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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have posted before about my husband's depression. He really is working on himself.

However, last night he said something that really struck a chord in me and I realize I have to change a biggie and don't know how.

He said that I have built a wall around him of all the worst things he has done and I assume that he is the same as he was because I react to him, assuming he is upset about stuff.

He has spent a lot of years, over 10 in fact, getting upset or flat out angry at EVERY LITTLE THING....and telling me how I do everything wrong. I see now that part of that is his personality but part of it is also the depression.

I don't want to react assuming he is angry when he isn't. :( It breaks my heart that I am doing it but I know he speaks the truth. I have had a lot of years of "training" to be afraid of poking the sleeping dog...does that make sense? I am constantly worried about doing or saying something that will upset him and end up in a fight. Now he says that the fact that I am so scared makes him upset when he wouldn't be upset.

Case in point, last night:
My husband has a tendency to never use 10 words when 5000 will do. He LOVES to talk and explain things in great detail...a trait that often makes me feel like he thinks I am a stupid child. As a result of that I have gotten in the habit of interrupting him because I don't want to listen to a 5000 word explanation about something. That has led to him having an irrationally angry reaction to me interrupting and becoming just livid when I do. So...last night, I was working on something in the office and he came in and we both started talking at the same time. I felt instant alarm that I had interrupted him, started apologizing for interrupting. He got silent, which I assumed meant he was really mad and I kept apologizing. He walked out of the office without saying anything and I sat there feeling like an idiot, still positive that he was furious. I sat there feeling really bad for a while then sought him out to apologize again and ask if we could let this be a ripple in the pond rather than an all out war....probably needless to say, by then he was irritated and I was feeling hypersensitive anyway and we ended up with a big distance between us.

I know that in this he bears a lot of responsibility for being such a jerk for so long. But he is REALLY working on changing and I can see the truth in his words that I am keeping him where he has been by reacting like he is the same when he didn't even do it. I know how frustrating it is because for years I have said he can have a fight with me without me even being in the room...because he assumes how I am going to react, reacts to that and then gets mad because I am thinking such and such when I am not. I know that is maddening and I don't want to be like that.

So....I am going to talk to a counselor about this next week, but in the meantime, I need advice about how to break this pattern. The reason it got established is because he thought I was the stupidest person who embarrassed him in public etc...because I used to be very enthusiastic and free around him. Now I am not that way around him. I still am around others but I am just a pathetic little wimpy scared person around my husband, always worried that I will do the wrong thing....how can I stop treating him like a ogre? I don't want to lock him in. I know I need to change this about me.

Thanks for any advise, book titles etc. I know that if I can change this it will allow him to be able to change but it will also make me happier because this is not a fun way to live.
 

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When people are exposed to the same situation over and over they become conditioned. In a family, often one persons issues effect everyone. Try not to beat yourself up. You are not going to get it right every time. A book like codependent no more might help you separate his reaction and yours. You aren't responsible for him being angry It's not an easy fix. Good luck in your journey
 

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One thing you can try is to learn your body signals, then use them to change your reactions. What happens with your body immediately before you judge him to be angry? Does your stomach lurch? Do your muscles tense? You can use signs like these that we normally don't think about and re-condition ourselves by developing new reactions based on those signs instead of the ones we react to with deeply ingrained patterns.

If your breath hitches just before you say, "I'm sorry," think of something you can do whenever you notice this breathing habit. You might decide to take a deep breath and ask a question instead. "Are you upset about _____ ?"

As far as your husband's habit of overexplaining... This is something my ex used to complain about with me. I think I still do this quite a bit, but I've learned to see it as being a controlling thing to do. I am commanding people to devote five or ten minutes listening to something I could communicate in five seconds if I had my thoughts distilled before I spoke. It never had a thing to do with whether I thought they were smart or not, but some people have felt that way, or else they lose the point of what I'm trying to say because their listening skills aren't the best.

Their thought process is THEIR problem, not mine, but in order to have a better relationship with them, I've learned to see that I can avoid triggering their problem.

I've had to recognize that there are some people who are receptive to exploring verbally and some who aren't. I no longer feel hurt and ignored when people aren't receptive. I'm not often receptive to others who are this way, either.

Techniques I've used to retrain myself included having my ex-husband use one of two phrases when he felt himself getting frustrated or impatient:

"Can you tell me in one minute or less what you're trying to say?"
"I'm trying to understand but I'm getting lost. Can you tell me in 25 words or less, what's the main point you want me to understand?"
 

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When people are exposed to the same situation over and over they become conditioned.
^This.

You developed a learned behavior. For years his actions sparked a reaction from you and it may take just as long to "unlearn" that behavior. Look, your husband is just as culpable in this. In fact, moreso him than you (IMO). The more consistant he is in NOT behaving the same way the more you will trust that he won't. And those reactions of yours will eventually go away. It's not going to happen overnight and don't beat yourself up over the fact that it's not.
 

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Just an opinion, you can take it or leave it, but it sounds to me like that anger problem is still there somewhat if he's getting irritable or defensive with you for anticipating him getting angry in these situations. Your reaction is natural. He has a lot of making up to do--I'm sure it's not all one-sided, but I just mean, as far as having a short fuse apparently--and that's just not the ideal way to do it. You're going to misinterpret him at times--not that you shouldn't try not to--but it will happen. Ideally he would take that opportunity to reassure you.

As far as your side,I would suggest to try and consciously keep a cool head whenever your alarm bells start going off. Walk away yourself or simply ignore it if you fear him getting sulky or silently fuming. As long as he's not taking something out on you, give him some time and room to think over his reactions and give yourself some too. Don't apologize until you've carefully considered whether the situation warrants it. It's an adjustment period for both of you, so don't feel guilty for an occasional misstep. This is another thing he probably needs to learn how to handle better, and honestly it will help him if you don't jump in and take the blame.
 

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You've already done the hard work - identified and owned your part of the problem. The rest is just practice. Work on recognizing the pattern earlier and behaving accordingly.

You should expect to have to put in as much effort on your end as he does on his.
 

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Two things hit me about your post:
1) Stop apologizing. You started apologizing before anything really happened. You then assumed he was angry, so you apologized more, then you let things sit and sought him out to apologize again.

2) If he really is making an effort to work on his anger, then you definitely shouldn't be apologizing for "HIS" reaction. Give him a chance to make mistakes as it is not a light switch he can just turn off/on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the input. I see that maybe there is some level of codependency in the relationship just because I base my happiness when I am in the same room with him or the same building with him, on his take on the situation. I am constantly trying to get a "read" on his attitude so I know how to act...but I am not going to live this way anymore. I think what is happening is that he is finally acknowledging that it is his behavior over the years that has built this dynamic and when he sees me "over-react" or overcompensate for the situation it makes him feel like a loser because he realizes his role in it.

I don't want to lock him in...and more than that, I don't want to be this scared pathetic person who takes more responsibility for his mood/feelings that he does! I realize the apologizing is not appropriate...again, a habit...for years he would get upset and whether or not he was right, the only way for the problem to go away was for ME to own it so he could get over it. That is something I have come to realize through counseling is not acceptable behavior and that I shouldn't be owning it all...but I am having a hard time breaking the cycle.

I guess, in a way, I am afraid that if I stop owning everything and apologizing for everything there might be more fights and I hate fighting. I have an anxiety disorder and bickering makes me really frightened/panicked....which is likely what opened the door to the behavior pattern that has become established....he could see how easy it was to manipulate me to take all the blame because he just had to act upset and I would do anything to make it go away.

Good grief, I sound pathetic and weak. I am NOT weak with anyone but him! I really want to correct this dynamic.
 

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I guess, in a way, I am afraid that if I stop owning everything and apologizing for everything there might be more fights and I hate fighting. I have an anxiety disorder and bickering makes me really frightened/panicked....which is likely what opened the door to the behavior pattern that has become established....he could see how easy it was to manipulate me to take all the blame because he just had to act upset and I would do anything to make it go away.
Just throwing around ideas, but maybe there is a way to desensitize yourself to fights so they don't cause panic. A college course in the philosophy of logic may be helpful...if you have a good grasp of logical arguments and fallacies, you can quickly decipher where an argument is headed, whether it's worth your time, and so on. This can be very calming. I've never taken a class in debate before, but I'd imagine that might come in handy. Or even martial arts or boxing. Gaining some competency in hand to hand combat may make you more confident and relaxed in general.
 
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