My husband and I have been married for two years . We are not communicating
the way we should . He feels that I am "against" him having anything
he wants. When I try to discuss this he gets mad and he wants me to
completely drop the conversation , which is something I can't do! We
are in the middle of a crisis over the purchase of a snowmobile and
again he won't discuss the issue. How can we resolve our continuing
Half of all marriages end
in divorce due to unresolved conflict. Research shows that partnerships
dissolve not because spouses stop "loving" one another, but because
they cannot succeed at conflict resolution. You and your husband need
to develop skills which allow you to have, rather than abort, discussions.
Being able to carry discussions to full term increases the possibility
for empathy as well as the probability of giving birth to creative solutions.
Start by looking at your respective parents' marriages.
How was conflict resolved in your family? What roles did men and women
have in relationship to their ability to negotiate fairly? We learn
most of what we know by imprinting on the patterns with which we were
raised. Your husband's "all" and "never" statements and his walking
off without resolving conflict effectively blocks communication pathways.
Certainly there is no way his desires can be considered if he is not
more proactive on his behalf in discussing his needs and how his goals
might realistically be achieved.
Why does he feel so helpless? Are you "steamrollering"
the discussion or "dismissing" or "minimizing" his feelings which
does not allow for an even exchange of views? Couples want and need
to be understood by their spouses. It is usually out of empathic sharing
that husbands and wives find their way to true and fair negotiation.
Marriage is a two way street. Each partner gains from the goodwill
their spouse experiences. Give and take is necessary for your relationship
to thrive. But how do you get there?
Ask your husband to sit down and discuss the snowmobile
with you. Find out how he feels about it and what it means to him
to acquire one. See if you can catch the true essence of his desire
for it, rather than whether or not the two of you will get one together.
Reflect his feelings to him. Let him know that you understand his
experience. Then, using "I" statements, use the formula, " I feel
_____ when you______ and I imagine ______." Fill in the blanks appropriately,
for example, "I feel frightened when you express a desire to spend
$500 and I imagine that you are not realistic about our financial
situation." Or: "I feel frightened when you say you want to buy a
snowmobile and I imagine that we will not have any time together on
the weekend at all." By expanding your sentences to include three
parts: feelings, the triggering behavior and the imagined consequence,
you may find that you are better able to sort through your discussions
and their solutions.
When you are able to have a discussion, you will
be faced with developing empathy for your partner's experience, separate
from your own response. You will also be faced with a reality check
regarding facts (such as resources of money or time) which must be
addressed for the issue to be truly resolved between you. Marriage
is a partnership. It is not magical. In other words, if a partner
is unconsciously looking for the other to unrealistically give to
him or her what they do not in reality have (money, better job, complete
happiness) this will be exposed through non-blaming discussion. It
is up to each partner to examine whether their needs are reality based
and to withdraw any projection of their partner as Santa Claus. If,
however, there is a difference of opinion on how to relegate resources,
(rather than a lack) it is up to the two of you to negotiate a resolution
in which you both feel equal control and power in the relationship.
When partners feel powerless in their marriages, trust is damaged
and intimacy suffers.
Marital union often triggers unresolved childhood
wounds and spouses can unwittingly project the wish for the "perfect
parent" onto their partner. It is important for spouses to be able
to see themselves as equally responsible in filling their own and
their partner's needs. Where these needs conflict is where growth
happens in marriage.
Ask your husband to consider developing the needed
skills to have discussions which lead to empathy and eventually successful
negotiation. Let him know that you are learning too. Invite him to
be proactive in getting your marriage back on track. It takes both
of you to make a marriage work. It takes only one to file for divorce.
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