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How to stop being so judgemental and irritable

(54 Posts)
cloudysummerdays Fri 19-Aug-16 21:13:53

Our marriage has been in a very bad way for at least a year - lots of reasons, but no unforgivable behaviour on either side.

DH had a privileged but unloving childhood, and we're in a spiral neither of us seem to be able to break. Something happens (often a minor thing) and I snap at him; he then retreats into his shell. Years ago I used to coax him out again, but I've lost patience with that, and either stomp off or go on moaning at him. He feels hugely got at and criticised (not unreasonably); I feel as if I am always cast as the bully. His instinct in any difficult situation is to shut down and to cut off communication - we've had a lot of conflict lately, and communication is awful between us.

We're in a situation now where neither of us feels at all loved by the other. He longs for physical comfort (sex, but also cuddles), which I can't give when I feel so alienated from him. I long for him to talk to me, to spend time with me, and he feels so kicked about that he won't/can't do this.

For lots of reasons, I'm still not willing to say that we've reached the end, but I have no idea what to do. I completely admit that I'm critical and irritable, and that I don't give him credit for the things he does for us all. But I feel so totally overwhelmed by emotional demands from him and the 3 kids that I am just about beyond breaking point, and I don't have the energy or patience or kindness that he wants, and that our relationship needs.

So here it is: he's kind but completely withdrawn (sits at the dinner table and doesn't say a word kind of withdrawn); I'm tense and irritable and judgemental, and we're both miserable.

What can I do? I can always think of millions of things I'd like DH to do, but when it comes to me, I'm stuck. How do I learn once again to be more patient with him? Less critical? Less cross? How do I learn to notice the many good kind things he does, and let the annoying ones wash over me?

Ames84 Fri 19-Aug-16 21:18:04

Have you thought about going to counselling? it'll help you communicate and give you ways to change the way you approach the issues.

cloudysummerdays Fri 19-Aug-16 21:31:18

did that about 5 years ago but not for very long (was interrupted and we didn't go back as the immediate issue was resolved). wasn't massively impressed by the person we saw...

RunRabbitRunRabbit Fri 19-Aug-16 21:37:10

Depends what you are getting cross about to some extent and how long he stays silent.

Also, noticing and mentioning kindnesses is not the same as stopping being overly critical. Maybe stop worrying about the critiscm and start making a big effort to acknowledge all the lovely things he does. If the balance changes, that might be enough.

cloudysummerdays Fri 19-Aug-16 21:54:03

What do I get cross about - well, there are just a lot of little things, really. There are loads of little things, all of which I ought to be able to overlook, but which together drive me mad (tea cups full of tea leaves left everywhere; stuff left to rust outside in the garden; seldom putting things back where they belong; taking tools/kit that belong to me and not putting them back; never finishing a tidying/cleaning job so there's always a bit left for me to do - etc. etc.)
You're right, maybe I should work on the noticing and commenting bit. The thing is, DH is supersensitive to criticism, so I don't think that just saying nice things will 'work', if you see what I mean: he'll still feel permanently got at...

pallasathena Fri 19-Aug-16 22:14:28

Are you a perfectionist? The reason I ask is because it's difficult to not notice stuff when you're wired that way.
I know a couple of perfectionists and they can be really intimidating on a one to one level as their impossibly high standards rule the lives of their often unhappy families. And that's the sadness. The families are low level unhappy because nothing is ever 'right', something is always 'wrong'.
What sort of memories are you making in your house o/p? Are you making happy memories or are you reacting to your own childhood and the early family of origin expectations laid down years ago?
I would advise consciously changing your internal monologue from one that is critical to one that is grateful for what you have. It may sound a bit meh but it can work if you make a concerted effort.
I feel sorry for your husband. And my heart goes out to you too. It must be awful to be unable to communicate and to have to live like that. Awful for him and frustratingly awful for you. I hope you can find some way through it all.

cloudysummerdays Fri 19-Aug-16 22:24:23

I'm not sure - possibly? How would I know? and what can I do about it?

I don't look around me and think I have impossibly high standards - house is in chaos, DIY remains undone after 10 years etc. etc. But maybe I do in different ways - not sure.

Memories: tricky one. I'm aware that we don't laugh a great deal, and that does sadden me. Neither of our families is very laugh-y, but mine at least talked all the time (and while I talk, always, constantly, to the kids, DH doesn't).

Changing the internal monologue sounds right. How???

Greenandmighty Fri 19-Aug-16 22:29:40

cloudysummerdays, I suggest you focus on finding an activity for yourself that you enjoy and get some satisfaction from whether it's a hobby, exercise, meditation, whatever...
You sound stressed and it's like your own frustration is getting projected onto your husband as you are not able to relax and get away from the claustrophobia of the relationship. Try and focus on making yourself feel more relaxed and cut yourself some slack.

Houseofmirth66 Fri 19-Aug-16 22:34:18

You seem very aware of your own flaws. Does he acknowledge his own? Retreating into silence when you know your partner needs to talk can be very controlling.

springydaffs Fri 19-Aug-16 22:38:17

Hang on. You don't get snappy and beside yourself only bcs he's a infuriatingly crap at practical things. There's more to it than that.

Go back to counselling; find a counsellor you gel with - this is essential ; it is not unlike having a relationship, you have to click.

Sounds like your husband has a truckload of ishoos. Fyi my exH was the classic emotionally-truncated product of a public school education (don't everybody bowl, it's not unheard of) and also had a damaging childhood to boot. We simply didn't gel. He found his peace with his subsequent wife who had a similar background and was a royal pita but that's another story .

Get some good counselling under your belt. You can't lose eg of you do decide to split you will both know why and will have learned a great deal about yourselves. Or you may be able to find a way to stay together happily. You have to turn over that stone first.

springydaffs Fri 19-Aug-16 22:39:16

Howl, of course. Tho you can bowl of you like.

Geraniumred Fri 19-Aug-16 22:39:47

Stop judging yourself and others and look for things to appreciate instead. If you want diy stuff done either do it yourself or pay someone else to do it. You might just need to lower your expectations for a while. There sounds as though there are lots of good things in your life as well as lots that you feel needs doing.
You also sound really tired and a bit overwhelmed. It's hard to work as a team if you have different standards and different needs, but it is possible. You do have to communicate with each other though. We tend to be very appreciative of each other as a couple - thank you for driving/making dinner/doing the recycling - it's about noticing the effort that the other one has gone to.

cloudysummerdays Fri 19-Aug-16 22:42:51

I think you're all right!
I've been googling perfectionism, and there's a lot that sounds very familiar. No idea AT ALL what to do about it though - 'be authentic' seems to be the main bit of advice - but I wasn't conscious that I wasn't being!

Green: I do need something outside the family. 3 small kids, a part-time (unsatisfactory) job, various volunteering things and not enough childcare seem all to get in the way. But yes, this is something I really need to think about and make time for, as I've badly lost the strong sense of self I used to have.

House: well, that's a hard one. Yes, I think he is, in lots of ways, but he's very much at their mercy. If I feel completely at sea when faced with the charge of perfectionism, I think he feels similar when anything goes wrong. His family was/is chilly - any attempt to talk about anything that matters is firmly stamped on. My increasing anger at his silence reflects my feeling that it's a selfish and self-indulgent act; he just either says 'I don't have anything to say' or (in family situations) 'there's just too much noise, I can't process it' (which infuriates me, as what ends up happening is that all 4 of them (him plus 3) want to talk to me...)

Geraniumred Fri 19-Aug-16 22:47:09

Is he an introvert?

cloudysummerdays Fri 19-Aug-16 22:47:55

Geranium - yes, in temperament, but not in the Myers-Briggs sense.

iminshock Fri 19-Aug-16 22:50:05

OP I would like to congratulate you on acknowledging your own part in the marriage failure and looking to yourself to see what YOU can do to improve things .
Because you can't change him . He has to want to change himself .
If you do your best at least you will know you gave it your best shot.
He is quite clearly at fault too !

cloudysummerdays Fri 19-Aug-16 22:58:17

Iminshock - yes, he's definitely at fault too: we're both, in our different ways, tricky people! And that's one of the reasons I don't want to say it's over. He DOES put up with me, warts and all. And I used to put up with him - and still do, with all sorts of stuff.
We've both, in different ways, been having mid-life crises too; both also been having work/lack of work problems - there's been a lot of angst, which we've not managed to face together...

Geraniumred Fri 19-Aug-16 23:04:20

He possibly feels a bit helpless in the face of your perfectionism and maybe genuinely just doesn't notice mess and clutter in the way that you do. My DH is a perfectionist and I am not. He has his own areas where it is very tidy, clean and organised whereas I go on with my version of ' it's fine as it is'. Also if your DH been in an unloving household he will have not have a response to give to your anger - he will automatically shut down in order to survive. Somehow you will have to reassure each other of your love and support. And then discuss other things.

Iggi999 Fri 19-Aug-16 23:13:44

I get the importance of noticing what the other person is doing, but it is so hard not to also notice the effort they havent put in - to finish the job, put the tea leaves or the tools away. And why really should we have to?
Has he ever said why he doesn't do those things, is he aware of what you want from him?

starsandstripes2016 Fri 19-Aug-16 23:19:01

this could be description of my marriage. my stbxh just does not talk to me and I feel I had to get married to know what loneliness is. you have my complete empathy.

cloudysummerdays Fri 19-Aug-16 23:33:11

Geranium, yes, that's right: shutting down in the face of anger, in order to survive. But it's not as if anger was my first response - we've been together 20 years - it's been generated, gradually, as a result of him endlessly NOT doing things that he knows matter (to me, but also to him). So it's a situation he's co-created, and now shuts himself away from.
So Iggi/Stars also have it right - my patience is so used up, from dealing with skanky teacups, not having my own tools in the right place, not being able to find the bike lights, or the kids' swimming stuff.
And it's not as if being tidy/organised comes naturally to me AT ALL, it's been hard learned in adulthood. I just can't manage the demands and busy-ness of three children without knowing where things are!
Stars: why did he stop talking to you? I'm sure that when you got married he wasn't like that - what happened?

keepingonrunning Fri 19-Aug-16 23:40:04

Cut down on the volunteering - charity begins at home for now - and instead do something just for you every day, e.g. paint your nails, go for a run, do that hobby. Are you delegating enough at home, to DH and DC? Allocate responsibility for certain jobs on a daily basis: setting the table, feeding the cat or whatever. Can the two of you get away together for a night or two for a change of scenery and the opportunity for talk to flow unpressurised and uninterrupted? Would relatives help out with childcare more if they knew your marriage is on the brink?

You know that his needs are more physical affection. Have you explicitly told him your needs are to spend more time being heard? I think you will find this link highly relevant.

It suggests DH has shut down communication and is stonewalling as a self soothing and defence mechanism. Gottman has written highly respected evidenced-based books.

keepingonrunning Fri 19-Aug-16 23:43:27

- about what makes a marriage last. Good luck.

Steamgirl Sat 20-Aug-16 00:55:07

OP Your post could have been written by me four-five years ago. You don't sound like a perfectionist to me. After several years of feeling cross and irritable, looking for ways that I could be a more appreciative and forgiving wife, I eventually found out my Ex-DH was a secret alcoholic drug addict and that I was being deliberately manipulated and gas-lighted. We're divorced now and I am much happier. I know where the kid's swim kit is (most of the time) and where my tools are. I hope that your situation is not as bad as mine was, but, one thing I did learn along the way is that I am responsible for looking after my own needs and ultimately, my own happiness. You can't change someone else.

starsandstripes2016 Sat 20-Aug-16 00:57:52

It has always been that he is silent and I talk to compensate. I mistook his silence for a 'gentleness'. My parents marriage was extremely turbulent and I found DP's stillness reassuring.

However he also cannot deal with squabbling which is a necessary part of conflict resolution. The silences are controlling but I also see DP's distress when to resolve a situation he has to acknowledge being human is to be flawed.

In this context anything I say will be a criticism but within in a more resilient relationship would be considered to be trying to get to the nub of the problem.

My relationship also spans 20 plus years. On 7th April DP said the marriage was over as a single statement and has essentially refused or been unable to speak to me since.

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