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Anyone have any tips on how to keep a relationship healthy/communication channels open?

(38 Posts)
Thinkstoomuch Sat 07-Nov-09 15:34:20

DH and I seem trapped in cycles of: brooding resentments (mine) leading to big, horrible rows; culminating in promises (his) to address things that bug me and (both) work at the relationship; followed by a period of slipping back into old ways until the next row comes along.

It's been about 17 years now and I'm left feeling ignored, not respected, taken for granted, etc. He feels I'm snappy with him and patronising, and I have to concede he's right.

The endless cycles of rowing and promising and slipping back have eroded my trust and respect in DH. Some of the issues for me feel insurmountable and I've mentioned divorce. DH is adamant he wants to save the marriage.

Anyway what this is all leading to is that after the latest, biggest row we are trying again to work through our issues and both generally try harder. Does anyone have any tips on how to preserve this resolve and not just slip into old ways? If you go to Relate or something like that do they give you TECHNIQUES to keep communication channels open? Today we are both trying hard, being kind to each other, etc. but with two DCs and the stresses and strains of busy lives how do we hang onto that?

Sorry if this is a bit rambly.

agingoth Sat 07-Nov-09 15:42:33

All I can say is congrats to you both for trying.

My marriage went to the wall over similar issues so I'm probably not the best person to ask. We were in Relate for about 2 years and they never really gave us techniques (except for the sexual problems, lol).

I wish you luck with it, it sounds as if you both have the right attitude and that surely is half the battle.

duke748 Sat 07-Nov-09 16:08:19

I'd second the congratulations for sticking with it and trying to resolve things.

You haven't gone into to much detail in your OP, but I was wondering if this might be a different way to look at it...

It seems he is/isn't doing something you want, you pick him up on it, then he tries for a bit to do/not do it, but ineviatably fails at some point. You then feel let down and not listened to and he feels he can't please you because he tried his best. And so the cycle continues.

What about trying to accept him as he is? I know I've made it sound overwhelmingly easy and, of course, its not. However, one of the things I have learnt very recently is to pick my battles and truly accept my man for what he is.

For example, I feel my man doesn't always take time to consider me and how I would feel about things. I used to get upset, cry blush and get angry that he couldn't see that what he did/didn't do was hurtful. And I used to think it was so bloody obvious I'd think that he must have done it on purpose.

I now accept that as a baseline he loves me and would do anything to make me happy. However, he doesn't actually KNOW what would make me happy. When I speak to my girlfriends they totally 'get' me and see why I feel like that, but he has no comprehension at all!

Every so often does something that he doesn't realise hurts me. When he does I either ignore it (if small) or try to say why it hurt me. He usually apologises immediately and then I try really hard not to keep sulking! It stops the cycle and one is left 'trying' to change themselves.

As he told me one time, 'don't you think you do things that drive me crazy all the time, but I hardly ever mention them, as I know you love me'. That was a real shocker to me, not because i think I'm perfect (!) but because I'd assume he would tell me if I annoyed him. I think men and women tend to be different in the way their minds work.

So I'd say why don't you try picking your battles, and agree to resolving them as quick as possible. Asking people to change when they have shown over 17 years that they can't, seems to me like banging your head against a brick wall!

Of course i don't know the extent of what is happening in your relationship. If you are talking about affairs or abuse or any other 'dealbreaker' then ignore me totally!

I hope that that might offer a different way of doing things. Even if you ignore my advice completely, I would most certainly state the obvious, you both have to change how you react to issues, or else you will end up doing exactly the same as you have for the last 17 years!

Good luck, I am sure that you can get through this if you both work at it.

jabberwocky Sat 07-Nov-09 16:17:50

There's a book called "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk". I think cod or custy originally recommended it. Anyway, it also works amazingly well on spouses! Really makes you think about the way you are communicating with them and in turn can make a positive change in how they communicate with you.

It's really great that he wants to work on saving the marriage. Counseling is ime always a good thing as well as working through things on your own. A third party can really open up your eyes as to what the underlying issues are.

Thinkstoomuch Sat 07-Nov-09 20:07:52

Thanks esp. Duke for such a long reply. To add a bit of detail, no there are no really big issues like abuse. The crux of it is that I think too much about our relationship (hence my screen name!) whereas he barely thinks about it at all. Small things that I feel would help me live with him (e.g. taking more care with his appearance) end up becoming big things because e.g. he refuses to chuck out ancient tshirts that are falling apart. Most of the things are small but the cumulative effect is that I feel he doesn't care enough to do those things for me. We have bigger underlying issues too - e.g. he's from a different, less university-educated background and there's, well there's no other way to say it, a slight intellectual difference between us (he says this too).

I've changed things about myself in that 17 years but he's generally happy with me. But I can't seem to just live with all the minor and bigger irritations. He IS capable of change though and has done on several scores. In fact I think by the time I've finished with him he'll make someone a damn good husband (joke).

I'm too demanding, critical and I'm sure not an easy ride to be with - all undoubtedly true. Certainly you could say I should just accept him how he is. But Duke, in reality how does one reach such a Zen state?

Jabberwocky - thanks, I've got that and will get it out to have a look for anything that's applicable. I think you're right about counselling and we are going to look into it.

duke748 Sat 07-Nov-09 20:36:01

Hi again. I do it to make my life easier, not his! And its not right 100% of the time, but honestly, life is much easier for us both.

He agrees to think a bit more about my feelings and apologise quickly of he upsets me and I pull him up on it. I agree to let some smaller things slide and accept the apology and not sulk. Seems pretty fair to me. After MAKING myself do it for a while, its almost natural!

Surely expecting him to make all the changes and you making none isn't fair?

Maybe let him wear his crappy shirts most of the time, but when you are going out for a meal or to visit your friends/ family he wears something a bit newer.

Is a rubbish shirt or two really worth 17 years of upset?

Also - the idea of being intellectually superior to him must hurt him greatly. Surely he is better at some things and you are better at others? Sneering at him won't help him or your relationship at all. University has nothing to do with intellect by the way, and I speak as someone with multiple A grades and a 1st class honours degree.

How would you like it if he was constantly telling you what you were doing wrong, that you weren't good enough for him, that you were more stupid that him and that you needed his constant help to 'improve' you? I think a woman posting that on Mumsnet would be met with choruses of 'emotional abuse'.

I don't want to appear harsh, but its the old adage of treating others as you would like to be treated yourself.

I think if you went to couselling you would be advised to try similar techniques.

Thinkstoomuch Sat 07-Nov-09 21:03:53

I resent your tone when I've come on here asking for advice to help my marriage. This is not a AIBU thread. No it's not just about a tshirt. As I wrote, that is one example among a very many small things, that add up to an overall picture of ignoring my feelings. In the reverse situation e.g. something equally trivial like if he says he likes my hair a certain way I'll keep it like that with that in mind. I don't ignore his feelings.

Also I've said I have changed things about myself - but he says he pretty much likes me as I am. Like I say, he thinks about things less than I do - his own words - and I brood. Something I see as a curse btw, linked to years of depression and self-harm. I don't want to get into any of that though.

The point about us having different intellectual backgrounds - what do you want me to say? It's a fact and we're both aware of it. I'm honest enough to admit it, not brush it under the carpet. I'm aiming for some advice beyond brush it under the carpet actually, so thanks but...

meakin Sat 07-Nov-09 21:10:25 has q lot to think about

duke748 Sat 07-Nov-09 21:17:11

Please don't get upset with me.

I never said it was all about a tshirt, I just used the example you gave me.

Its up to you if you take or don't take my advice. You asked for help and I am just trying to use my (relevant?) experience to offer you another alternative.

I have also suffered from years of depression and even a suicide attempt. Please don't use this as an excuse for your behaviour. We all have our demons.

If you really think that its acceptable to look down on your DH for not have a university degree and feel that he needs your 'continuous improvement' campaign, then fine. But I think you have reacted badly because you know that there is a grain of truth in what I say.

If you want to keep getting what you always got (i.e. cycles of arguments for years and years) then keep doing what you have always done. If you want things to change then you need to make changes. you cant change him (God knows you have tried) but you can only influence your own behaviour.

Thinkstoomuch Sat 07-Nov-09 21:30:57

Thanks meakin, looks useful and I'm reading through it.

Duke - 'If you want to keep getting what you always got' - have you read my original post? Isn't it precisely saying that I'm looking for techniques to avoid repeating the past, to reset my behaviour as well as his? You are making a lot of presumptions that are plain wrong and you've given no helpful advice whatsoever.

duke748 Sat 07-Nov-09 21:42:12

You have obviously taken offense at what I have said, and that's fine. As I said, you can take or leave my advice. Maybe someone else will come along with some other advice that you think would work better for you.

Seeing as I probably can't annoy you any further, I thought I would ask this question. What relevance does someone's education background have on the relationship? How does it affect the dynamics? How does it affect whether you argue or not? Fact or not fact, I just honestly do not know how it is relevant.

rachels103 Sat 07-Nov-09 21:59:53

I don't think you should disregard what duke is saying completely.

Everyone has things about them that irritate their partner - that's natural when you live with someone for a long period of time - but how you address these things can affect the dynamic of the relationship hugely.

I have picked fault with my dh in the past for little things that drive me mad, but because my dh is a stubborn sod, and also quite wise (he's come out of the other side of a nervous breakdown and through therapy he understands himself better than most) he responded by pointing out, as your dh did, that I do things that drive him mad too but he doesn't say anything because it's not worth it and they're not big enough to affect our relationship.

Now, whenever he's driving me mad by, say, leaving his clothes all over the place, I try and think of an equivalent thing that I do, bite my tongue, and remind myself that I love him and it's not that big a deal.

It doesn't always work, and it sounds like you have a few more issues to address, but looking at things from his perspective might help you understand how he feels?

Thinkstoomuch Sat 07-Nov-09 22:57:02

Would love to hear from anyone who has practical things to suggest that help them to keep communicating with their partner. We're especially trying to work on not letting little things snowball so they become bigger issues.

rasputin Sat 07-Nov-09 23:00:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BecauseImWorthIt Sat 07-Nov-09 23:02:29

Hmm. Sorry, but I think you've been given some very valuable advice already by duke.

Perhaps one of your issues is that you only want to hear advice that chimes with your point of view?

Apologies if this offends you, and I wish you all the best in sorting your relationship out.

Thinkstoomuch Sat 07-Nov-09 23:25:07

DH has read the thread too and think Duke's advice stinks too, so ya boo sucks. I'm sorry but 'how about just accepting him for what he is?' is glib and unhelpful. We do listen to each other, but at the moment we only manage it properly when it follows a row about an issue that's been allowed to snowball. It's not healthy and we want to change that.

Once again, I'd still like to hear suggestions for ^practical ideas^ from people that have experiences that are similar, e.g. have been through counselling. I don't know what those might be, but perhaps scheduling one-to-one time every week to talk works, or holding an object when it's your turn to speak, that sort of thing? We both agree that actively listening to each other is something we have to get better at.

BecauseImWorthIt Sat 07-Nov-09 23:27:22

ya boo sucks?

That's really adult.

Clearly we can't give you what you want here.

Talk to an expert rather than those of us who might be prepared to give you the benefit of our own time, courtesy and consideration.

duke748 Sat 07-Nov-09 23:32:04

I'm glad I could be the one thing you and your DH agree on.

And I'm glad I spent part of my Saturday night trying to help you.


BecauseImWorthIt Sat 07-Nov-09 23:40:09

'Thinkstoomuch' clearly refers to yourself only, and not those on MN who are prepared to try and help you.

duke748 Sat 07-Nov-09 23:46:07

And while I am on a roll....

If your DH really thinks my advice to be kinder to him, try to understand him more, not look down on him for his educational achievements and try to treat him as you would like to be treated 'stinks' then either you have done a total number on him... or you deserve each other.

I know which one I believe.

Good luck moving forward from here.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sat 07-Nov-09 23:51:25

OP - how incredibly rude you are! If that is how you speak to your DH then no wonder you are having arguments and he feels patronised.

Thinkstoomuch Sat 07-Nov-09 23:54:25

Yep good luck with your perfect marriage.

BecauseImWorthIt Sat 07-Nov-09 23:58:43


Do you have any insight at all into your own personality?

You come across here as rude, patronising and totally inconsiderate and ungrateful. Yet you've been married for 17 years? Your DH is probably a saint.

Oh, and I have been with my DH for 23 years and married for 19. Just in case you wondered.

MissAnneElk Sat 07-Nov-09 23:58:50

Not sure you're going to get the help you need on here thinkstoomuch. I know - let me pass you this stick and when someone comes along who can help you, you are allowed to pass them the stick so you can speak again - until then you must remain silent...

Booyhoo Sun 08-Nov-09 00:13:56

wow, duke i found your post really helpful, some really good points there and none taht are offensive at all. actually quite similar to what i would expect if i was to see a relationship counsellor.

OP i think if you really are determined to improve your relationship with your DH then you need to be open to suggestions and not view them as a personal attack. this could be why you have had such diffiulty so far in your marriage.

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