Talks too much, but is never heard...
December 26, 2010 1:16 PM Subscribe
How do I improve communication with my wife given a history of anger issues, bad assumption, and best of intentions on both sides?
posted by Koffeeman to Human Relations (50 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, here is the situation. Back in September, I had a mini-meltdown at work and decided to quit. I had twitching issues, an inability to sleep the night, and massive resentment issues that were leaking into all parts of my life. Previously, my wife had said that my quitting and us living on her income was not a problem. So I depended on that statement. Due to debt loads and badly defined roles (who is the homemaker? Does the other party have a right to be judgemental? How important are savings? etc.) After almost 6 weeks of detoxing and living with the single income, I had a mid-life crisis. Not instigated by age, but by my satisfaction with my life to that point. I decided that I was not happy with what I had, why I had it, and what I did both around and to myself. So I focused more on asking the questions of why is this upsetting me? What do I want? What am I willing to do to get it? Is this reasonable? If not, what is? for almost everything I have done or plan to do.
The situation is that the stress of loading the breadwinning on my wife fractured our relationship just as I am trying to fix over 12 years of my bad behavior. I want to be a better man. I want her to feel confident in trusting me and in telling me what she wants. I want her to listen to my needs and deliver what I need because I clearly stated what I needed. I am not saying she had to say yes, but that she is working from what I actually said. The roadblock here is she is extremely hostile to talking with me. We have at times seen therapists, both together and apart, mainly due to stress from work that oozed its way back into the rest of our lives. What I am dealing with is a need to find a new way now.
When I request time to sit down and discuss (meaning equal time and equal focus) with her, she will not commit to the time nor give me a time/date she will plan on. The reason driving my desire for this discussion is that when we communicate, I ususally end up feeling like she does not hear what I am saying but instead gains a different message (i.e. "We need 5 hours to make this recipe." gets heard as "Why haven't you stared on this?"). More often than not, I am not asking what she hears, but she operates from that point on what she "heard". This then leads to a response that does not match my needs. Whether it be the wrong item purchased at the store, to someone not being called ("I thought you said you were..."), this frustrates me. I feel I should be able to ask for help or information and depend on the response. She then often supplies additional information to me verbally to justify what she did (because this will defend her from my "inevitable" attack).
The important thing here is that she is right. Before I had my revelation, I would have instantly leapt into the fray with an attack. I have to admit I still have that impulse. But now, I want to do something different, something that benefits both the situation and us long term. I want to understand what she heard, why she heard what she did, and what I can do to be more correctly heard in the future. She just wants less to have to do, especially in her home life. Her job is stressful enough that she wants less drama in her life. As do I. What should I be doing, saying, (or not doing or saying) here to both help myself live with the frustration of the bad communication and encourage her to want to work on this? No alpha demanding and no "well, you should really divorce" garbage. I intend to stay married but I need to have help on new behaviors. Suggestions? Books I should be reading for more in depth advice? Thanks.