My husband and I are as opposite as can be when it comes to communication. He has anxiety over conflict that he does not want to admit or figure out why it’s there. Therefore, he avoids bringing up topics that he assumes will cause conflict, and he also assumes there will be conflict when there wouldn’t have been if he had just said something in the first place. He even lies about things because he assumes there will be a negative reaction. Sometimes he even asks others to lie in order to cover up his lies, and he encourages the kids to lie and keep secrets as well. Ironically, the only thing I end up being mad about a good part of the time is the fact that he lied or didn’t tell me something or asked someone else to lie as well. So, his anxiety over conflict ends up causing more conflict than otherwise would have happened.
His preference is to let things fester, push everything under the rug, and ignore the issues. I, on the other hand, want to discuss things and figure out why they happened so we can try to prevent them from happening in the future. I don’t always say what’s bothering me at the time something happens and I give myself a chance to figure out what I want to say and how, but once I have those thoughts formulated, I don’t want them floating around in my head for too long because then small things turn into big things, and the negative emotions become magnified. I want to say everything I have to say on the topic and get it all out. The problem is, often times the thoughts all come out the next time the same thing happens, which is when my emotions are high. Then sometimes I think I’m done talking about it but as I’m thinking about the conversation or argument shortly afterwards, I think of something else I should have said, something I meant to say, or a more concrete way to say what I was thinking and I bring it up again a few minutes later. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the patience to listen to much of anything I have to say and literally shuts down as soon as I start to raise my voice or even talk at all.
My idea of conflict resolution is to talk about the issues, understand why things happened or why things were said, and then work through them. His idea of conflict resolution is to end the argument as soon as possible because it is causing him anxiety. He thinks talking over me to shut me down is the way to make that happen, but it makes it SO much worse. So nothing really ever gets resolved because he doesn’t want to listen and figure out what needs to change, or at least clear up a misunderstanding. So the negative patterns just keep repeating and repeating.
Probably somewhere in between our two styles of communication is more ideal. If we made time to sit down and discuss the issues when we are both more calm, then the discussion would be less emotional. And if he were willing to listen and actually wanted to resolve the issues, then perhaps I would make the effort to sit down and have those discussions, and perhaps even when things get brought up in the heat of the moment, maybe something would actually get resolved.
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