Originally Posted by may22
So the first step that worked for me, at least in this situation was... stop. Don't say ANYTHING. Just listen. Even if I was fuming inside and dying to say something back, I zipped my lip. That both prevented me from going to my usual reaction but also forced him to respond differently. And, for the most part (yesterday being an exception) he's become much better about this kind of thing-- says it nicely, like hey, looks like the dishwasher isn't doing a good job, I found this spoon. (I'm just using the spoon as an example-- it isn't always the dishwasher, it could be just about anything in this category.)

Then I noticed.. I had that same response NO MATTER HOW he said it to me. Because he started saying it more nicely and I *still* felt guilty and defensive. That helped me realize that this was my issue, more than his.

Taking that beat has really helped me in a lot of ways better interpret what my H is actually saying or doing from an intellectual space, without going immediately to the ingrained emotional response. Alison helped me with this a lot too, seeing where my own behaviors were actually aimed at getting some response out of H and it was a form of trying to maintain control.

Sometimes that beat is enough. Sometimes it needs to be three deep breaths. Sometimes I say, I can't really do this right now, I'm sorry, can we pick it up in a minute? And take the time I need to think through what is going on, what I'm really hearing from him and what blanks I'm filling in from my own experience and emotional response.

This has helped me in my interaction with my mom, too, quite a bit. She can say some nutty things and my immediate usual response is to get frustrated with her, and I know she thinks I jump all over her for taking the smallest misstep. Now I take that same beat with her and try to separate out what I'm hearing vs what me just reacting to her or the context.

Naming your own emotional response in the moment helps too. Rather than just feeling defensive and that huge spurt of adrenaline fueling your response, being able to say wow, I feel defensive right now, helped me at least to calm down. And if you get to the point where you can also name that to your H-- I'm sorry, I'm feeling kind of defensive right now-- that also can help him understand what is going on for you in that moment.

Once you can take that beat and control your initial emotional response, then another step you can take is to listen carefully to what it is that your H is saying. What is he really trying to communicate to you? A lot of times it isn't in the words he's using-- those are often the same old retreads as well. Be curious. Ask deepening questions. (Another very, very serendipitous thing that happened for me at the same time as this whole crisis was that I had the opportunity to participate in this incredible 18 month leadership fellowship, a lot of which was about learning how to be a better listener/communicator, and I had an executive coach also who helped me with a lot of this in a work context.) See where he's coming from. I think a lot of times it can defuse your own emotional response to understand where he's really coming from, because it is often not about you (something you can be defensive about) but rather how he feels, which you can probably empathize with.

Later, spend some time parsing through what happened. How did you feel? What did you say? What might you have said instead? What is really at the heart of your regular emotional response? If you were a fly on the wall and observing another couple having the same conversation, what would you think?

Anyway, just some thoughts that helped me.

"What is best for my kids is best for me"
Amor Fati
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