since he's not here and you can only change you, I'm going to direct my comments at what YOU can change.

One of the big problem I see is what you said when you wrote, "By the way, I'm really good at conflict conversation: I don't raise my voice, I use "I" statements, not "you" statements, etc. But it doesn't matter."

I am sure you do use "I" statements the way you were taught to, but you aren't using them in a way that's constructive. I've said on here and elsewhere that I statements don't work because they're usually used in a way that's simply dressed-up criticism, and the examples you gave demonstrated this. "A short time later, I say something like 'I felt bad because ...' and try to explain how I feel that he doesn't seem to respect or listen to my opinion." You're not owning your problem. You're telling him why he's created a problem for you.

When I first learned about "I" statements years ago, I had this huge belief in them, but somehow they never worked, and I eventually realized that it was because I wasn't TRULY owning MY problem.

All these times you've "tried" = all the times you've criticized your man. It's no wonder he is shutting down!

Of course, you do need to be heard, understood, and supported, too. But you must first start by doing that for yourself. As long as you're feeling a need for him to understand it before it'll be ok, you're not owning the problem.

I have a hard time with doing this in my life, though it gets easier every year. I have to refuse to talk about things until I can get my mind ok with whatever happened. That doesn't mean accepting bad behavior from someone - it means that I have to take time to figure out a few things:

1. How important is the issue? Is it worth fighting for or is the relationship's happiness more important? Is it a dealbreaker? In your present circumstance, you might benefit from making the relationship's happiness more important by giving him freedom from your criticism.

2. When an issue arises, I have to consider ALL of my options for dealing with it and ALL of the reasons why it's MY problem. If I was in your shoes, it might be a problem for me to not have my husband's validation because I believe it means I'm not loved. It could also mean he has a problem with listening or feeling criticized. Once I recognize these factors, the solutions might look like this to me:
-I could leave the relationship.
-I could stop sharing information with someone who doesn't listen to me.
-I could recognize that I'm pushing them when they're resistant and make a decision to recognize and stop this from happening.

3. Once I recognize my options, I create a plan that will make myself happy even if I do not get the other person's cooperation. To use your situation as an example again, if I decided that the issue was a dealbreaker and that leaving was my best plan, I'd make a plan to leave. If I wanted the relationship to recover, I'd probably have chosen to use both of the other things I described (not sharing and preventing myself from intruding on their peace of mind.)

4. ONLY after I created my plan would I even consider talking to my partner. No decisions need to be made at this point because I have already made the decisions I needed to make. The communication is simple. "I want to apologize for being insistent and demanding. I am going to stop doing this. I realized I was doing it because I felt hungry for you to acknowledge me but that appears to be a problem for you. I don't understand it, but I will accept it."

Another big problem I'm seeing is that you're both trying to use "I'm sorry" to sweep stuff under the rug when you are not actually remorseful at all. This erodes trust and credibility. Stop saying what you don't mean! And don't accept apologies that are meaningless. If you want to see a change, don't ask for it until you've completed the steps above. Once you've completed the steps above, ask for a change ONLY if it's something you can accept him saying no to. He must have freedom to say no if you want his promises to mean anything. If you MUST see a change, like in abusive situations, you don't ask for it. You live it. You show it. "When he yells at me, I will leave the room and stop engaging until his attitude is better."

Men do not learn from talking. They do not change because of how you feel. They watch and learn from your ACTIONS!! If you want him to kiss you goodnight and he doesn't, all the talk in the world won't change it. If you refuse sex when he wants it and tell him he'll start getting some when he starts giving you the cuddles you want, BANG! There it is.

If you change the way YOU communicate, the communication in your relationship will change, too. Not overnight, and not without mistakes, but with progress.
 

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KathyBatesel,

God I love your post. This thread was not about me, but it caught my attention because we have the same problems in our marriage. Your advice is spot on! I have already realized I should learn to accept and validate my own feelings which releaves my frustration over my H not doing so. But your advice brings it further and spells out how constructive solutions can be reached.

Hope the OP will find this useful as well, but I certainly did!
 

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Hi. Just from your style of writing and expressing yourself I can see why it would be difficult for your man to be receptive. No, there's nothing wrong with you. What wrong is that you and your man have very, very different modes of communication. While you are very expressive and open. (It seems so.) He needs time to absorb what's been told to him. (I think.) My late wife was similar in her ability to 'lay everything out' very quickly and precisely. I, on the other hand, had to sit there and attempt to think about something she said a minute ago. It was frustrating for me. She would see this and leave me and give me time to think. Then she would return and we would resume talking. I don't know if you and your man are in the same communicative category, but you could be. Try giving him time to assess what you've asked/talked about to him.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
This morning I still feel lost. We're not fighting, but we've not really "made up" - we've gone back to status quo. I feel a need for closure, but it is not happening, and I'm not going to try to force it.

I think he may still be mad, because as I was clearing up his breakfast dishes I saw his notebook open on the table to the current page where he had written something angry about me. I didn't read it, just saw enough to get the angry gist.

I think you all have really good points.

Ultimately, I'm thinking about Kathy's 3 solutions:

-I could leave the relationship.
-I could stop sharing information with someone who doesn't listen to me.
-I could recognize that I'm pushing them when they're resistant and make a decision to recognize and stop this from happening.

I am not ready to leave (#1), but I think I do have to stop sharing my feelings with him (#2) or at least not share them when he's not receptive (#3). It's hard to tell when he might be receptive though. It's not easy to hide the hurt... historically there have been a couple times where he's hurt me but didn't realize it, then started joking around, teasing, and poking at me in fun, but I couldn't take it because I was already hurting. But clearly letting it out makes it worse - I should probably make an excuse and remove myself from his presence.

What Learning says makes sense too. He needs time to think or cool down. The problem is that I have no idea how long is appropriate, and if I guess wrong, bad things happen. I didn't give the details of yesterday, but there was an initial minor skirmish, which I quickly let go as soon as I noticed tension. I waited about an hour, and tried to bring it up again, which led to the whole blow out.

I'm going to try something. For one month I am going to try to

-do everything he says/wants and
-not share anything that could be perceived as disagreement or criticism.

No matter what he says/does, I won't react. If I need to, I'll find a way to excuse myself and go somewhere else. I think I need practice keeping it in. If I need to address things at the end of the month, I can do it then, but not before.
 

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It's not easy to hide the hurt... historically there have been a couple times where he's hurt me but didn't realize it, then started joking around, teasing, and poking at me in fun, but I couldn't take it because I was already hurting. But clearly letting it out makes it worse - I should probably make an excuse and remove myself from his presence.
I agree with all of Kathy's approach...

That said, I'm not sure that just walking off saying nothing when he hurts you is going to be helpful long term. You could easily say to him 'wow. that hurt my feelings.' THEN leave the room. If he doesn't realize he hurt you my thought is he will continue to do it.

Also, I'm one to only address things with my husband about things that bother me in a 24 hour period. If it goes beyond that then it's more than likely because I've thought about it in great detail. I've identified that my issue is more MINE than his and that I need to find a way to deal with it. The immediate issues typically I know need to be addressed right then and there... they are recurring issues that I KNOW are not my issue only. They are things or areas I feel he is being insensitive in.

I hope I'm making sense. Women (generally speaking) are talkers. This is how we work through problems. Men (generally speaking) don't work that way. They internalize and avoid conflict, and have a much more difficult time talking about what's bothering them. It's a simple yet fundamental thing to remember when having a communication problem.
 

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i dont understand a couple of things.

first, you aplogized. then again. then again. one apology should be enough. if he doesn't get the first one, that's his problem.

also there should be a point where the conversation/discussion isn't going to go any place. i get the impression that you don't pick up on that point early enough. perhaps after the first apology you should back off.

finally, not everything that happens requires an apology. he drives you home and tells you to get out of the car and you then text an apology? i don't think that's the right course of action.

if it's important to discuss, have it out right then and there. but i have learned that most things really aren't so important that require a discussion of even a decision as to who is right or wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
A Bit Much, I might try that suggestion of "Wow that hurt my feelings" before leaving. Good idea.

Also, I too am one to only address things in a 24 hour period. However, that's not working very well, so I figure I'll try something else. I may discover that at the end of a month those issues that I felt at the time I wanted to address don't seem so important to me anymore. If so, great! But if there is something, I can deal with it then.

Married&Confused, I only apologized twice, once by text and once after he got home, but I get your point that even twice is too much.

Rightly or wrongly, the first apology was because I felt bad about making him so angry. You are right that I failed to recognize early enough that the discussion wasn't going anywhere good. I didn't recognize that, and I therefore drove him to more anger, and so I apologized.

The second apology was not any less sincere in that I still was sorry for having made him angry, but at the same time yes, I'd said that already. I repeated it in the hopes that we could approach some kind of closure to the conflict.... but it didn't work.

Let me ask you all this: Is it reasonable or unreasonable to expect closure? By "closure" I imagine a hug/kiss kind of end where we both say we're sorry for our part in what happened. Because maybe that's part of where I'm going wrong. Do you all get closure after a fight? or does it just never get discussed?
 

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Let me ask you all this: Is it reasonable or unreasonable to expect closure? By "closure" I imagine a hug/kiss kind of end where we both say we're sorry for our part in what happened. Because maybe that's part of where I'm going wrong. Do you all get closure after a fight? or does it just never get discussed?
I think you two have different versions of closure to a disagreement. His is to let it go immediately (or in a few hours) and yours is to get mutual understanding and THEN you can let it go. Thing is, he may understand it as is and that's enough for him. He may not need to brood over it and wouldn't for the fact that you keep pressing and bringing it all back up. KWIM?

Your way isn't superior to his and vice versa, it's again the different ways the two of you communicate. Yours is the perverbial beating a dead horse to him (maybe). It's not right or wrong, the two of you just need patience and a little more meeting in the middle. He can't just cut it all off just because he's over it all the time, and you can't keep dragging it on and on just because you're NOT over it all the time. You two need a balance and some consideration of how the other processes information.
 

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Do you all get closure after a fight? Yes, we hash it out/discuss it till we've either resolved it, reached a compromise, or respect each others opinion enough to agree to disagree.

The sayings: 'Never let the sun go down on your anger', 'Never go to bed angry', or something to that effect We try very had not let it get to this point; besides, neither of us get much sleep if there's an unresolved issue between us.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
A Bit Much, that makes sense. I can see it in what's happening now.

Heavensangel, I believe wholeheartedly in those sayings and in the strategy you say you two use. But we almost never get closure. We always go to sleep hurt/angry. And the next day he acts as if it didn't happen, while I'm still longing for closure.

This morning (2 days after fight) he's being generally nice to me & said he loves me (though we've still not talked about the fight at all). So I guess he's over it. I still feel rotten because I never felt we got any mutual understanding. I get the impression he is thinking "Ok, Caro pulled that insane #[email protected] again, but I love her anyway."

On the one hand, this is reassuring - even if I do something stupid, he'll still love me. I like that! However, it's also worrisome because he won't accept the possibility that maybe some of his actions provoke my actions. He blames me that he drove off and disappeared for 5 hours - he blames me for ruining his day. There is no acknowledgment that maybe we are both contributing to this problem.

I find this position to be ... well ... belittling and humiliating. I'm very comfortable with saying I make mistakes and am not perfect. I think this is evident from my initial post, where I myself called out some of the things I thought I was doing that were problems. He, on the other hand, is extremely controlling (he himself admits this) and has trouble admitting mistakes.

Ultimately, all of our fights come down to respect. He does something that I feel is disrespectful: deny my perceptions, mock my life choices, dismiss my feelings). I'll try to talk to him about it ("I feel hurt because you make fun of my career"); he refuses to respond (I've heard this called "stonewalling"); I keep pushing because I want him to understand that he is disrespecting me, and to stop; he keeps stonewalling; I keep pushing; and finally everything explodes.

I've made my decision: I'm going to stop pushing/sharing my feelings for a month (other than perhaps an initial "wow that really hurt"). Now I'm trying to figure out how to tell him I'm doing this. My initial thought was to just tell him "I've decided to stop pushing you to talk because I know it hurts you" but I think he'll just take this as "Hurray, she has finally got a clue and come to her senses!"

Maybe it's petty of me, but I'd like him to understand and accept that he also plays a role in these breakdowns. It is not going be easy to try to just take his dismissive put-downs with little reaction. If I felt he respected the difficulty of the attempt, it would help strengthen me to achieve it.

But yeah... I see that that is just me trying to get him to respect me again. In this case, I'd like some respect for this attempt to change my reaction. But the problem is that respect is the whole thing we end up fighting about. So now I have no idea what to do.

Should I just tell him that I'm going to stop reacting, and let him think "it's about danged time." Or should I tell him that I'm going to stop reacting, explain why I do it, and ask him to be be understanding if it's difficult for me?
 

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Don't tell him anything. Don't explain anything either. That's your core problem. Beating the dead horse doesn't make it more dead. He isn't hearing your words. He won't listen, but he'll notice what you do (or don't do).
 

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A Bit Much is absolutely right! Your ACTIONS will speak louder to him than anything you have to say!!

Whatever you have been doing; do the exact opposite! Yes, it's going to be tough, but you can do this..... He wants to be left alone; then give him exactly what he wants. Who knows, he may begin to wonder what's going one, become concerned, and start communicating on his own. Let's hope for this anyway!
 

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Less is more in your case. Speak less and you'll see more from him.

I'll tell you... the silent stare works wonders in my marriage. My husband literally breaks into sweats by my silence because he KNOWS it has been caused by something he just said or did that I didn't like. It's not fear of you, but respect of you that you want to encourage. Respecting your feelings means knowing the exact moment they've been trampled on, and that you're NOT going to let it slide even though you don't go on and on about it verbally.
 

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Oh yes..... THE LOOK!!!! I inherited it from my mother!!! Pretty amazing the reactions it gets!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Update: The week went by ok and we got along very well. Well, there were some weird irritable comments from him, but I didn't react. He had his birthday and really loved the things I planned (yeay!). Then this morning it exploded again.

I had cooked dinner and done some dishes last night, leaving the dishes to dry on the counter. I came up for breakfast this morning and while I was eating he came up and suddenly starts barking at me about how I left the dishes out instead of putting them away. I said they were drying, and he got more angry about how I always do this and he doesn't know why I can't dry them and put them away. He puts them away as he is arguing at me. I stop talking.

After breakfast, I get up and start finishing washing the rest of the dishes and he is again angrily saying "Don't do that! I don't want you to do that!" I say (and it's true) "When I came up for breakfast I decided to finish them, I just wanted to eat breakfast first." He is still angry, saying "Don't do that."

I probably should have stopped doing the dishes, but really? I'm so confused. First he's angry that I didn't put dishes away, now he doesn't want me to do the dishes. Generally he gets mad at me for not doing chores when he wants me to, so I'm pretty confused, and pretty sure he'll be mad at me if I DON'T do the dishes, too. So I finish them.

I'm also puzzled as to why all of the sudden he's in such a bad mood, and when I'm done, I turn and ask if he is mad at me. He says "no" (but he says it kinda angrily). I ask if he'll be mad if I don't dry the dishes and put them away (I recognize now I shouldn't have said this, but I was running late for work).

This sets him off again about how I never do anything right and I never finish anything, etc. So while he's barking at me I dry them and put them away, and then he starts in on how I shouldn't do them by hand anyway, I should put them in the dishwasher, etc etc... It just starts rolling from criticism to criticism. I'm saying nothing.

He makes a good point about the water usage between hand washing and a dishwasher, and when he says that I say "That's a good point." This makes him angrier... and he barks at me "Don't tell me I don't have good points!" (I guess he hears "That's a good point" as "That's a good point, and all your others suck" which is certainly not my meaning).

At this point I just stop talking entirely. I am feeling really hurt and frustrated and unappreciated. But I don't say anything. I finish getting ready and say "Have a nice day, honey" fairly lightly. He makes some short comment which indicates he's still irritable. I don't go kiss him, which I'd usually do. I head off to work.

On the one hand, it's a bit of a victory. Every fiber of my being wanted to talk about it, hash it out, make it right. But I managed to hold back. This was my first real test.

On the other hand. I'm crushed. I feel horrible: unappreciated, harassed, and unheard. I need closure, but I probably won't get it.
 

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How about a simple "Is this so important that you have to yell at me about it?" Then see if he can justify his behavior.

If he comes back with "You always..." then you know it really wasn't about the dishes.
 
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