I am traveling this week, so I’d appreciate your prayers.
Question: The reoccurring theme over the last 3 years in my marriage has been that I have failed to communicate in a proper way or have been misunderstood, to the point where my husband's anger gets the best of him.
I'm not allowed to ask if we can take a step back when I realize that the conversation is getting too out of hand, because I am told that I am focused too much on his reaction and not enough on what he is saying I am doing wrong. I feel with each passing day the patience he has for me and my communication is diminishing. It feels as though he is already annoyed at me before I even open my mouth because he instantly assumes that every conversation will turn into a fight.
However, to me, it seems as though he gets annoyed every time I open my mouth. Even when I try to be calm and civil and don't react to his anger, trying to communicate in a better way, it is almost like I am not even being heard.
I'm treated more like a child than a wife, and I'm not sure what I can do. I don't exactly know where to go from here. I am really struggling and keep praying that I could just change my communication so the issues in my marriage would just get better, but things feel like they are just getting worse at this point. I really just need some guidance.
Answer: I’m sure you are more than confused and frustrated by all of this. Let’s take a step backward and look at the larger picture of your marital history which may lend some clarity to what’s happening in the present.
You said this has been happening over the last 3 years of your marriage. How long have you been married? How was your marriage different before these past 3 years? Was it better? Worse? What happened over the last three years that changed for you? For him? Or has this been the pattern in your marriage, and you’ve been married just 3 years?
If your previous marital history had good connection and communication together then it’s important to figure out what’s different now. For example, is it possible he might be having an affair that he’s hiding? An addiction? Aggressive, abusive behavior often starts while hiding something. The addict’s strategy is to distract and deflect, making you look like the aggressor for asking questions or challenging things, for example, how he spends time or money.
Is there something that has changed for you? For example, you’ve been more passive and accommodating in previous years of marriage but you no longer want to be that way, so you are asking more direct questions and refusing to be passive about things that bother you. Or perhaps he was more passive and accommodating and just went along with you before, but now he’s trying to stick up for himself, albeit in an unhealthy way? Or is it possible that he’s held a lot of resentment towards you for something in the past and it’s coming out sideways in hurtful, demeaning comments?
I’m going to give you two different pathways to consider going forward. The first one is if you’ve been married only 3 years, and this has been the typical pattern in your marriage. If that’s the case, then I’d encourage you to stop your side of the destructive dance you’re in with him. Instead of trying to explain, justify, argue, or defend, simply stop. You know the conversation is not going anywhere positive. You see it. It is destructive. Stopping means stopping your side of the dance and starting something different. For example, instead of arguing, or trying to justify or explain, you might say, “I agree with you. (Press pause for a bit until he realizes you’re saying something different.). “Our communication style is dysfunctional and destructive. It’s not just you who feels it. I feel it too. It’s not just you who is frustrated. I’m frustrated too. Where do we go from here because neither one of us is happy, neither one of us feels heard or valued.”
If you’re not able to say that directly because you already know he’ll just shut down or blow up, write it, send it in a text, put it on his pillow, or on his desk. See what happens next. Is he willing to hear you? Does it matter to him how you feel, or is it just about how he feels? Is working on your marriage something he’s willing to do? If not, then that gives you important information. Right now you have the opportunity to do your own work to heal and grow regardless of what he does. Doing that buys you some time to decide what you want to do regarding your marriage. Remember, when one person changes, the dance does change, although you’re not guaranteed a positive outcome.
If this destructive pattern is more recent, and previous marital history had mutual caring, reciprocity, and respect, then something has happened or is happening that hasn’t been talked about. After you’ve done your own soul searching, if you don’t think it’s you that’s changed, then you can say something like. “I see that we’re both unhappy here and can’t seem to be able to talk about anything together over the past 3 years. I don’t know what’s going on but we haven’t always been like this. We’ve had (how many years) of a pretty good marriage, at least from my perspective. Now it feels like you can’t stand me and everything I say is wrong. What’s going on? I haven’t changed but you have. What’s going on?”
Be careful. What’s going on may be something awful that he’s afraid to tell you about or has been hiding from you. He’s afraid of your reaction and/or ashamed. So, before you have this conversation with him, I’d encourage you to share your concerns with a trusted counselor, coach, pastor, or good friend so that you have your own support during the fallout. I’d also encourage you to pray, ask God to prepare your heart for anything and to anchor you in his truth so that your husband’s words don’t do more damage to you, even if they damage your marriage.
The Bible tells us, “As much as it depends on you, be at peace.” (Romans 12:18). God calls us to be peacemakers by initiating an honest conversation to define “what’s wrong” so that “what’s wrong” can be repaired. You don’t know if he’ll be honest with himself, or honest with you. But by doing your own work first, you’ll have peace that at the end of the day because you know you did what you could do, to bring more peace to your home and relationship. Yet, the Psalmist also cries out ”I search for peace, but when I speak of peace, they want war.” (Psalm 120:7).
You know your marriage is destructive. You have tried over and over again to talk about what he’s doing or what he’s saying. He blames you. Instead of repeating that same dance, talk about the pattern. “Before 3 years ago, we had this pattern, now we have a different pattern, what’s changed.” Or if this has always been the pattern, understanding the pattern is his way of maintaining control by keeping you confused, defensive, and blamed. You don’t have to take the bait anymore, now that you know what’s happening.
I’d encourage you to read the blog I Need Tools To Not React.
Friend, when you’ve found yourself in a destructive dance with someone, what did you do to change your own dance steps?
Ask Your Question
Have a blog question you'd like to submit?
Morning friends, Thanks for your prayers. I have returned from Cuba a bit more exhausted than I wanted but the trip was amazing. The people were wonderful. They were so teachable, so anxious to gain more knowledge and skill in dealing with destructive marriages (which are plenty in Cuba). The living conditions in Cuba are…
Morning Friend, It’s hard to believe that we are near the end of 2017. If you could make one change in yourself for 2018, one change that you would be most proud of, what would it be? This week’s question comes from a woman who isn’t seeing the change she needs to make quite yet….
Morning friends: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month as I’m sure most of you know. I thought you might want to watch and share a new video I’ve done around Five Common Mistakes People Helpers Make When Working With Couples in Destructive Marriages. Please pray for me,…