My husband doesn't understand me or listen to me at all. He's constantly making assumptions about what I am saying that are way off and then that leads to fighting...I'm exhausted trying to get him to see my side and so I'm just avoiding him. I don't even think he's noticed, that's probably a bad sign, right?
It's a terrible sign.
We often talk about having 4 people in the room during intensive couples therapy retreats: you and the partner in your head, and he and the partner in his head.
It sounds like he's pretty clear about the woman he married. Unfortunately, it's not you.
I learned many years ago that "to assume makes an ASS out of U and ME."
Your first step is to stop fighting about his assumptions. In fact, sympathize with the negative stereotypes he's describing:
"Wow! You poor guy! What a witch! If I had a wife like that, I'd divorce her!"
Help him to see that what he says is true, it's just not true of you. It's what he calls his "introject." You can't fight it, so don't.
Calm down and wait for him to run with all of his assumptions. Listen carefully and even take notes. Then when he is finished, confirm that he believes everything he is saying about you. Then calmly ask him if he is interested in what you ACTUALLY think.
If he says no, and sticks to his own assumptions, don't fight. But tell him he's got a big problem on his hands. The problem is that he can't listen to you, and so you're going to stop talking. And when women stop talking to their husbands, they start talking to other people.
Then they start spending more time with other people.
Then they look forward to sharing good news and bad with other people.
Then they make other life plans independently.
Then they maintain separate, parallel lives.
Then they leave, if they don't get help.
Professionals call it the "Walk Away Wife Syndrome."
Don't let it go that far. Tell him about the Walk Away Wife and ask him if that's what he wants to happen to his marriage.
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Thank you for sharing this information, Dr. Kathy! I believe that couple counseling is crucial because it gives a realistic image with definite outcomes, one way or another. In addition, the advice, emotional delving, and heart-opening dialogues allow couples to comprehend each other’s concerns, which will contribute to the continuance of the marriage or if different paths are the way to go.
You are welcome, Iris. The capacity to go deep is one of the most rewarding elements of an intimate relationship.