December 9, 2022 at 10:40 am #411543I really dislike my husband’s conflict style and emotional disconnection from me and don’t know what to do. When something (or rather, me) gets on his nerves, he tends to lash out without much warning. He just doesn’t stay calm in these moments. He says he gives warning signals, but often I struggle to catch and act upon them in time (I have ADD). I should also add that he struggles with burnout in different areas – work-related, parental and relationship burnout. He feels he doesn’t get enough time to practice basic self-care. His job doesn’t give him any satisfaction and demands a lot of him, then our oldest child is very attached to him and struggles to leave his side. We don’t have a support network of family and friends. My husband often brings up that he feels unsupported (by me and in general) and needs me to step up more, which I have been doing a lot more recently. I’m more “relaxed” about chores than him, so there are some personality differences and I try everything in my power to respect him and take it seriously. Despite this, I don’t feel that much progress has been made in our relationship… He remains too attacking around other issues.What might be the thing I find most difficult is his conflict style, which is based upon sarcasm and hostility. It doesn’t help that he is often already stressed because of other things, which exacerbates it all. Basically, when we have conflict it’s typically a situation where my husband complains or has a criticism directed at me – which is not unreasonable in itself – but it’s the way he expresses himself that makes me feel hurt and unsafe emotionally. It’s also very often something ABOUT me or how I express myself, like that I’m too stressed or heightened and triggering him, even though my stress has nothing to do with him – sometimes I just have intense emotions about something we discuss. We rarely have arguments about substantial themes and instead it’s conflict about how we communicate rather than a specific issue. When I communicate this to him, it’s just leads to further despair on his end and him feeling unheard. He already feels so frustrated that he doesn’t have any capacity to show compassion. The pain I feel during these “arguments” make it really hard to step away and not become emotionally reactive myself, so I just become part of this communication problem! My husband does acknowledge his part and he apologises, but this never leads to change in the future.My husband feels there has been a severed emotional connection between us for a long time. The problem is that he never seems able to reconnect. Personally I have a strong sense of goodwill and I’m always eager to repair and get intimate again, but my husband stays withdrawn for a while, not wanting sex and such. When he does get more affectionate again, it still feels a bit lacklustre, like it’s never 100%. I miss proper affection and intimacy in our lives, whether it’s kissing, using pet names or expressing feelings of love. If it was up to me I’d kiss him again today, but he doesn’t feel close enough to do that and even when there is progress, something ends up rupturing his feelings again before we finally get there! I can see this spiral going on indefinitely and I’m at my wits’ end. This has become a long-term issue. He doesn’t seem to be in a position where he can foster feelings of romance. I’m trying to help, but it feels like I’m running out of ways to nurture this in him. At the end of the day, it needs to come from himself… We can hardly communicate about anything stressful without him feeling like he needs to get away from me. He also feels like these communication issues ruin the rest of his day once they happen. This has led to a lot of doubt on my part how “bad” I really get, since I’m very much nonviolent in how I open up, but I do sometimes feel like I’m a bit highly strong and nervous. But I don’t go around abreacting or being petty on purpose, so it’s very upsetting that I still affect my husband so negatively. We just feel like we don’t have a way to stop it for good! Neither of us have laidback personalities.Thank you for anyone was has been reading this, I appreciate it.December 9, 2022 at 1:16 pm #411574AnonymousGuest
“When something (or rather, me) gets on his nerves, he tends to lash out without much warning… He says he gives warning signals“- it is not okay for him to lash out at you (or at his children or at anyone else) with or without warning, no matter how stressed he is. He will need to STOP lashing out, to stop automatically reacting this way, and instead, to pause and respond differently.
“He feels he doesn’t get enough time to practice basic self-care“- he’ll need to find the time.
“It’s also very often something ABOUT me or how I express myself, like that I’m too stressed or heightened and triggering him, even though my stress has nothing to do with him – sometimes I just have intense emotions about something we discuss… I do sometimes feel like I’m a bit highly strong and nervous… Neither of us have laidback personalities“- on your part, you will need to keep yourself as calm as possible and/ or to appear as calm as possible when you are around him, because your heightened stress exacerbates his (and the other way around). I don’t mean that you should walk-on-eggshells, as the saying goes, but practice reasonable self-control over the expressions of your intense emotions, nervousness and heightened stress. He needs to do the same.
“I miss proper affection and intimacy in our live“- one thing at a time, I say: first, attend to what I mentioned above. The STESS LEVEL between the two of you has to significantly come down (freeze that fire, so to speak, frozen fire flies), only then there will be a space for affection and intimacy.
Please let me know what you think of my reply, and if you would like, we can talk further.
anitaDecember 10, 2022 at 11:59 am #411680RobertaParticipant
Sorry to hear that you and your husband are struggling to connect in a peaceful & positive way. Marshall Rosenberg has written books on non violent communication maybe you could get 2 copies of one of his books that appeals to both of you and then you could both work together & separately, this way it is more of a joint exploring journey. Thich nat han’s book Silence is also a good read.
RobertaDecember 12, 2022 at 6:30 am #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.December 12, 2022 at 6:35 am #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!December 12, 2022 at 7:50 am #411762AnonymousGuest
You are welcome. “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“-
– there are different online resources in regard to anger management in a marriage. , one of which is the marriage foundation. org/ anger and resentment in marriage. What got my attention here (which I like) is the comparison between anger at one’s spouse and anger at one’s child. It reads in part: “When your children are angry for silly reasons, (e.g. you cut their sandwich the wrong way, or you won’t let them eat dirt, etc.) do you feel like it is ruining your family? Does their anger ruin your day, cause you to resent them, or to close off your heart to them? No, of course not. You simply deal with them lovingly as they work through their own issues…
“Your job (with your husband) is to be loving. Not a teacher or a disciplinarian as you are with your children. Your role is to understand and support your spouse while they are suffering from and working through their own issue… All criticism, negativity, nagging, and expectations from your side should be non-existent. Only positive and loving words should be expressed, but never to reinforce bad behavior.”
anitaDecember 19, 2022 at 2:11 pm #412177AnonymousGuest
How are you, frozenfireflies?
anitaFebruary 15, 2023 at 3:38 am #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…?February 15, 2023 at 5:16 am #415423HelcatParticipant
Unfortunately, Anita has chosen to leave the forum. I’m not sure if she will return.
Your thread reminds me of arguments that I’ve had with my husband.
Common themes, criticism, feeling unheard and the difficulty with compassion and empathy. Feeling hurt during disagreements.
For us, we both have previous histories of abuse. Having disagreements is a trigger for us.
It has been particularly hard for my husband to stop raising his voice because his family culture is quite loud. It’s been quite a long journey before he was able to make headway.
It’s unique because difficulties with verbal abuse which sarcasm, hostility and criticism can fall under are very common in society.
It’s sounds like you are trying very hard to help him change his behaviour. It sounds like he feels defensive when that occurs during arguments.
It is easy to feel blamed on both sides when someone critiques our personality or behaviour. You expressed feeling this too.
I was researching somewhere about this issue for myself and I read that these behaviours only stop when we refuse to interact with them.
This is actually what calmed things down and helped with my husband. When things start to get heated I just say we can talk about this later when we’re both feeling calmer and walk away for a time. I don’t ignore him. I just do something else in the house and wait until we’re both feeling calm enough and ready to talk.
Frequency of arguments is really important too. Too frequent and it is hard to recover. Calm times are needed. This might especially be important for someone such as your husband who feels overwhelmed a lot. Is he the one that often initiates arguments?
It helped him to understand that my intense fear of raised voices is because of my previous abuse. Instead of feeling like I was afraid of him he began to understand that I was afraid of the memories raising his voice triggered.
Another thing that helped is trying really hard to manage my own behaviour. That way he didn’t feel like he was the only one with issues to work on. We did it as a team together. I have pain issues and can get argumentative when I’m in pain because it distracts me from it. By noticing when that I’m in pain after physical activity and just not talking during or afterwards I was able to cut down on arguing. Now, there is no talking we just relax and watch tv then.
I wonder if there are any common times arguments occur for you both?
You mentioned that your husband finds it difficult when you are emotional. This doesn’t mean you need to change who you are or suppress your emotions. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with being emotional. But perhaps helpful habits to help with this can be developed since he expressed difficulty with his own emotions when this occurs?
I hope you don’t mind me using that as an example.
Communicating needs can be helpful too. It seems that chores are something he complains about. It’s good that you have been trying really hard. It’s difficult when people have different standards. “Could you please do X?” instead of a disagreement I would imagine could be helpful to you.
This could be framed as “I find it helpful when you remind me to do something because I forget when I’m busy. When there is something you would like me to do could please remind me… Insert your name did you remember to do X?
Again this is just an example. Please let me know if any of this is helpful or unhelpful. I’m not trying to blame anyone, just share what helped us.
I’m sorry to hear that there are difficulties with intimacy. It’s a challenging situation that you are in.February 15, 2023 at 1:16 pm #415432RobertaParticipant
It is hard when only one person in a partnership is willing to try and make things easier, peaceful & intimate.
Do you have a quiet space that you can go to so that when things look like they are about to kick off , you can calmly say that you are going to take a short time out and if he wishes to spend a bit of quiet time too he is welcome to join you. If you can do a loving kindness meditation ( loads on youtube) it will help manage the discursive ruminative thoughts from disrupting your quiet time. On returning maybe make both of you a cuppa and maybe a gentle stroke on the back will signal to him that you are now calm and open. Hopefully he will mirror your attitude. Also try leaving the non violent communication book in the toilet and he might just pick it up out of curiosity. Do your children witness his outbursts and are they confined to being verbal?
wishing you all the best
RobertaFebruary 16, 2023 at 10:20 am #415473AnonymousInactive
I wasn’t able to reply to you before today.
When he is angry: “The chapter about judgements made me realise just how much my husband passes around judgements and how moralistic he is… About half of all our days my husband gets unhappy or irritated about something with me… There’s just no way to get through to him“.
When he is calm: “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“.
It is indeed as if he sees no other way when he feels threatened, no way other than getting angry the way he does. I think that fear precedes his anger. I am hearing the neighbors’ dog Kooper barking this very moment, and I am thinking of dogs: how fear and anger interact.. they approach a threat (a potential invader into their yard, let’s say), bark at the threat, looking threatening, and then they retract their steps, fearful.. then approaching and barking again.
Your husband is afraid of something. What is he afraid of, do you know?
anitaFebruary 17, 2023 at 4:25 am #415518TeeParticipant
when we have conflict it’s typically a situation where my husband complains or has a criticism directed at me – which is not unreasonable in itself – but it’s the way he expresses himself that makes me feel hurt and unsafe emotionally. It’s also very often something ABOUT me or how I express myself, like that I’m too stressed or heightened and triggering him, even though my stress has nothing to do with him – sometimes I just have intense emotions about something we discuss.
About half of all our days my husband gets unhappy or irritated about something with me.
It seems to me that your husband is very critical of you, and often blames you for no good reason, i.e. that he has a tendency to relieve his stress on you. It seems you’re his scapegoat and he feels entitled to get upset with you and scorn you whenever he pleases. His criticism doesn’t seem like constructive criticism, but just his bitterness about life that he dumps on you.
I think you shouldn’t allow such treatment any more. But it could be that you do allow it because you feel you do partially deserve it (my husband complains or has a criticism directed at me – which is not unreasonable in itself)?
Even if his criticism is sometimes “reasonable”, there is a loving and respectful way to express what bothers him, which isn’t based upon sarcasm and hostility.
I think that probably you need to be more assertive and tell him that you won’t allow to be treated like that because it hurts you. And that when he starts treating you like that (yelling at you, dumping his anger and frustration at you, putting you down), that you will leave the room, or something like that. You shouldn’t be taking his verbal abuse and hostility any more. I think you should protect yourself from it.February 20, 2023 at 3:59 am #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.February 20, 2023 at 4:10 am #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.February 20, 2023 at 4:17 am #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!