You are the type of person who appreciates a good discussion to resolve problems (emotional or logistical).
And, as the world would have it, you married someone who does nearly anything to avoid conflict. You may not understand why your spouse keeps blocking you out and you think this “avoiding stuff” is now getting out of hand. We want to give you some strategies and ways to rethink your marriage.
While we don’t know you and your spouse, here are some things you can audit about yourself to get a broader sense check on your personality type.
Do your friends find you brash or embarrassing – like you’re the one who has no problem being hyper-critical to servers or customer service staff if things go wrong?
Have you ever found you get in more drama at work than most because you’ve got a strong work ethic and need everyone to do their fair share?
Were you able to speak up growing up with your parents, sharing what you liked and didn’t like that was going on?
These are just a few ways we are shaped, or shape our surroundings based on our personality. You may resonate more with your spouse here being too passive in all those settings and seeing the downside. That’s okay. But hopefully you can also see you’re not necessarily the most stress-free person to be around and others may feel you are “too hot” around unimportant things.
Unsure about your marriage counselor?
Now to your marriage.
One of the most important, but underdiscussed skills in married life is timing and how to “land” your words towards something “hot”, potentially conflict creating.
This skill is actually important for managers and customer service people in dealing with irate customers and many other scenarios.
Let’s put it this way: if nearly 100% of the time, the way you approach your spouse leads to negativity, and it’s already very clear they are “hyper sensitive” in your eyes, to conflict, then what you’re doing now isn’t working. There are other ways and they require YOU making shifts while listening to your spouse, not from a place of irritation, but from respect and curiosity about how their brains work best when receiving unpleasant information.
The following are questions to ask yourself or your spouse, outside any conflict, with the idea being that YOU want to be a better spouse and you're open to learning a better approach.
You need to be clear headed now reading this list, and both you and your spouse need to be in a calm, easy state of mind if you’re going to have these conversations. Any whiff of the last fight coming into this may be stepping on a hot firecracker.
What would happen if I gave more time between when I’m feeling a negative emotion and when I spoke up about it?
For example, if your body has a fast-cold cycle that lasts 10 minutes, would waiting til minute 11 help you potentially be a calmer spouse.
How many conflicts that I create are really, if I’m super honest with myself, stupid things I could stop engaging in?
Here you’re looking at taking responsibility for any potential “naggy” personality you have and seeing where just shutting your mouth would have a huge, positive impact on your marriage.
How often do I find myself picking a fight because otherwise I can’t seem to get my spouses time or attention?
This is really common but creates a self-fulfilling dilemma that if you’re fairly “dangerous” to your spouse, they may be trying hard to avoid any intensity with you which can make you feel lonely.
Do I know how my spouse's brain works when it comes to potential conflict?
Is she or he someone that can “latch on” to something if it’s approached in a certain way? Is there a time of day or manner, like a text first, that helps my partner be more open to a topic?
Hint: you may not know and they may not know. These are some of the conversations that therapists bring to light that can create breakthroughs for couples.
Do I modulate what matters to me or do I tend to “blast” my spouse for the small stuff the same as the “big stuff?”
It’s important to also ask how your spouse would respond to this because you may feel different inside, but you may be reacting identically to a dirty spoon on the counter as you do discussing a trip your spouse bought that you can’t afford and puts you over the edge.
Is my spouse ever useful to me when we get through conflict? If I’m honest with myself, do they have a way of approaching topics, thinking things through, that really do help the situation? If so, what is blocking me from allowing them the space to engage “their way” when I’m feeling a conflict laden topic?
That should be a good enough start!
We know that you may be entirely convinced your spouse would just assume never engage in anything real or serious, but we can assure you that is extremely unlikely. What we find in the therapy room is often a very thoughtful spouse, with a huge range of ideas, emotions and beliefs about what’s going on in the marriage, with you, and when those get “air time”, often a spouse in your shoes is forced to rethink long-held, painful assumptions that are simply not true.
It’s very easy to decide how someone else is. The real challenge, and the real growth, is to admit you clearly don’t get it and be open to listening and owning things you do or say, or your timing or style of approaching topics, that never get you a simple, clean resolution. And if that is your goal, which is ought to be, this post hopefully moves the need a bit into that direction.