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How to deal with someone who storms off?

(52 Posts)
LouP19 Fri 25-Nov-11 13:04:44

My husband regularly walks out/storms off during a heated discussion. It's his way of coping, and even though he's been doing it for 7 years, I can't say I'm dealing with it very well.

He usually does it for a couple of hours or so (occasionally longer), and then after this he's absolutely fine. Frustrating thing is he expects me to be fine too,........ and when I'm not he's usually baffled and then get's annoyed with me.

Whilst his strategy works fine for HIM, it leaves me feeling abandoned and invalidated. Tried explaining this to him, he listens, but he still walks out if he's had enough.

I've seen this behaviour with his family (walking off if there's a problem, and then acting a few hours later as if nothing's happened) so I appreciate it's inbred behaviour in him and maybe there's little I can do to change it.

I've tried having a bath, having some 'me' time, understanding it from his point of view,.... but ultimately I can't help but feel he's found a solution for HIM, rather than US,....

Anyone in a similar position?

2rebecca Fri 25-Nov-11 13:14:41

I think walking off in a heated discussion is OK, it can save you from saying something you'll regret and sometimes it's the only way to end an argument if you are both going round in circles and getting angrier. Some people won't stop an argument until they feel they have "won" which isn't helpful if the other person doesn't want to give in to their demands.
On the other hand you shouldn't then pretend the argument didn't happen and should be willing to discuss it later when you have both calmed down.
I would raise it with him later when he is calm saying "we didn't resolve x issue because you walked off. What should we do about this issue?"

LouP19 Fri 25-Nov-11 13:23:51

Thanks 2rebecca, appreciate your advice. He does have a bad temper and I realise it's his way of avoiding any further confrontations. He often says 'I'm leaving and I don't know when I'll be back',...... and then he nearly always ends up back 2 hours later with loads of Tesco shopping bags! This makes me smile because he's tried to be dramatic, but he usually goes and buys loads of cat food or something daft!!

But I still find the drama of it all when he goes upsetting. He always bangs and crashes about when he leaves,...... :-(

squeakytoy Fri 25-Nov-11 13:25:46

I agree that walking off is often a better approach than continuing a full blown screaming match. My husband does it too, and I think it is a very male trait, whereas a lot of women in my experience (as my mum was the same as me, and I know quite a few others) will go on, and on and walking off is much better than an argument escalating.

It does infuriate me when my husband walks off and he is usually treated to "fine, just fucking walk away then when I am trying to talk".. but it does give us both a chance to calm down, and resolve it or even realise how stupid and pointless it was and that there isnt actually anything to resolve once you have had a chance to think calmly about it.

G0ldenbrown Fri 25-Nov-11 13:30:31

I can see where our DH is coming from with this one, although that does not mean it's right. I've always had a 'fight or flight' response to arguments (apart from with DH who just refuses to argue). It gets to a point where I know anything I say can only make the situation worse so I have to leave. It's not huge mature, but then, neither is standing screaming at each other which was the alternative for me.

I've also been on the other side of this, so i appreciate how hard it can be. With my Ex it was a bit of a competition over who would walk out first. On one occassion we ended up arguing over who was leaving!!!

I found writing down how I felt helped, basically a letter to him that i could hand over the second he returned. It prevented the argument restarting (most of the time) and let him know how I felt.

FetchezLaVache Fri 25-Nov-11 13:46:11

Oh, I find this one so hard. DH storms; I follow, shouting and swearing. Not particularly dignified. If I manage to control myself and let him go, it blows over and we discuss it calmly at a later stage. Slowly, I am learning that this is a better strategy!

However, my DB's marriage is on the rocks and one of the many things DSIL finds infuriating is that he storms, comes back later as if nothing had happened, and then refuses to discuss it at all. If she persists, he walks; rinse and repeat. I think if storming is used as a strategy to avoid a heated row, it's good; if it's used as a strategy to avoid discussing anything unpleasant, then it's bad.

LouP19 Fri 25-Nov-11 14:07:55

I think that's probably what I'm finding so frustrating. I can't help but feel that he uses it as an excuse to get out of discussing anything 'difficult'.

Again, I see this trait in his family. His Mum perpetually moans that his Dad will not talk about anything difficult. My husband expresses sympathy and concern towards her over this, which I find hugely ironic as I feel I have the exact same problem with HIM!!!!!

Last night he slammed the front door really hard, and although he didn't shout, I did think 'what on earth must the neighbours think to him'? I wish he could tone it down a bit, he seems to thrive on the drama sometimes,.........

OhdearNigel Fri 25-Nov-11 14:17:22

I am a stormer offer. The best way to deal with it is to ignore it and pretend it hasn't happened. Your DH is either storming out for the reaction (in which case reacting feeds the behaviour as you are giving him what he wants) or getting away to calm down in which case surely this is better than getting more and more irate ?

DH doesn't react to me storming off, consequently I only do it now if I just need to get away from the argument to calm down and think about what I want to say.

LouP19 Fri 25-Nov-11 14:25:09

Good point OhdearNigel. It does upset me, maybe he sees that and feeds on it a bit,...........

Earlybird Fri 25-Nov-11 14:29:59

I think there must be another (better?) way to 'take a break' in an argument. Storming off (while it may present a 'cooling off' period), seems an aggressive tactic as it is very controlling.

My ex would storm off, and it left me feeling helpless, alienated, rejected, abandoned etc, and actually added a layer of anxiety/anger on top of the disagreement itself.

OhdearNigel Fri 25-Nov-11 14:37:00

Earlybird, I wouldn't say it was an aggressive, control tactic. I usually go if I have got so confused and wound up in the argument that I can no longer rationally think about what I want to say and the argument has ceased to be about the topic we were arguing about but become a massive, personal, points-scoring slanging match. That's not in any way helpful. The cooling off period gives me time to regroup, calm down and think about what I want to say rationally rather than keep on going over old grievances like a broken record.

fuzzynavel Fri 25-Nov-11 14:42:48

My dad used to do this to calm down, so does my DP.

Whilst I still "want" him to be there so "I" can argue a bit more, its by far the more sensible approach.

LouP19 Fri 25-Nov-11 14:46:42

This is really interesting. I've always found the behaviour controlling too,....... because it's always my husband who draws a line under a matter by walking off, never me. Therefore I know that for every difficult issue we encounter there's always the likelihood that he will 'duck out' and leave me to fester. And for me there IS something controlling about that, even if it's not done deliberately.

Earlybird Fri 25-Nov-11 14:56:01

Ohdearnigel - I understand your point. And, I think a cooling off period to think is a good idea when in impasse has been reached - stops horrible things being said lashing out in anger, etc.

But, I always wished for some sort of mutually agreed 'signal' when one of us was getting too angry/emotional and needed to take a break. For me (and I'm sure it could be a personal issue), the storming off added (as i said before) an extra layer of awfullness.

The one who storms out may feel relieved, empowered that they have called a temporary halt because things have got 'too much', - but how about the person left behind? It may feel good to get some fresh air, have a change of scenery, do something 'normal' (like go to Tesco), but it is horrible to hear the door slam, and be the one left behind.

LouP19 Fri 25-Nov-11 15:38:00

Agree Earlybird, and as much as I'd like to take the attitude 'f-you', put my feet up and switch the TV on when he's stormed off, I'm usually left feeling teary and very alone whilst he's off doing the shopping. And when he comes back he's 'sorted' and cannot understand why I'm not. Grrrrr!

Earlybird Fri 25-Nov-11 15:52:03

When he would storm off, i had a fantasy about leaving too so he would come back to an empty house - and would then feel alone and worried (ie, he would 'suffer' too). And then when I returned, I would say airily 'oh, i just needed some fresh air to clear my head and so i went out for a bit'.

It seemed like being the victim to simply wait at home for him to reappear when he felt 'ready', but seemed like manipulative game-playing if I retaliated and went out myself (which I never did). As i said earlier - storming off is absolutely about control, and adds a whole other nasty layer to the argument.

LaurieFairyCake Fri 25-Nov-11 15:55:13

Everyone has the right to leave an argument/discussion if they don't want to continue.

Dh and I both agreed early on when we were still rubbing the corners off each other that we would each be 'allowed' to leave without the other following - it's very unhealthy to 'force' someone to keep arguing with you.

Earlybird Fri 25-Nov-11 15:57:54

laurie - yes, you are right, imo.

But the big difference in your situation, is that you and your dh have an understanding that is ok with both of you if one feels the need to leave. Most people do not have the foresight or wisdom to anticipate/negotiate such an agreement.

LaurieFairyCake Fri 25-Nov-11 16:04:16

I'm a couple's counsellor - we negotiated everything grin

Pagwatch Fri 25-Nov-11 16:08:16

I think you are reacting to his departure as an abandonment when his leaving is quite possibly the best tactic if he feels remaining will escalate things and it will be too heated

If it were me I would just treat it as an adjournment. I would have two cups of coffee ready for when he got back and say 'good. Now you are calm we can talk about the issue. We are going to talk about it without shouting or storming off'

If you are using a row as an opportunity to vent it is fine but totally pointless. Sorting issues out is always going to be most successful when not shouting.
But I know we are unusually. I don't think we have ever shouted at each other, however angry.

Earlybird Fri 25-Nov-11 16:08:32

Good for you - an example for us all! Very wise.

The agreement between you is the key for me. You mutually agreed what is 'fair' and acceptable in advance, and then it plays out in moments of high emotion.

His actions (leaving) made me feel much worse than whatever we were arguing about.

buzzswellington Fri 25-Nov-11 16:10:34

I think that it isn't acceptable when it's not about averting an argument worsening, it's about stopping an issue being discussed at all. It's all very well to swan back in later on, but if then whatever caused it in the first place isn't actually resolved, that's not healthy.

Pagwatch Fri 25-Nov-11 16:10:54

I'm not a couples counsellorgrin
But if dh stormed off I would talk to him about it when he got back.
I used to go completely silent when we argued. So later, when we were calm, I explained why and we sorted it out.
You do post match analysis don't you, in most relationships ?

Pagwatch Fri 25-Nov-11 16:12:26

That's the key thing buzz.
When he comes back it needs to be 'ok, so where were we' not 'oh well, the moment has passed'

controlpantsandgladrags Fri 25-Nov-11 16:17:42

I storm off from arguments with DH. I get to a point where I feel so consumed with rage that I have to remove myself to calm down. There's no possible way i can have a rational conversation when I get like that. DH doesn't understand this at all and will follow me when I do storm off, which is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

He shouldn't come back and act as if nothing happened though...I don't do that.

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