My husband gets angry if I disagree with him. He argues with me about every point I try to make and refuses to listen. I want a happy marriage and to stay calm. However, if I can't express my feelings or discuss the issues I want to talk about, how is that a good marriage? My husband feels like I'm trying to start a fight when I bring topics up, which I'm not.
I honestly feel like his body language communicates he's not interested. My husband claims that it is better not to talk, and that will resolve it. I don't think so.
What can I do?
It can be challenging and frustrating when your spouse constantly disagrees with everything you say. Here are some suggestions for addressing this issue head-on:
Set the context
Let him know that you are distressed by the way you talk to each other. Tell him you would like to change and want his help. Use "I" statements to describe how his constant disagreement makes you feel. Encourage him to share his perspective.
Express your concerns calmly and assertively, and walk away if things escalate.
Accept that you both have valid opinions
Often when couples talk, they are trying to influence or persuade each other. You cannot do that right off the bat. If he feels you are picking a fight and you think he is, end the stalemate. Begin by asking him to "say more" when you disagree.
Try listening to him without interruption. Let him express his point of view before you speak. Ask thoughtful questions, and learn more about his point of view. Remember, understanding isn't agreement.
Practice active listening skills when engaging in conversations. Pay attention to your husband's words, tone, and nonverbal cues. Show genuine interest and reflect back on what he says to demonstrate understanding and validate his perspective.
Stop talking when either of you becomes flooded.
This happens when either of your heart rates exceeds 100 beats a minute (85 for athletes). Learn to recognize when you or he are flooded.
He might raise his voice, his face might turn red, or he might turn away and refuse to look at you. Take a 20-30 minute break when this happens. Nothing constructive comes from a conversation with one or both flooded partners.
Learning how to disagree is both an art and a science. We teach this to our couples in science-based private retreats. Gottman's research on couples revealed that anger is not the problem in marriages. What matters is the way anger is expressed.
The first rule is to be respectful and agree that name-calling and insults have no place in a loving marriage. Insulting your opinions ("That's nonsense!") or you ("Are you an idiot? How can you believe that?") is out of bounds.
If you can't agree to these boundaries see a professional.
Reflect on not only what you say but how you say it. While it may be easier to see problems in your partner, start with yourself.
Consider how and when do you bring up topics and avoid these times:
- When one or both of you are tired, hungry, or irritated.
- When you are both weary and wary after arguing earlier.
- When you don't have time to spend on it.
- When one or both of you have had any alcohol or drugs.
Express your own thoughts and opinions clearly and respectfully. Avoid being overly confrontational or dismissive of your husband's ideas, as this can escalate conflicts.
Seek understanding, not agreement
Ask open-ended questions to get him talking. Look for common ground and address any underlying issues. It shows goodwill and positive intentions.
Highlight your common interests and goals to foster teamwork. Emphasize the importance of finding solutions that benefit both of you rather than focusing solely on individual perspectives.
Focus on problem-solving when possible
Give up trying to win arguments. Ask "how, when, and where" questions that help you problem-solve. Avoid "why" questions that often can't be answered, anyway.
Focus on finding practical solutions first. It will give you both a sense of accomplishment and togetherness. The science of couples therapy has found that 69% of disagreements are perpetual, so stop trying to solve those. Instead, focus on the 31% that do have solutions. Find small wins and look for opportunities for growth and understanding rather than competition.
Explore the underlying issues
Inappropriate anger in men can often be a symptom of deeper underlying issues, including depression and a feeling of vulnerability.
Notice what triggers his anger and explore whether there are unresolved conflicts, unmet needs, or other factors contributing to his reactivity. Understanding the root causes can help address the issue more effectively.
Safety first and always
Remember, it's imperative to prioritize your own well-being and safety in any relationship. If you feel unsafe or if your husband's anger escalates to a point where it becomes a concern, consider developing a safety plan. This may involve identifying a safe place to go and keeping sensitive documents in a secure location. It may also involve reaching out to local resources for assistance and support.
Seek professional help
If your husband's anger continues to escalate or it becomes difficult to address the issue on your own, consider seeking professional help. Verbal aggression is problematic and should be stopped. A couples therapist or counselor can provide guidance, support, and tools to improve communication and manage conflict more effectively.
Remember, resolving this issue may take time, patience, and effort from both partners. It's a must to maintain a respectful and empathetic approach, even when disagreements arise.
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