I wonder if you can relate to this scenario?
On your way home, you think about how you’re looking forward to reconnecting with your husband. You walk through the door and start dinner, pretty soon you hear him in the garage. You greet each other with a hug and kiss, enjoy small talk about your days over dinner with the kids, and work together to get your little ones to bed.
…a moment to really talk to each other. You’ve been thinking about the decision you need to make and bring up the topic. It starts out okay, but you notice your husband being kind of quiet and you start feeling frustrated and unheard. You are trying so hard to communicate carefully and clearly, but you can feel the tension in your chest. Without realizing it you begin to raise your voice and there is a tone of irritation in your words. Your husband seems to be avoiding questions and suddenly comes up with a reason to exit the room. You are left feeling angry and alone.
What just happened? Why does this always seem to happen?
It is important to address these questions. Many times in our communication with a spouse, there are underlying feelings that come up, but not quite up to the surface. Your husband or wife isn’t aware of the other’s feelings and often you are not aware of your own feelings. In these situations, people usually describe how we feel as “angry.”
Let’s look at what happened.
If we take a deeper look at this situation, the wife might be able to realize that she was feeling scared and alone. The husband may have been feeling fearful of conflict or unsure of the right decision. As the wife’s voice raised or became more irritated, he suddenly feels like he’s doing something wrong and doesn’t want to make it worse, so he exits. Often he’s trying not to have a conflict. He may be trying not to say something he’ll regret. He’s rarely trying to reject or ignore his wife, although that’s often how his actions are interpreted.
On the other side, the wife wasn’t necessarily angry, she just wanted to connect and work on their decision together. Her voice was rising because she didn’t feel heard and desperately wanted her husband to engage. She wants to share her heart and wants to hear his, when this isn’t happening, she gets panicked and starts reacting.
All couples have a pattern that often happens in conflict.
This might not be the exact pattern that happens in your home. There might be different underlying feelings. The discussion could end up being much more like a full-blown fight or it could get cut off before it barely has a chance to start. If you feel like you’re struggling to get your spouse to listen to you or have important conversations, try talking about that. Ask gentle questions about how he was feeling when you were talking or how you can approach him differently to make the conversation more inviting. Focus on understanding, not on defending yourself. Say you’re sorry for the behavior that hurt him. Ask him to let you know how he’s feeling next time, instead of walking away.
Try to remember that his quietness or walking away is often to avoid conflict because he doesn’t want to hurt you or make the situation worse. Remind him that your raised voice is more panic about needing him and not feeling connected, then it is about being angry. If you both remember this, it will help him to stay more engaged and help her to soften her approach. This takes a lot of work, and is just the beginning of feeling more connected and becoming healthier. Often professional counseling is necessary. Please contact me to find out more about couples counseling if you would like to work on your marriage.