What's a nicer way to say "BUTT OUT"?
May 6, 2011 9:01 AM Subscribe
My husband is critical, I'm defensive, we fight. What are some tricks for defusing situations like this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
My husband is a great guy, and we have a good relationship. But he is also very particular about certain things, and inclined to be vocally critical or negative, which is his family-of-origin's standard dynamic. I'm not picky about my surroundings (in fact, am kind of absentminded), and came from a family with pretty intense conventions of positivity and civility in everyday discourse. In practice, this means that he tends to carp about small things (some of which are legit, some not). I, in turn, tend to roll with it for one or two rounds, then blow up from the accumulated stress of feeling generally over-regulated and disrespected.
Just an example of the completely mundane level of stuff we're talking about, on the average morning:
Him: Hey, where did you hide* those diaper trash bags?
Me: [*noting diction] They're under the changing table.
Him (aggrieved): These dishes are clean, and the sign's not turned!
Me: Aggh, sorry, I was in a hurry and forgot. I'll try not to do it again.
Him: Hey, looks like somebody left the knife out again.
Me: [simmer, think about how knife got left out because I was rushing to get his eggs on the table, because he doesn't like them cold, and would it kill him to just pick the knife up and clean it himself?]
Him: Why did you serve those new bananas with breakfast? There were some strawberries on the verge of expiration in the fridge. We should be practicing stock rotation.
Me: GRAAAAR REASONS FIGHTYFIGHT
We've had plenty of discussions about this, and the general upshot is that he feels he needs to vent his real annoyance when he notices something not to his satisfaction, and I resent both his presuming to complain about so many things, and his frequent implication that whatever's amiss is somehow my fault. Global negotiations are ongoing, but for now I would mostly like input on how I can manage these kinds of day-to-day interactions in a peaceful and respectful way. We've got a young daughter, and I'm sure it's stressful for her when I end up responding angrily to her dad's criticisms. On the other hand, I feel as though just passively accepting them might give her the impression that it's a husband's right to correct his wife, or that she should also feel free to police and critique my behavior.
Can anybody suggest a firm, brief and civil way for me to respond when I feel as though the tone is getting overly critical? I'm looking for something that doesn't foreclose the possibility of my having actually made the mistake in question, but also makes it clear that I find the tone or the fact of the objection problematic-- and ideally, something that would "flag" the interaction without necessarily provoking a brawl or making him feel accused. "Mind your own business" or "what's it to you?" is the general sense I'm looking for, but those are obviously pretty disrespectful and non-family-friendly in themselves.
Simply explaining myself or responding to the specific criticism doesn't work, because invariably he then feels he needs to explain why I did do it wrong and he was right to point it out, and then I respond, and hello, argument-in-front-of-small-child. Ideas? How can I stand up for myself while still keeping the peace?