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  • in reply to: Negative conflict cycles #415692

    @Helcat – out of interest, was your husband in therapy at all as part of those 6 years? Or did he have any guidance from frameworks/books/etc. It’s a long time, good for him to be so dedicated!

    I have been thinking that my attachment style might not be so secure after all. I do mostly feel secure except for when this conflict arises, it’s like I suddenly regress to an anxious attachment style! And his’ becomes avoidant. Outside of that, I don’t find myself being needy or anxious about us at all. It’s odd how this works.

    That’s an intriguing question from your therapist. I’m going to have to sit and really think about it, because nothing comes to mind right away.

    Because of how my husband is with conflict, I think I often avoid disagreements in the first place. It’s just not worth it to me. With your example of the energy bill, it could be similar here – I’m always feeling warm so I have very little need of the heating being on. But for my husband (he works from home) it’s different, as he’s much colder physically. If I feel unhappy about something like the energy bill or other financial things, unless it’s something very worrying like literally gambling, I wouldn’t even feel like saying anything.

    You’re right, I can’t really defend myself at all against his criticism because it just comes right back at me. He is extremely armoured in such situations. What frustrates me most is that I have learnt all the “best practices” of communicating nonviolently, such as using “I…” statements rather than “You…” I don’t name call, I don’t do character attacks, I don’t swear at him and yet he still feels some kind of pull to this aggressive communication style when there’s conflict.

    in reply to: Negative conflict cycles #415691

    @Tee – yes, I agree that my husband is avoiding “the work”. You only get so far with ideas. He isn’t doing enough to implement. Because of my own struggles I’m currently in psychomotor therapy, because talk therapy has not worked well for me at all. I’ve only been with this new therapist for a few sessions but I have high hopes. This will hopefully teach me to stay more regulated and not get into this abandonment trap of anxiety.

    My husband is indeed someone who really can’t say no very well. He has a real history of taking responsibility, to his own detriment even. Part of the problem here is that I think his standards are a bit too high and he doesn’t have enough trust. “No one does a good job if I don’t step up” – that almost seems to be his mantra, whether he realises it or not. It would really serve him well to work through his own past issues that are holding a grip over his present life.

    Our son is 4 years old, and yes, it would have been better to start off by saying: “Can you please put them back?” Or try to encourage him not to throw them in the first place. Because that approach often takes a bit longer with kids it can be something we are both guilty of when rushed, just choosing the quick route of stepping in and doing it ourselves.

    in reply to: Negative conflict cycles #415660

    @Tee – I agree with you that there’s definitely an imbalance in our dynamics when my husband has these kind of moods. He has some type of chronic pain and this can be a real trigger for him to be cynical.

    This is something I wrote on a note in my phone right after it happened, so I couldn’t forget the course of our conversation:

    Our oldest child throws clothes from a drawer on the bedroom floor.
    My husband picks them up, muttering: “That hurts my back!”
    I’m busy dressing our youngest after a bath and respond: “I could have done it!”
    “Yeah, but you often leave things,” he says.
    Me: “When my head gets too crowded by thoughts, yes…”
    Him: “There you go with your excuses.”
    It ends with me saying: “But I would have done it now, because you were just saying it! I wouldn’t have missed that.”

    Here, I felt an unfair dissatisfaction towards me that made me feel totally powerless.

    He becomes such a different person when this mood strikes, and I’m unable to snap him out of it. You’re right, it’s unacceptable. Although I don’t believe I deserve it, it’s problematic that I get very anxious when he is angry and try to maintain “control” by attempting to placate him or try to make him see that “I didn’t mean to do anything wrong”. Unfortunately, walking away is very hard for me when we’re arguing because it goes directly against my instinct to pursue.

    in reply to: Negative conflict cycles #415659

    @anita – that is very kind of you to say and I wholeheartedly understand. I see you a lot on these forums and it looks like your contributions have been helpful to many. You have already shared a lot and helped many people!

    That’s a really deep insight about fear and I believe you are spot on. It’s funny how animals like dogs can point us in the right direction! I actually think my husband is scared of strong emotions themselves and has low tolerance of distress. I think there is some kind of escape reaction, a fight/flight response and a need to lash out and get away. I don’t think this will be very easy for him to change without a dedicated practice where he explores this, and a therapist could be helpful. It really needs rewiring. At the same time, I also see how I get panicky myself very quickly because it triggers me when he becomes hostile and “blocks me out”, so to speak. So we get into a spiral of reacting to each other!

    in reply to: Negative conflict cycles #415658

    @Roberta – the hardest thing is that he fully agrees with me when we are both calm. He knows he should be more loving and gentle and not so armoured so quickly. But this hasn’t yet translated into a different kind of behaviour. He is not really helping himself with things like mindfulness… There are many practices out there that can help, but it’s always time, money, etc… You can guess all the reasons. He is not against reading the book at all, it’s just about carving out that time to read. I know he does tend to read something before bedtime so hopefully it’s won’t be much longer before he has a look at it.

    I’m currently reading Radical Compassion by Tara Brach and she also talks about loving kindness. The practice in her book is really good for tending to the self without relying on some external source.

    Our current house isn’t very big but there’s always some room I could go to – depending on what’s going on with our children. They’re both young and still need quite a lot of help. They sometimes see things getting out of hand sadly, and yes, it’s just words.

    in reply to: Negative conflict cycles #415657

    @Helcat – interesting that you mention abuse. I’m sorry to hear that by the way, it’s not easy at all to deal with such baggage in romantic relationships. It really makes me wonder about the root cause of our situation. I know that my husband has struggled with bullying as a child, and that applies to myself too. I also know that my husband has a toxic sister, who has a history lying, gaslighting, manipulation, etc… And they used to share a home all the way into their thirties. Neither of them wanted to move out! I think this has set up my husband with a very poor template of communication. Maybe it has conditioned him to respond in certain ways. He has had so many issues with his sister…
    You’re right, it does help with resilience when there is enough stability still. When arguments keep coming and going all the time we never return to a healthy baseline so things get out of hand more quickly. Some months are a lot worse for us than others.

    With our conflict styles, it’s typically my husband who will be unhappy/withdrawing and myself who is the pursuer, desperately trying to set things right and create a sense of harmony. This makes it extremely hard for me to walk away to pause a conflict, because I become very clingy when I sense this “threat”. I think my husband’s way of handling conflict triggers something visceral inside me that signals danger to me. I’d literally beg him to stay and “talk things out”. Unfortunately, this isn’t a very healthy approach either. I become so emotionally hyper-aroused that I can’t think straight to make decisions like “let’s take a break”, which are actually much better for us to work things out. I don’t like the fact that this always makes me act as though I’m indeed in the wrong. Sometimes my husband is not calm enough in the way he brings things up, even if he has the right to be discontent about something, and yet I still go on saying sorry. I think I’ve learnt to deal with it this way because going against him and standing up for myself doesn’t usually work well either. Somehow I’m just desperate for closeness.

    in reply to: Negative conflict cycles #415418

    Hi anita, sorry for seeing this so late! I hadn’t checked in a while.

    I finished the Nonviolent Communication book by Rosenberg a few weeks ago, it was very illuminating. The chapter about judgements made me realise just how much my husband passes around judgements and how moralistic he is (which, ironically, is a judgement in itself).

    To be honest, I don’t know how it’s really going. About half of all our days my husband gets unhappy or irritated about something with me. I’m really unhappy with how he expresses his needs and criticism and have urged him to read about Nonviolent Communication as well.

    The other day there was a rare instance where I was the one being unhappy about something he had done (regarding finances) and when I brought this up respectfully, he was quite agitated and defensive. It’s actually very uncommon that I bring up something “against” him, but on the occasion it does happen I don’t feel that he’s truly receptive.

    I’m quite anxious and worried about how this is going to progress. I have poured everything I can muster into this marriage to improve our dynamics and I don’t feel like it has had much effect… Maybe our temperaments just aren’t compatible. Our lives are very entangled and we are a multi-national family with kids, so even if we decided to end things at some point, it would get very complicated and long-winded to sort things out.

    It’s strange because when we are both calm, my husband does say it would be very sad if we had to leave each other. He doesn’t actively want it. It would be kind of like someone ending their own life not because they want to die, but because they see no way out of a situation…

    But he’s just such a different man when he is annoyed. I have asked him a few times to co-regulate when we were getting too agitated over something, to hold my hands and just breathe together, but he didn’t want to do that at all. And when I use the NC approach and try to observe and name his feelings/needs, he just gets annoyed by me. What can one do with such a partner? It makes me want to pull my hair out. There’s just no way to get through to him. Surely this isn’t “normal” in conflict…?

    in reply to: Sister takes long to respond to messages #415061

    Hi anita,

    Thank you for your message and it’s really interesting to hear this. Did your sister directly express this to you? (If I’m correct in my interpretation, these were her words, albeit translated.) It sounds like quite a painful thing to hear from someone in your family.

    It could be that my sister feels similar on some level. I fought quite a lot of internal battles over the years.

    I think you are right about not making the message too long, not too heavy. I have no idea what’s going on in her mind, so maybe her response will be very different from what I expect and she was just too afraid to communicate some things herself.

    in reply to: Sister takes long to respond to messages #415060

    Hi Helcat,

    Thank you for your message! I’d say the goal is both. I’d like a bit more contact and hear from her when things matter in the moment (rather than weeks/months after they happened – or through my parents, as usually happens nowadays). If she’s interested in this too, of course. I’m genuinely interested in her life.

    Thank you for your suggestions. Maybe it sounds silly but it actually really helps to get examples from someone else’s perspective. I think I will take a less direct approach first, so she knows I appreciate hearing from her, and if not much changes, I’ll just say it loud and clear (…that sounds more aggressive than I mean!).

    As for my response time, I hear what you’re saying, but I should clarify that I only take longer when messages are really long. When she sends shorter things, I almost always respond within 24 hours, such as after our New Year’s messages. I responded on the 1st of Jan and asked her how hers was, and I still haven’t heard back, while we’re already in February. (I truly don’t know how much about this is being busy and how much is about not truly being interested. If she wasn’t, I also don’t think she would tell the truth as she’s very non-confrontational.)

    I’ve realised that with me moving further away and the distancing over the pandemic, I’ve actually lost quite a few people in my life and maybe it just makes me value family members more.

    in reply to: Negative conflict cycles #411758

    Thank you Roberta. It really strikes me you mention this book – I have come across the title before, put it on a book list for later and now you remind me of it. I see this as a sign it will be the next book to start reading as I’ll need a new one soon anyway!

    in reply to: Negative conflict cycles #411757

    Thank you anita. I agree very much with everything you’ve said. My gut feeling has always been that my husband is too strong when he lashes out. We talked again this weekend and he does agree with me. Our main obstacle seems to be finding ways to effectuate this change. I’m also finding it tough to remain calm and we’re trying to practice with time-outs for 10-20 mins so that we can’t escalate so badly.

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