I received a comment on my last entry stating that, in the example provided, I was being defensive before my husband. I responded to the comment explaining my point of view, which is that, no. I wasn’t being defensive first. His shouting at me was the first defensive thing that happened. However, I will admit that, since being pregnant, my fuse is way, way, way shorter than it was before, and so, yes. I am extremely reactive. Because I’m so reactive, there has been a lot more yelling in general at our house. Usually we’re relatively calm fighters, but recently these explosions have been happening much more frequently and escalating much faster, and I do think I’m largely responsible for that.
We got in another huge argument (surprise!) yesterday morning. My husband brought the mail in after dropping our daughter off at childcare, and he explained that we each got a letter from the IRS. He had already opened his, and the letter was informing us that the reason we never got our tax return last year is because they overpaid us (the exact amount of our return?) in 2018. I was like, what the hell? There was no breakdown provided or anything. Just, “we kept your return (nearly $3,000), and we’re even now.” I asked my husband if there was anything we could do, and he said we could call. He said he would do it either on Thursday or Friday of this week.
I said that sounds like a good plan, and I suggested that he start keeping a calendar for things like this. He can write down the things he intends to do on the days he intends to do them so that he can stay organized and accountable for himself. He said that a calendar wouldn’t work for him, and I initiated the argument by stating that what he’s doing now doesn’t work for him.
I could feel all of the pent up anger—about the fact that he’d told me he’d call and find out what was going on with our taxes on several occasions over a period of six months and it never happened—beginning to rear it’s ugly head. He was also exhibiting signs of pent up anger surfacing. Before I knew it, I was uncontrollably spewing out all kinds of things: how I didn’t know how he could expect me to trust him after what happened before, how I felt lied to, how I was so angry about it and I didn’t know what to do with my anger.
He tried to tune me out—his usual reaction—which just added fuel to my fire. So I just leaned in harder. He eventually stormed out and started yelling angry sounds into the living room, like he couldn’t contain himself. That’s when I knew I’d gotten to him, and I felt satisfied with it. I was just so sick of being brushed off.
We gave each other space, and the rest of the day felt relatively productive. I am a big believer in dealing with these things head on. The reason our explosion was so big was because it was months in the making. I see at my job what happens when people let shit like this stew, undealt with, for years. It can destroy otherwise loving marriages.
Eventually what we determined was that we are both contributing to a dysfunctional dynamic. He chooses to feed me (and himself) bullshit in order to avoid conflict. As it turns out, he never called our tax people because he believed that checking the status of our tax return online was sufficient. He felt certain that our tax people wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway, and that we just needed to bide our time until things sorted themselves out. So he would tell me he was going to call “when he had time,” with no real intention of ever calling. It was a way of getting me to shut up. And it worked.
This of course was very hurtful to me. I did shut up and let this drag on for months, because I trusted him when he said he was going to do it. Over time, that trust began to waver, and that’s when the anger started to build. I felt lied to because, in a sense, I was being lied to.
So how am I contributing to the dynamic? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out, but one thing I’ve picked up on is that my fighting style is too aggressive for my husband. Something about the way I approach disagreements makes him feel like he needs to feed me bullshit to get me to stop. He believes there is no other way. It’s tricky for me, though, because in my experience, no matter how I approach him (as I mentioned in a previous entry), if the message is that I want him to do something different, he shuts down almost immediately. I’ve even tried to ask him, “how can I approach you in a way that you’ll hear me?” and he hasn’t been able to give me any feedback.
I do believe I’ve pretty much nailed down our problem, but I am stuck on what the next move is. All I can do now is hope that it reveals itself over time.
Last updated January 21, 2021