Is my partner's shouting unusual?
February 18, 2013 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I have a good husband who treats me well. But he shouts in arguments every once in a while -- once every couple of months, maybe -- and I don't have a good sense of whether I'm overreacting to this. I'm curious: Is there an appropriate way to shout in an argument or is it always inappropriate? And do you or your spouse shout?

To be more specific, my husband never belittles me, calls me names or uses profanity. But he raises his voice to a bellow that the neighbors can probably hear (we live in an apartment) and that I find unsettling. The words themselves are your average fighting words -- "Jesus Christ, you refuse to just drop it," "No, I don't understand why that would be upsetting," etcetera.

The outburst usually comes when he feels that I keep pressing a point or trying to explain my point of view -- sometimes that comes after an hour of discussion; sometimes, it's after a minute or two. I, meanwhile, feel myself pressing a point or trying to explain my point of view because I can't tell if he's understanding or listening to what I'm saying.

Anyway, I go very quiet when he shouts, and the fight ends with both of us angry and silent. Later, he apologizes and we reaffirm how much we love each other -- but it is also his view that some people, himself included, have a tendency to shout during arguments, and I shouldn't get so freaked out by it.

We argue or fight a fairly typical amount, I think, not a lot but not a little -- usually over my irresponsibility and forgetfulness or his irritability and negativity -- and usually do it without any raised voices, for what that's worth.

And he is awesome, I feel like I should reiterate -- a good person who I love very much, with this one tendency that bothers me (as I know I have tendencies that bother him).

Just trying to figure out if this sort of shouting is pretty typical and even healthy or if shouting is always inappropriate.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
He knows it is a way to shut you up/intimidate you into going quiet. So no, it's not okay. Why can't he lower his voice? Why don't you guys learn new styles of communication during conflict?
posted by discopolo at 7:13 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

For some people it's typical. My husband grew up in a yelly family and would yell when we argued (like you -- never abusive or anything, just shouting), and I was/am very very not OK with it -- it completely freaks me out and I can't deal with it. We've talked about it several times (never during fights, but later), with me explaining that it doesn't matter if I should get freaked out by it, I do get freaked out by it, and he wasn't going to be able to rationalize me out of that. I would work on tempering my reacting a bit, but I needed him to help me with that by trying not to do it. He still does, every once in a while, but because he's pretty awesome I just have to say "please don't yell" and he'll check it and stop, even if the argument continues. The yelling no longer becomes the argument.
posted by brainmouse at 7:18 PM on February 18, 2013 [32 favorites]

some people, himself included, have a tendency to shout during arguments

And some people, yourself included, are not okay with this. That's totally fine, and something he should respect.

There are plenty of couples who shout at each other all the time during arguments, and that works for them. Great! But it doesn't work for you.
posted by littlegreen at 7:19 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

In my experience, it's not unusual. My mom was like that, and I was too in my younger years. I've known other shouters as well.
posted by amro at 7:19 PM on February 18, 2013

I shout sometimes, because my mom was a shouter. I don't think it's acceptable and I try not to do it. It's a safer way to release anger and aggression than physical violence, I suppose, but it's still not respectful or productive.

The time to talk about the mechanics of an argument is probably when you're both calm. You don't need to justify why you don't want him to shout at you during an argument - it's a pretty reasonable request. In return, I think you'll have to agree that if he's reached the point where he doesn't want to talk about something anymore, repeating yourself isn't going to magically make him understand. In a way, that's also a form of disrespect.
posted by muddgirl at 7:19 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

I disagree with the above comment. I deal with inflamed emotional states on a professional basis and generally when men are exploding it is to relieve stress or anxiety from an inner conflict, not as a tool of manipulation.

Context is huge here. I believe that there is nothing wrong with raising your voice from time to time as long as it is not in anger. The question is does it escalate from that point? Can he control it? If he can, this isn't a big deal unless shouting in general is triggering some previous emotional state, and you really shouldn't be blaming that on him.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:22 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's not that typical. Do you have such a solid grounding with this person that it doesn't put you in fear? If so I personally would characterize it as a quirk but a particularly tough one that y'all should probably work on.

One thought, without much context: do you let each other out of arguments? If it's not life-or-death , maybe a 20 minute break would help this. Don't mean to judge or assume.
posted by ftm at 7:23 PM on February 18, 2013

I came in to say almost exactly what brainmouse said, and to say that I had exactly the same conversation with an old roommate; she was a yeller, I wasn't, and we finally worked out that it was because in her family, you yelled to vent frustration over the little things, and in my family, you yelled when you were really angry.

There is a fairly wide range of "normal" here - it's not like "anything over this decibel level is bad, but underneath is fine" or anything like that. But it is perfectly valid to tell your husband that, for you, yelling is way more frightening than he may know. And, he may tell you that it's just his way of blowing off steam, and that he gets QUIET when he's actually seriously angry. And then the two of you can come up with a plan to handle it together. (Like my roommate and I did.)

But it's not necessarily the kind of thing where one amount of yelling is "normal" and one amount isn't, because there are so many other factors.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:28 PM on February 18, 2013 [8 favorites]

I can't speak to whether it's unusual or not, but I'm nthing muddgirl and littlegreen. Whether it's unusual or not, it bothers you, and that's what matters. I completely shut down when someone shouts at me, and my partner knows that and makes an effort not to do it (though he's not a particularly shout-y type anyway.) I agree that talking about this when you're not in the middle of a fight is the best way to go.
posted by dysh at 7:31 PM on February 18, 2013

The hour long discussion and pressing of points seem pretty telling to me. Shouting is a symptom and not the disease. You and your husband seem to have issues working things out and compromising without it occasionally becoming an ordeal . It sounds to me like you two need to find ways to work out differences without protracted pressing of points or shouting.
posted by srboisvert at 7:37 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not quite sure what your question is here. If we say that it's "normal," will it make you feel better? If we say that it's abnormal, will you show him this thread to prove you are right? I think we learn how to express and how to receive anger in our upbringing. You two should have a talk about how your parents fought or disagreed growing up and how you felt about that.

Also, reading between the lines, it seems he blows up when you keep hammering a point. And you keep hammering because you don't feel you are being heard. This is not a good pattern but a very common one. He needs to hear you, you need to trust that he understands. It's fundamental and there are lots of books out there about communicating between couples. You two might be wise to find some books on communicating, especially in anger so that you can find the best style that works for you.

My Dad was a consummate yeller and while I generally am not, it does come out when I am at the absolute end of my rope or feel completely frustrated or helpless. It scares people and, frankly, it scares me. So, no, I don't think yelling is a great idea. It does really command a room, though. It's not a nice thing to do on the regular to a partner.
posted by amanda at 7:41 PM on February 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you are often having arguments that last for an hour or more, you guys need to work on your communication skills. Like, have a serious conversation about how you argue about things, because I don't think that is normal.
posted by empath at 7:59 PM on February 18, 2013 [9 favorites]

I sometimes yell. It sounds like my yelling might be motivated in the same way your husband's is, given your examples.

It takes me a very long time to process emotion. I need to be calm, quiet, and introspective to figure out how I feel about something, or how to respond to my significant other's claims... And, if I'm not in a position to be calm and quiet, like if, say, my partner keeps pushing the same point or trying to explain himself over and over again, I get overwhelmed. There's just too much going on, and my system can. not. process. it. So it all explodes in a giant "LEAVE ME ALONE STOP IT CAN'T YOU JUST LET IT DROP FOR NOW???"

I'm not proud of this. I'm not excusing it. This is a problem I need to work on. I'm just trying to explain what happens to me, so maybe it can help explain what's happening to your husband.

What I really need to do, rather than exploding, is to stop about five minutes before that happens and say, "This is really hard for me, and I need some time to process what you've said. Please, let me just be quiet for a few minutes so I can think." If I do this, my partner understands, and I get what I need to continue the conversation in a polite and respectful manner. My partner understands my problem, and he helps me sometimes. He prompts me, asks me if I need some time to myself before we go on. It helps a lot -- it reminds me to check in with myself, notice my emotions, and ask for what I need. If your partner's yelling is like mine, he probably needs to do the same thing, and you might be able to help him in the same way.

So, I guess I'm saying that I agree that it's inappropriate, but I don't think it's necessarily a sign that he's manipulative or anything. It sounds like a communication problem. Talking to him about it at a calm moment might be a good idea. Counselling might be a good idea, too -- it can help the two of you recognize your individual communication styles and work out a better system of meeting each others' needs even when emotions run high.
posted by meese at 8:00 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

The outburst usually comes when he feels that I keep pressing a point or trying to explain my point of view -- sometimes that comes after an hour of discussion

Lord, have mercy. I wish I could be long-suffering enough to ensure hearing someone press a point on me for over an hour. What on earth could require that much discussion?

I don't condone outbursts, but you say it happens just once every couples of months after you have done a very good job of wearing him down. Stop wearing him down. I am sure he understands you just fine; he just disagrees with your position.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:04 PM on February 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

My Bear does this when he loses his temper. Sometimes he gets loud about other drivers in the car, too, an example of how this is really not about me or control -- because, as I usually point out, the other drivers actually have no idea he is yelling.

Some people are better at monitoring themselves and controlling shows of emotion than others. I am pretty constantly aware of my own behavior and so it isn't that tough for me to keep my voice down even if I'm angry. My husband, however, is really not at all good at self monitoring, which is rather adorable when I'm down the hall and can hear him guffawing at The Simpsons though he's all alone with the TV.

So -- you can talk to him about finding this upsetting, but he may genuinely have trouble controlling his yell level when he loses his temper. And if so, this is about the fact that at that moment he is angry, not some special form of manipulation. On the other hand, if he's generally good at self monitoring, he can probably address this.
posted by bearwife at 8:06 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

The outburst usually comes when he feels that I keep pressing a point or trying to explain my point of view -- sometimes that comes after an hour of discussion; sometimes, it's after a minute or two. I, meanwhile, feel myself pressing a point or trying to explain my point of view because I can't tell if he's understanding or listening to what I'm saying.

You're intensifying, he's intensifying. It sounds to me like you two have a mutual feedback pattern that you both are building. He may be doing it because he thinks you're not paying attention, or perhaps it's just frustration, perhaps it's even manipulative. Whatever, it does sound like you have a mutual pattern of egging each other on.

Can you give yourselves both time (and space) to cool off? Can you do a time out? This isn't to solve or resolve or dismiss, just a breather to de-intensify so that you can discuss the problem a little more calmly.
posted by bonehead at 8:10 PM on February 18, 2013

Why are you having arguments that last one hour?

I am not excusing people raising their voices to loved ones, but that would be like asking...

"Why do I get delirious after I have been awake for 72 hours?"

"Why am I in so much pain after running 50 miles nonstop?"

"Why does my tummy ache after I have eaten four pizzas?"

One hour is like a super long time to have an argument. All sorts of weird stuff might start happening under those conditions. Again, not excusing the behavior, but eventually all of us -- every single person alive -- will "fail" under a prolonged stress test.

You also said it might be after a couple of minutes, but still...if you had an hour argument the day before, it would be like trying to pump a dry well or rubbing something that's already raw.

I try to keep arguments under 20 minutes. In my experience, that's about as long as a normal person trying to be a good mate can concentrate.

Maybe my comments are off-target but I just wanted to address that part of the post.
posted by 99percentfake at 8:20 PM on February 18, 2013 [28 favorites]

I think maybe the right way forward here is to have a conversation where you A) Tell your husband that it's not appropriate for him to shout at you. B) Ask him what's going on with his head that makes him raise his voice and C) Give him an alternative means of extricating himself from arguments with you that don't involve him raising his voice. This may mean that you need to start dropping arguments instead of picking at him over things.

Which isn't to say that you should be a pushover or put your needs aside for his just because he's done arguing. You may need to seriously re-examine what's causing these disagreements when they can't be resolved by either you nagging him into compliance, or by him yelling at you until stop arguing about it.

Because right now, this sounds like a recipe for a lifetime of misery if things don't change.
posted by empath at 8:22 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a yelling tendency and so does my partner, totally childhood based for both of us. Basically, if we hit a yelling point, it's clue #1 for us both to disengage, go calm down, and agree to talk about it - whatever "it" is - later. It works well.

I agree that pressing any point for an hour sounds torturous. If you're not getting anywhere, table it and agree to talk about it when you're both at a calmer baseline.
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Most people in my life - my boss, my parents, my girlfriends - shout at me. The trick is just to be quiet until they calm down.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:35 PM on February 18, 2013

Two separate, but related points:

1) I'm not generally a yeller, but the rare occasions when I have yelled (I'd say maybe once a year over the last few years) I can tell you it has come from a place of frustration, of feeling like I'm trying in good faith to resolve an issue and the person I'm dealing with is just being patronizing, obtuse, or implacable. It's never about control, it's about being at my wit's end. (I usually regret it instantly, recognize it as a sign there's nothing to be gained from continuing the conversation, and remove myself from it) Which brings us to...

2) There's really nothing to be gained by arguing about something for an hour. Ask yourself why are you doing it? Do you maybe need to have him acknowledge you're right? When my wife and I argue, in the rare instances where we can't at least get to understanding each other's perspectives inside of 10 minutes, we each make our points and then give each other space for a while to cool down.

You're right not to like being yelled at. I'm willing to bet he doesn't much like it when it happens either. So ask yourself why have those fights where it's happened lasted that long?
posted by dry white toast at 8:43 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

I've been known to shout now and then. This is usually the product of a combination of:
- I'm already frustrated, tired or pissed off
- The other person just keeps at it and at it...and at it
- I feel like I'm not being heard so maybe LOUDER will be clearer (!)

I don't think this is unusual. It's probably not optimal, and I try to avoid situations that could bring it out, but continuing to poke me with a stick will probably result in a snarl sooner or later.

It takes a minimum of one person to end an argument between two people. Can you be the one to step back a tad?
posted by sageleaf at 8:45 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

He knows it is a way to shut you up/intimidate you into going quiet. So no, it's not okay. Why can't he lower his voice? Why don't you guys learn new styles of communication during conflict?

I disagree , it probably means he's frustrated and a human.
posted by mattoxic at 9:12 PM on February 18, 2013 [11 favorites]

I disagree , it probably means he's frustrated and a human.

Children can yell. Adults who haven't learned how to manage their anger and frustration need to learn emotional management skills that don't involve deliberately or not deliberately intimidating a partner into going quiet by screaming or yelling. The asker is not yelling back and it's not pleasant to get yelled at if you're not a yeller. It's scary and it's not okay.
posted by discopolo at 9:16 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yelling as a way to release frustration and as a way to assert control over the situation (in a way you know will be effective) are not mutually exclusive. People are not usually their best during heated arguments, yellers or not. I hate yelling, I'm from a yelling family, and I used to yell because I thought it was normal. When I'm yelling or being yelled at I do feel it's a way to steamroll the other person. Whether or not you're "wearing him down" is a separate matter; I think that shouting is difficult to deal with and you're okay to feel uncomfortable with it. There are few things more invalidating to me in a discussion than someone shouting right over me because they can. Honestly, sometimes it feels like someone just clapping their hand over my mouth, which feels disrespectful and stings.

If it's only happening every once in awhile it would be better to discuss it in that context. But I really hate the implication that because you're a woman and he's a man and he's shouting, you are clearly the nagging one (because women gab and "always have to win"), and he's the rational, emotionally honest one. That's not true. "Masculine" arguing styles can be subconsciously manipulative as well. Most likely communication is suffering on both sides if you are having hour-long arguments where neither of you feel heard (you feel the need to keep discussing and he feels the need to yell).
posted by stoneandstar at 9:40 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I come from a yelling family and like brainmouse, I am NOT okay with it. I didn't like it growing up and I am not okay with anyone who isn't one of my parents yelling at me. (Not that that's okay either, but one of them is dead and the other is...just not gonna stop yelling under stress even with therapy.) You end up yelling because you have to try to outscream everyone else just to be heard, and he probably has that going on as a reflex action.

If you don't like it, you don't have to take it. It's not a default norm with everyone. Some people like loud arguing, but I don't and back when I dated, my boyfriends knew to never, ever do that with me, because I'd freak. It worked, but that might take awhile.

I'd also like to point out, as a fellow apartment dweller, that it is REALLY uncomfortable to hear a couple screaming through the walls. (See other Ask Mefi threads about "should I call the cops, I think my neighbor is being abused," I'm sure.) Hell, there was one night where I was seriously debating calling the police while at a friend's apartment, since the screaming was so loud and going on for 2 hours. Your husband really needs to take that into account and learn to lower his voice.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:09 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine once said something very profound to me. She said, "Feelings aren't good or bad. They're just like having to pee. People like to categorize their feelings, making happiness and hope good feelings, while anger and fear and sadness are bad feelings. But we all have all of those feelings sometimes, and many of those feelings represent needs that we'd like to have met in our lives. Just like when you have to pee. And then we have to make choices about how we're going to deal with our feelings. Some of those choices are healthy and socially acceptable, and some are not, and some choices depend on context. So, when you feel very strongly about something, ask yourself whether you really want to pee on the floor of the living room, or whether you'd rather express yourself and your needs some other way."

You have two problems. The first is the yelling. If you feel uncomfortable or scared about the loudness of his voice or the words he's using or his tone, that discomfort is a problem in and of itself, because you deserve to be in relationship where you feel safe and at ease even in rocky times. And that's not because yelling is universally bad. Sometimes it's warranted, and in some contexts, it's acceptable to yell, whether in anger or not (see, e.g., the family of a friend of mine who express all feelings through yelling, like their feeling that you're not properly following the instructions on how to put together Ikea furniture and you're already pretty stressed about using the right screws and then there are all these people yelling at you arrrrrrrrgggggggg!!) But it has to be an agreement in your relationship that it's okay to communicate that way, and both parties need to agree to it. If being yelled at scares you, you get to veto being yelled at as a method of communication.

The second problem is the lack of communication. That could be connected to the first, but it isn't always (see, the exuberant screamers who learn to assemble couches at the tops of their lungs). Something about the way you two fight, whether it's his yelling, or you going quiet, or the words you're using, or the way you're understanding and talking about your and one another's feelings; something about all of that isn't working. And so you need to learn how to fight better. That may involve reading some of the many recommended AskMe approved books about relationships (Gottman, and Love Languages and whatever else. Poke around, you'll find it). It may mean a series of frank conversations when you're both feeling relaxed in which you express how the fights make you feel and what you'd each like to get out of them. It may mean counseling to talk about how to fight better, or how to fight less, or how to fight more productively.

If someone shouted at me in anger more than once, I would leave. Not because I believe that all anger is bad or that yelling always leads to physical abuse or anything like that. But because, simply, I do not want to be in a relationship with someone who yells in anger. I have dropped friendships over this. And I have the absolute right not to be yelled at by people I'm close with if I don't like it. So if you don't like it, it is not "appropriate" or "healthy" in your relationship. Because what's "normal" for other people doesn't matter. What matters is what keeps your relationship, the two of you together, healthy and happy.
posted by decathecting at 10:15 PM on February 18, 2013 [12 favorites]

I'm of the opinion that raising one's voice is completely OK in certain circumstances - a child is about to run into traffic for example. It can draw the attention of the child to the situation, and maybe the attention of other people too.

Standing in the same room as me and yelling at me is completely unnecessary, unless of course there is some extremely loud machinery going bang nearby. It's the fact that that it's unnecessary that bothers me, not the fact that it's necessarily abusive.

That said, I can see how arguing with someone for an hour would cause them to run out of patience. I think you both need to have a conversation about how your differing communication styles are not working with a view to coming up with another one.
posted by Solomon at 10:41 PM on February 18, 2013

I recently read that although many men complain that women get too emotional in arguments, it's often actually the men that get too emotional, letting shouting and anger take over when they are frustrated.

It's really hard to control yourself in moments of frustration and I think it's just as difficult for some men not to start shouting as is is for some women not to start crying. The main problem is that a shouter's emotional outlet can be intimidating whereas a cryer's is generally not (although both can be used in manipulative ways).

I think meese's comment on needing calm and quiet resonates best with me. It's very much the men from Mars and women from Venus theory, where a man needs time in the "cave" where he can process the emotions, and if he can't get that cooling off time, he gets overwhelmed. Calling a time out seems like a good idea - I think I'll try and use that in my efforts to control my occasional raised voice.
posted by guy72277 at 1:08 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does he do this at the office, too? Probably not, and I think a partner deserves at least as much respect as coworkers get. Also it shows that the yelling can be controlled.

For me, yelling is not normal, it's a sign of disrespect, and it's a deal-breaker. I am regularly around adults, and none of them yell at each other. I also very much suspect that what you consider a "normal" amount of arguing is much more than I find normal.
posted by Houstonian at 4:20 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry that you find your husband's yelling unpleasant. I yell. My husband doesn't. He doesn't like it when I do, but here's the thing: despite all the Serious Advice upthread, it really isn't something that you think about and then do. I get frustrated, I get pissed off, I YELL. I also LAUGH really loudly (seriously, friends recognize me in theaters). I can choose not to yell at someone across the street to say hi, but I can't not yell when I'm mad.

My husband doesn't like it, to just about the same extent that I HATE it that he gets angry and silent. I mean ... what can you do with silence? So we each act out a bit, then I quiet down and he mumbles something, and we're okay again. It's worked for 33 years. Some times I wonder what it would be like to be with someone who yelled back, and we could have big entertaining, dramatic fights, but you play the hand you're dealt. I'll bet your sweetie loves you a lot, but wishes you wouldn't go on and on and on......
posted by kestralwing at 4:22 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd say the level of shouting you describe is actually as not-"normal" - that is, incorrect - as your prolonging an argument for an hour until he "understands" - that is, agrees with - your position.

It wouldn't be fair for you to use the incorrectness of shouting as a way of establishing Rules of Order in which you get to be incorrect and he doesn't.
posted by tel3path at 4:25 AM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Back again to say: Good point, Houstonian. I don't yell at work, or with neighbors. I also don't have sex with them. Or have discussions with them about how we should spend our money, or whether they're paying enough attention to my feelings. The yelling comes with the intimacy in my life. It might be a deal-breaker for you, but it's not necessarily a sign of disrespect.

I think cultural background has a lot to do with this, too.
posted by kestralwing at 4:27 AM on February 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think that the yelling is the wrong issue to focus on, because it's an unpleasant symptom of a bigger problem: you and your husband don't know how to resolve disagreements kindly and respectfully, and you're so uncomfortable with some of the things you don't see eye-to-eye about that you pursue issues past the point of loving, respectful discussion, on into fight territory, and you keep going until it's intolerable. Of course the yelling is unacceptable if you find it traumatizing, but if he's only resorting to it after an hour of arguing then it's not his first choice, it's his last resort. You can't take away the last resort unless you replace it with something better. Learn to resolve differences quickly and respectfully, and when it's not going so well, take a break until you feel better. No amount of not feeling heard is worth subjecting your relationship to hour-long slugfests that don't resolve anything anyhow.

Anyway, I go very quiet when he shouts, and the fight ends with both of us angry and silent. Later, he apologizes and we reaffirm how much we love each other

See, the love is more important than whatever you were fighting about. After all, you affirm it even though the original issue wasn't resolved. It sounds like you're in a pattern where the only way you get to "I love you" is by going through a fight first. That's not good. Look for more pleasant paths to get to "I love you."
posted by jon1270 at 5:12 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, yelling IS something that I... just don't do.

I mean, I still yell sometimes. But I am working on learning my triggers (usually, I'm tired and frustrated) and shutting the conversation down until I am more calm). I am a naturally loud person, and I understand that this sort of introspection is difficult in the heat of the moment, but it's not impossible and I think it's really worthwhile.

On the other hand, repeating the same point over and over is another unproductive behavior that can be lessened with thoughtful introspection and practice.
posted by muddgirl at 5:43 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my opinion, not uncommon but also not acceptable or civilized.
posted by Dansaman at 5:52 AM on February 19, 2013

My mom is a yeller and I cringe everytime someone raises his/her voice (I'm also not very fond of sarcasm in serious situations.)

Once, early in our marriage, Husbunny was frustrated by something and he yelled at me. It shattered me. After we both regained our composure (about 3 hours of me sniffling in the bedroom,) I told him, "You can't yell at me. I can't deal with it. I get that you were frustrated and angry, but no matter what, you can't yell at me."

I can't even remember what the issue was, but let me tell you, there have been no raised voices in our house from that day on.

He's learned that I'm reasonable and if he's frustrated, he'll say, "I'm annoyed, so I'm going into the other room." I say, "okay, sounds good." After a while we can revisit and we usually decide very quickly on whatever it was.

I have to say that this happens so rarely that I can't even remember the last time. As our marriage got older, we disagree much less, to the point where we only discuss issues, and we're usually on the same page.

He's learned that I'll listen to him, I've learned that sometimes he needs a more linear explanation.

When you have your spouse in your corner being nothing but supportive and easy to talk to...I can't tell you what a blessing it is. Marriage becomes a wonderful institution and you wonder why others don't find it as great as you do.

Personally I can't think of an issue that would require more than a few sentences to resolve. What on earth do you discuss for more than an hour?

You both might benefit from counseling, not because your marriage is in trouble, but because your conflict resolution results in you both feeling unheard and badgered.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:26 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am a total shouter. I blame this on my large New York family, who can't even keep from yelling at a funeral . My husband was a bit taken back when we first met, but after spending time with the crazy family he completely understands. He even started shouting back, because he knows it gets my attention.

So, people think we fight all the time because we're always yelling at each other. Most of the time, an exchange lasts less than a minute though and we're usually just joking around. I don't think we've ever had an argument that lasted more than ten minutes though, and those were like huge, scary important arguments.

I know you are not comfortable with shouting, but have you considered yelling back? It really helps get the frustration out and you certainly can't do it for a long time. With all the arguing we do, we're usually just taking our bad days out on each other and then agreeing to disagree or just drop the subject.

Clearly we're not perfect, but we have an easy way to end any fight. One of us will call the other a cheese face and then we start laughing and forget about it.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 9:09 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was raised in a family of argument-shouters, and now will not shout unless someone is REALLY not listening to me and I am pushed. to. my. very. limit. What it usually means on the rare occasions when I shout? "STOP! JUST STOP!"

So I think what's going on here is that you guys BOTH need to work on taking a break from arguments before they get to this point. If you feel like you're making the same point over and over and he's not hearing you, YOU need to be the one to say "ding! Fighters to their corners, come back for round two [in a couple of hours, tomorrow, etc.]" If he feels like he needs to stop the argument because you're not hearing HIM (maybe he gets what you're saying, but doesn't agree with it, maybe he just needs more time to think) he needs to make himself walk away before he yells. If it takes him a few tries before he can recognize the tipping point, at the very least he needs to say immediately afterwards: "whoa! Sorry for shouting! Time to go to our corners and come back calmer."
posted by MsMolly at 1:19 PM on February 19, 2013

This issue pushes all kinds of buttons for me and makes it difficult to put words together, so I'll be brief. If you are considering having children with this man, please think long and hard about whether you want him yelling like this at your kids. Think about how it makes you feel, then try to imagine how it would feel if you were four years old, much smaller than the person yelling at you, and the person yelling is your father. I understand some people do this and think it's okay, but it would be a deal-breaker for me after growing up in a household like that.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:40 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Actually, that's a great point. I hate yelling, but I can put up with it as a grown adult. When I was a kid it truly made me feel afraid and sometimes unloved, not to mention slightly shattered, and usually making me cry. I think the reason I hate it so much now is probably more due to the remembrance of the totally unprotected, invalidated feelings I had as a kid than something inherent to yelling. Which means maybe I am overreacting... but also that I don't recommend yelling at kids.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:56 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had an exboyfriend who shouted and swore in frustration. I hated it. I think you should never be swearing during fights because everyone is already too raw to have that kind of thing thrown around. (he was pretty careful not to swear AT me after the first time we talked about it)

I didn't like this shouting and swearing, and he toned it down for sure when I told him I didn't like it.

but he never stopped, and when I look back I think that was okay. I think it was just a boiling point and in reality it was kind of a reality check for me when the fight was too serious.

I would angry-cry in extremely frustrating fights, which he hated and served the same end. I never managed to completely stop it either.

I think the best thing would be for you to try to stop the fight before he gets that frustrated. it sounds like he tries not to do it unless you're really bugging him, and then maybe you NEED that reality check of how pushy you're being on reiterating your point. :)

your husband doesn't sound like a shouty mcgee, I think you'd be fine to have kids. my mom RARELY, rarely, but a few times, shouted at us, and it acted much the same as you're reacting now, very "woah. this is too serious. shut it down."
posted by euphoria066 at 8:34 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

My fiance occasionally shouts, usually when he is feeling extremely frustrated. I hate it. It feels like a slap in the face, even though it is rarely that he is shouting AT me, but rather shouting at the situation (if you know what I mean). It is never to intimidate or be aggressive, but instead it is more about him trying to be heard I I think. It doesn't really matter, though, because I still feel very strongly against being shouted at. Growing up, shouting only meant huge huge trouble and anger. His family was more shouty and it was more common place, so he doesn't attribute the same level of severity and emotion to it.

We have talked about his shouting, always at a time when there is no arguing going on. He knows how much it affects me and hurts me, and I literally SEE him trying not to do it when we argue. I see him catching himself and trying to bring his voice back down to a normal level. He isn't 100% successful, but it happens way way less. And I say "Please lower your voice." he does try to do so. Another thing (and the most effective thing) he does is that if his emotions are getting to a point where he feels like he's going to get shouty he usually takes a "time out" and goes for a walk alone to calm down before we resume the argument. I hate when he takes his time outs because it always feels like he is walking away from me and our relationship, but I choose a time out over shouting every time. Plus, the time out almost always give ME a chance to calm down as well, and when he gets back the argument is almost always resolved within a few minutes.

It is okay to not want to be shouted and yelled at. From day one I have been clear that I am not okay with being yelled at, he knows I feel it is really hurtful and that it goes against what I feel to be a healthy relationship, and my fiance is working really hard to keep from shouting.

Maybe consider having your partner take a time out for himself when he feels like he's going to get shouty.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:41 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's an argument tactic that some men use when they're arguing with women. They badger and nitpick and don't let things drop until the woman starts crying, and then they say that she's getting "emotional" or "hysterical." It's not cool. I think that you're essentially doing the gender-flipped version of this, but I don't think you're doing it on purpose. But your own description of the way you two argue makes it sound, to me, like you seize on some point, won't drop it, and keep pushing him until he gets so frustrated that he resorts to shouting. At that point, you shut down, and you've won the argument, because he has to apologize to you for shouting.

I'm a very slow to anger person, and I don't yell unless I get extremely frustrated. But your argument style, as you've described it, would have me yelling about as often as your partner does. I don't mean to put all the blame on you - he can and should try to control himself. But I think it's important to recognize that this is a pattern the two of you are in, and that he's probably experiencing your behavior just as negatively as you experience his. The key is that you two need to have a conversation about the entire pattern, and agree that either one of you can stop an argument if it seems like you're about to enter into it. You can stop it if he seems like he's about to yell, but he can also stop it if it seems like you're not going to stop picking at him.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:22 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

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