You should see my house. Boxes everywhere. Piles everywhere. We are having our CONQUER conference VERY SOON and I have two houseguests. I know they will understand but a girl sort of likes her house to look pretty when she has guests. NOT this time.
But the good news is we have an amazing turn out for our CONQUER Conference. And, it’s not TOO late for you to sign up. We have close to 600 women attending and it is just a week away. I promise it is going to be one of the best women’s conferences you have ever been to. You will be loved, nourished, encouraged, prayed for, and blessed – plus fed very well. I hope you can come. Click here to register.
I spoke at Bethany Wesleyan Church this past weekend on Destructive Relationships. First time EVER speaking on this topic on a Sunday morning church service. Brave pastor. Write him a note telling him how great it was that he put this right out front. Thought you might like to watch it. https://vimeo.com/185231406
CONQUER registration is open from October 5-October 8th. If you are interested in being a part of this amazing support group click here.
Today’s Question: My question involves a scenario that has been happening for 30 years in my marriage. When I approach my husband to discuss any form of concern or issue, if he does not agree that there is a valid issue he becomes extremely defensive, accusatory, and denies the need to discuss anything. He then does his best to start an argument claiming that I am trying to force him to agree with me. The original issue I was hoping to discuss falls to the ground and never gets dealt with.
In other words, in my husband’s mind, he must agree that the issue is valid. If in his mind the issue is not valid then there is zero discussion (except for a major conflict erupting – he yells and denies whatever the issue is; for years I literally thought I was going insane and it turns into this ridiculous power struggle in his mind).
He then attempts to engage me in an argument about whether what I'm saying is even accurate or true. It is frustration times 10, and many issues don't get discussed and cannot be addressed and dealt with because of this crazy cycle.
I want to take responsibility for my portion of this but I'm not even sure what that is. I only know I feel frustrated and invalidated and not heard or valued. Any insight or suggestions or tools you could offer would be deeply appreciated.
Answer: This has been happening for 30 years, over and over again, the same song different verse. What I mean by that is no matter what the “issue” the pattern remains the same. You approach with a concern or issue to discuss. He is the judge on whether or not it is a valid issue. If he deems it is not, then for you to push or continue the conversation he flips out in a variety of ways. Most of the time it works, you back off and the conversation is over. Nothing gets resolved but it feels like he wins and you lose. If you continue to press on, then a huge argument ensues where his strategy then is to undermine your confidence in the validity of your concerns. What happens then is instead of talking about the issue anymore, you are now defending your own mental health and character. Yep, it’s the crazy cycle.
But you said, “I want to take responsibility for my portion, but I’m not sure what that is.” Your part of the crazy cycle is doing the same thing over and over again (trying to have a normal reasonable conversation) with someone who does not want to have that kind of conversation. You know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again hoping for different results. It’s time for you to change your own dance steps dear.
You didn’t give me any “for example’s” at the end of your question so I’m just going to make something up so we can visualize the changes you must make. Let’s say one concern for you is that you think that the bedroom needs painting. Or pick another issue, for example, you think you need to save more for retirement, or put the kids in Christian school, or watch less television, or work fewer hours or talk nicer to you, whatever it is. He doesn’t want to discuss it because for him the issue is invalid, the bedroom does not need to be painted, he doesn’t talk harshly to you, etc. If you push he says, “you’re trying to get me to agree with you that the bedroom NEEDS painting and I don’t agree.” If you push some more it gets ugly.
Here are some new dance steps you might want to try. I don’t guarantee they will give better results, but at least you will stop your part of the crazy dance cycle AND you will gain some new insights into the pattern itself.
Step 1: Present your concerns differently. Instead of saying “We need to paint the bedroom” or “the bedroom needs painting” or “we need to talk about your work schedule” say “I want to paint the bedroom” or “I want the bedroom painted.” Or “I want you to be home earlier at night.” Or “I don’t like the way you talk to me.” Do you hear the difference?
It’s much harder to argue with what you want than what “we need to do or what he needs to do.” He may still respond with his part of the dance by saying, “The bedroom doesn’t need painting.” But now you have a new statement. Now you say back, “that’s not the issue, I would like to have it painted anyway,” “I’m tired of this color,” or “it looks worn to me.”
Step 2: If he says, “It doesn’t look that way to me,” your next statement is, “Are you saying that what I want/need/feel/ doesn’t matter to you?” Because from what you wrote, that sounds like the deeper, more root issue to what’s going on here. At least that’s what you sense it is. So the only way to get confirmation of that is to go there.
Step 3: But in fairness to him, (go back to other conversations over the past 30 years where you have expressed your wants directly. For example, perhaps you’ve said, “I want pizza for dinner tonight.” Or “I want to see this movie soon.” Or “I want these earrings for Christmas.”
Does your husband hear what you would like to happen or is important to you? Are there times he does try to please you or make you happy? If so, then it might not be that you are not important or valued, but it might be he has a lot of internal resistance to being directed on what he should do from you.
Some people are naturally contrary when it comes to taking directions or suggestions from others. They are not easy to live with because living successfully together requires both people to give up much of their natural self-centered orientation.
Step 4: When you present an “issue” to him, if he is this kind of person, it’s critical how you present it. When you say “I have a problem I’d like to talk with you about” rather than “We have a problem, or worse yet, “You have a problem I’d like to talk with you about.” How does that land? Is there still resistance and defensiveness? Is there an interest in “your problem” or still an unwillingness to hear you?
For example, if you said, “I have a problem with how late you come home every night, I know you work hard but the kids need you and I need a break,” is his response any different than if you said, “You have a problem, you’re a workaholic?” If not, then the deeper issue isn’t the inability to solve problems together. Instead, the problem is his indifference. What you want or how you feel doesn’t matter to him. As long as things are good for him, there is NO problem in his mind, even if you feel differently.
You may find my recent Facebook Live talk on indifference helpful to you. Click here to see the Facebook Live Emotional Abuse video
On the other hand, he may be a highly defensive, and easily feels shame (not your fault, but it is where he’s at right now), and when you imply that he has a problem, or he IS the problem, he just can’t or won’t hear it. It threatens his own picture of himself to sense that you are unhappy with him for any reason.
Some men that I’ve worked with who have this problem are all or nothing, black and white thinkers. They think along these lines: If she says she doesn’t like something I do, or that I did something wrong, that means she doesn't like me and I can’t bear to hear that so I shut her down. It’s just too painful and I won’t go there.
Therefore the crazy dance begins where he makes it about you. You’re crazy, unreasonable, unrealistic, not seeing things correctly. Your part is that you start dancing your crazy dance steps by defending yourself and arguing with him and guess what? The conversation is no longer about the issue but about you. It works well, but it doesn’t lead to resolution or a problem or a better relationship.
Step 5: If trying the earlier changes doesn’t make a difference, try talking about the issues in writing via e-mail. Perhaps giving him some space to read your concerns without having to respond right away may help him be more reasonable and less defensive. It’s also important for you to add, “just because it’s not a problem for you, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for me.” Or “I'm different than you are. Just because this doesn't bother you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me.”
Sadly some men (and women) think that their spouse is supposed to think, feel and want, exactly what he or she thinks, feels and wants. That's not possible, but again it’s the lie they believe which keeps them stuck in the crazy cycle (Click to tweet).
As you insert your individuality without being shaming or punitive of his, perhaps he can create some space to hear you. And, if not at least you are not participating in the crazy dance.
But if nothing changes with your ability to resolve important issues or communicate your feelings and needs to him…..what does that mean for you? And for your marriage?
Friends: When you recognized you were in the crazy dance, what steps did you take to stop and dance different steps? Were they effective in opening up a different dialogue?
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