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New marriage,(23 Posts)
I got married to DH in January. I also have a DS (5) from a previous relationship who DH is like a dad to (XP not been interested since DS was 2).
I came across a blog post the other day which really resonated with me, it was basically an anecdote about a woman who was newly married, she was with her husband in a furniture shop and asked him what his three favourite lamps were. He replied that he didn't really like lamps and she felt really crushed, suddenly imagining all future houses being devoid of any light or little extras like cushions and curtains. Then she says "...the lamp story has become my token example for how early on in a marriage, small conflicts can so quickly escalate to feeling like the end of the world. Over time, we’ve gotten less easily offended. More quick to bounce back. More open to each other’s input when it comes to things like home decor."
I am REALLY feeling this at the moment. Small conflicts feeling like a total disaster. And I'm really struggling to articulate this without either, one, exploding into shouting (my panic reaction) which causes DH to sort of shut down and cut off from me, because he hates shouting, problem is then I usually have no idea that I've just shouted and start to get worried/angry with him for being upset with me for some unknown reason. Or two, I overthink how I'm going to bring stuff up to the point that I'm frightened and crying about it and he's totally bemused by this. Or three, I try to be flippant/jokey about it and it comes out as a criticism and DH gets offended. The crying one is probably the best in terms of outcome in that it leads to an actual discussion but it's not very healthy for me.
And the worst part - none of these I feel are appropriate reactions in front of DS and so I tend to choke them down until the evening, and by then it's either forgotten or so OVER hyped in my brain that the reaction is worse. As a result, I'm not really able to communicate with DH about small things and feel anxious when I want to. Which is stupid, because he's receptive, interested, open to change and has no idea that I'm worrying about this stuff.
I wonder if we just need to chat more in general (we've got into the bad habit again of staring at our own screens in the evening and rarely doing anything together at these times) or whether this is a particular skill that you just kind of learn as you go along and it's difficult mainly because DS is around and that's worrying me.
Gah ruined the title, oh well. Meant to have some reference to having DS around and wondering if that is the main reason I'm agonising over things I should just be able to bring out in the open.
I swear my grammatically incorrect title is putting people off
Bertie, you always give sensible, mature, kindly advice to other posters. It's not so easy to see the wood when you're in the middle of the trees, though. Can you just hide the poster name here and pretend you didn't write it, and think "What would I say to this stranger on the internet who has this problem?"
I think it's very likely you'd say something like yes do stop hiding behind a single screen each in the evenings and schedule some "together time" (ugh!), even if it's only to burble about boring things you've been doing during the day. Communication is important. Even people quite a lot older than you and DH, and who have been together longer, are still growing and changing; that's the great thing about human beings. But if you do it separately you have less and less in common as time goes on. You need to be creating shared memories now, shared discussions, bouncing points of view off each other. You are, after all, a partnership, not just two people who happen to live under the same roof and occasionally get together for a shag. No partnership thrives without healthy communication. A little quiet time, together or separately, is good too, of course, don't get me wrong; but don't miss out on talking, even about nothing in particular.
You might also suggest to the imaginary poster that they write down what they need to say so their partner can read it without tears and tones of voice getting in the way. You could perhaps start by writing out what you put in your OP, about how difficult it is to discuss problems calmly, not always realising you come across too loud and angry-sounding. If/when he says he understands - and he does sound like an understanding sort of chap, even if he does have his own issues from the past just as you do - you then present the particular thing you wanted to discuss, and explain that you really don't want to sound aggressive or pushy or upset although the thing does mean a lot to you.
This is the kind of things that counsellors are supposed to be good at, introducing your thoughts to one another in a neutral setting with a disinterested referee. You may not need that; but think about how you would say things in front of a third party, and put it to DH like that.
You've got a lot going for you both, but only as long as you keep those ghosts from the past firmly in their place.
I would have answered earlier if I had seen your post earlier, honest, I've been at work!
Ask MNHQ nicely if they'll amend it for you, or start the thread again?
Without wishing to diagnose, your fear reaction of raising what sounds like relatively small problems is almost phobic in the sense that the longer you put off raising the problem, it seems, the more anxious and panicky you get. You end up fearing the fear.
I can't quite work out if this 'choking it down' response has developed because you have had a negative reaction from your DH specifically or whether it's because you've had bad responses from others in the past, maybe when you were growing up. One effect of repeated emotional bullying you see is that the victim shuts down because they become very nervous about expressing themselves. You say on the one hand that he is interested, receptive and open to change but, at the same time, he seems easily offended, he blanks you if you get upset or he acts bemused ... which is a little patronising.
Do you struggle to articulate yourself with others? Would you say you were an assertive person? Would you feel comfortable, for example, sending back a meal in a restaurant?
No I am not very assertive, and my attitude to problems in general is to ignore them and hope that they will magically go away not helpful. Perhaps "choking it down" is a bit dramatic. I'm certainly not bursting to say something but fearing that I can't. It's just I don't seem to be able to judge the right moment/situation/way to bring something up and it just goes wrong.
I could do the writing down thing, but again, I just feel it's making a big meal of an issue which shouldn't be an issue. I want to know how I can bring something up at the time without feeling afraid to, or coming across overly negative.
DH is lovely but his family "don't do" emotion, he wouldn't dismiss my feelings, but from early on he's been pretty clear that he isn't going to notice if I'm upset about something and I need to actually say something. Which is fine, I mean it's pretty passive aggressive to sit there being all upset and waiting for him to notice! But it does sometimes mean that when I end up in tears over something relatively small he is confused because he doesn't understand why I've left it to get such an issue. In his mind if something is an issue, you say something, if nothing is said, then it's not an issue. He doesn't understand why I brood and hold onto things - and this is the point, neither do I!
I don't know if you're willing to try an exercise in communication? It's something teenage DS and I do from time to time as a springboard for opening up.
Very simply you take it in turns to start a sentence. "What I appreciate about you is...." and complete it accordingly. The next sentence starts "What would make our home/life/relationship better would be.... " You can choose your own words but you see the pattern. Appreciation followed by suggestions for change.
To start with it can feel contrived but it gets the ball rolling.
Another way past the passive-aggressive thing is to start a conversation with 'I'm not happy'. It's honest, assertive, non confrontational, difficult to disagree with and begs the question... 'what aren't you happy about?' No-one is a mind-reader after all.
This sounds very stressful for you.
You are second guessing yourself a huge amount. You should not have to fear talking about small matters, to the extent that you find yourself shouting, frightened and crying, or deliberately trying to be flippant to tone down the message. Or even afraid there might a scene in front of DS.
When you say you don't seem able to judge the right moment or situation to bring things up, and it just goes wrong, what tends to happen?
Because there's no need for a right moment for talking about everyday matters. And you shouldn't be feeling in the wrong for speaking your mind about everyday things, even things you don't agree on.
Oh, please don't think I'm trapped in some horrid abusive marriage believe me I could write the red flag bible, and then some. And I know that doesn't always make you immune, but really, I am 150% sure that I am not in an abusive relationship.
When I say it goes wrong, I mean it comes out critical. And I don't mean that he's taking offence over small things, I mean that it comes out nasty and like a criticism. I tend to be quite negative in what I say, and speak before thinking. Like the thread earlier today about the poster who received a (bought not made) card from her DC and immediately pointed out the spelling error on it before realising that she should have said thank you first and ignored the error. This is me all over.
If I bring something up straight away, then it comes out as criticism and sounds really horrible and ungrateful. If I stop myself and try to think of a nice way to say it, I start to get anxious about how it will be received - I suppose I then don't have the opportunity to say "Oh shit that came out wrong!" so I feel more is riding on it being said tactfully. Problem is I don't seem to know how to be tactful, which is bizarre. But the longer I think about it, it either becomes a recurring issue which winds me up to the point that I want to shout about it, or I get anxious about how to say it right or worrying DH will be offended.
I know I'm being totally wet and ridiculous. I just wondered if it was possible to become less bothered by things like this. It could indeed be related to previous relationships where a big scene WOULD have started if I said something wrong, this isn't the case here, but the thought of upsetting DH by something I say is still devastating to me. I hate the moment when you say something and you can't claw it back because it's too late.
well i felt like you do when i was first married, and i still occasionally do.
my dh wants to build a maze in my lovely garden. omfg. it's the size of a postage stamp as it is! and he has no interest in gardens and doesn't have a clue.
i think over time you learn how each other works and what the best approach is. i think it's something you work on and try different approaches.
one thing i've learnt is when that mad panic or sheer disappointment at a difference in the way we think is to 'park it' on a shelf. try not to let it upset you, like the lamps. then later on casually say 'the thing i love about lamps is they create a really cosy atmosphere.' then see the reaction. perhaps it's more positive this time.
i realised that things are going on that i'm not aware of. like in the lamp eg. dh hates shopping and would say he doesn't like lamps so that we don't have to buy one.
i don't know whether this is helpful at all.
at any rate i think a lot of people feel this way and you work your way through it.
It will take time and practice to stop being critical and being more tactful. Just imagine how you would like someone to talk to you. Don't go in all accusing "You always....../Why don't you/you never.
Imagine a for instance - suppose there was something he got annoyed at you for. Supposing (for instance) in the middle of him talking to you, your phone rang and it was a friend of yours and you carried on the conversation, much to hubbie's annoyance. How would you like him to tell you it annoyed him when you did that and please don't do it again? Then compare it with how you would have talked to him about it if he did it to you. What you would have said and how much worse it sounded.
Oh that's interesting Eddie. I really do have to remember to park things on a shelf. Sometimes I react emotionally and I have learnt that a lot of times when we appear to disagree on something immediately, actually when we discuss it and come around to it, we both have broadly the same view/goal/whatever, it's just that our mental processes to get there often look very different, so at an earlier stage of the discussion it had almost felt like we were working against each other. I find this really hard! I don't know if it's because of a previous controlling relationship where he'd argue black was white just for the sport. DH isn't like that but he has his own opinions of course, and the way that we think is very often totally different, but I panic if I feel like he's not on the same page as me.
Oh yes, I know the thread you mean, BB. I can see what you're driving at.
When you say you don't seem to know how to be tactful, is this a new thing for you - or does it seem to date back many years? Do you notice people other than DH feeling stung sometimes...?
It might well be an echo from your previous relationships (I know you've bought the T shirt wrt to red flags, because you give such wise and considered advice to others.) Or it might not.
There are people I care about very much who sometimes blurt out less than tactful things, very much like the card thread, but I know them and know they mean no harm. Differing thought processes may be the clue here.
- I don't think you're being wet or ridiculous at all, btw. You have a concern and you're trying to resolve it.
'it's just that our mental processes to get there often look very different, so at an earlier stage of the discussion it had almost felt like we were working against each other.'
and over time you learn to not worry so much because you know you'll be able to come round to a workable solution.
we've been together for 10 years and i'd say it's really in the last year that things have gotten significantly better between us. that might be because we're through the baby stage and i'm getting enough sleep now! but i also think it's because we're a lot more comfortable with predicting each other and the best way to resolve things.
and the tact thing. i am pretty blunt - mostly to my detriment.
i've also learnt to park the first thing that pops into my mind on a shelf and just examine it for a split second.
another trick that helped was to only say positive things out loud and filter out the criticisms. just don't say them and see what happens.
i felt the need to critique everything. when i stopped voicing it i realised that it wasn't the most important thing that everyone knows where the faults are.
i'm a musician and i strongly feel that you'll get a better result overall by praising the good rather than criticising the bad. phrase it in a way that turns the negative into a positive action.
if there's no action that can be taken, don't say anything at all.
I am blunt. It's not just with DH. Actually he's pretty blunt too so he doesn't mind most of the time With the card situation, I could see myself saying that, I wouldn't mean any harm - I would never for example correct the spelling on a card DS or DH had written themselves because that's criticising their efforts. But I would probably point it out on a bought card without thinking in a "God, card manufacturers are ridiculous these days aren't they?!" way. I've done it with presents before
Actually I noticed something today It had been bothering me for ages that whenever we are out together, he strides along ahead. He walks faster than me so if I want to catch up it's quite an effort. Yet he never makes the effort to slow down and walk with me, or offers to hold hands etc. I know that sounds a bit teenage, but I like to hold hands with him and stuff. It makes me feel more like we're actually together. I also find it annoying to try and hold a conversation with the back of his head, so I end up straggling back and walking at about DS' speed.
Anyway, I mentioned it a while ago, and I was worried that I had been a bit critical. I used "It would be nice if..." but to me, it still felt like I was saying "You're wrong! You're so inconsiderate!" I didn't notice any particular improvement and it bothered me the last time we went walking, and also on a walk today (when I was thinking about this thread ) And then suddenly out of the blue he hung back and started walking with me, I hadn't mentioned anything, I know it probably hadn't crossed his mind that it would be nice to walk together (for him walking fairly close is the same thing as walking side by side and he finds my pace slow) so it was something that he had done, for me. I wanted to tell him that I appreciated it but I couldn't. It's like I don't know how to say anything positive it always feels fake to me and it's embarrassing so I don't say it at all. Even when I praise DS for good behaviour often it feels fake.
ok so i don't think you need to say anything. but you were thinking you'd like to hold hands while walking so you could do that. just give him a smile and hold his hand.
you don't have to say a word.
i also feel inhibited saying mushy things. just can't do it.
you have to be true to yourself.
i actually think there are self esteem ishuuus if you don't mind me saying. not wanting to acknowledge when things are good.
i've been working on my self esteem and thinking about how i want my life to be. i've been catching myself self-sabotaging things when they are going the way i was hoping they would! almost like it's easier to deal with failure than success. i'm trying to change my automatic responses to be more positive when things go the way i want! bizarre isn't it?
Bertie, I am reading and running - sorry - but just an observation - it's really, really striking how much 'talking' (so to speak) goes on in your own head, and how little goes on outside it.
It seems that for every word said, you have thought/analysed a thousand mental words.
(I am similar - analyse, analyse, analyse and all I have said is 'Do you want tea?')
Oh yes eddie and I did, it was just the always practically having to run to catch up with him in order to do so Anyway that one seems solved.
OhGood you made me laugh. That's so true
Self esteem isshoos, check! Any interesting books or anything you can recommend? I've just finished The Happiness Project which I liked, and I've worked through various parenting self help books but am pretty hopeless when it comes to working on myself, although I love to psychoanalyse.
i have a simple strategy. i'm sure it's common, it's not my own. it's just what i've come to after reading loads of books.
1. think of something you'd like to change.
2. recognise the pattern and observe what happens and your reaction
3. think objectively and work out the options
4. try options out
5. reinforce the new pattern.
i have managed to work through quite a few things like this. not always so simple. it has improved my life.
every year i try and work on a new thing. just one big thing a year. like one year it was to do pilates for a year. the next year was to start saying no to things i didn't want to do, not be a pushover. this year it's my self esteem.
i'm working on:
1. not putting myself down
2. not criticising my work but looking for the good before fixing the bad.
3. standing up straight.
4. not giving time to people who bring me down
5. not giving head space to those people who bring me down.
can you tell i love lists????
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