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Cheddarhead

Avoiding conflict in my marriage

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I'm a guy that has been married for 18 years.  Love my wife.  We get along really well and live a fairly uneventful life.  No children either.  Thing is, I have always been the type to avoid conflict.  Don't like it, don't handle it well.  My emotions get in the way and I can't communicate or think effectively when we fight.  It's like I come unglued at the seams when ever there is some sort of conflict between us.  I realize it's totally unhealthy to be this way.  I grew up extremely insecure, shy, timid and lacking assertiveness.  Not very manly traits to say the least.  What troubles me the most is that there have been long standing issues in our marriage that never get resolved because I fail to bring them up.  I feel things are very unfair in our relationship because I lack the backbone to stand my ground.  Feel like I've been taken advantage of for many years because I allow it to happen.  I even went to a counselor several times about this very issue.  I still can't get the courage to say how I feel to my wife.  Fear of conflict just seems to paralyze me.  How do I get through this fear of conflict?  It's beating me up inside.

Edited by Cheddarhead

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Hi cheddar ,

you love your wife and I'm sure she loves you too. Can you elaborate on why you fear conflict in your marriage? For example are you afraid of how you're going to express yourself, or how she's going to react, or are you worried she will leave you?

 

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I am on the receiving end of this very scenario. He goes into his room to escape if anything comes up.

This has caused me to have my own issues with bringing things up as im afraid of a blowup or another escape leaving me with feelings of abandonment. 

So my counsellor has suggested scripting things with some disclaimers at the beginning to try to take away from any negativity that can arise. I have her to help look them over so im not sure if you still have access to yours or not.

Anyway you can prepare yourself for saying things in ways that could lessen the blow and sound for assertive rather than aggressive or offensive. Does that make sense?

Natasha

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As a conflict avoider myself, all I can say is that you are not alone in this.  Please do not label yourself with over-simplifications like "shy" "timid" "unmanly" "insecure" and so on.  You are almost infinitely more than what those labels say.  No "label" can sum you up.  Labels leave more out than they include and are inaccurate and unfair to you and to truth.  No good can come from beating yourself up with labels.  None at all. 

If there is something you want to change about yourself, like assertiveness, you might try starting from zero instead of aiming at perfect assertiveness.  One day, perhaps you can do something mildly, mildly, mildly assertive.  If you can do that say "Bravo" to yourself.  If you can't do that, congratulate yourself on trying.  Bravo.  If you can't try, then congratulate yourself on wanting to try:  Bravo! 

Slowly move in the direction you want to go and count the least step in that direction as a huge victory.  It can help not to set any artificial time limits because these create unnecessary stress.   Start from zero every day.  If you do more than zero:  fantastic.  Don't think:  "Oh, I am so far far away from 100% perfection in assertiveness."  Start from zero and count up. 

You might also try to remember that there are probably tens of millions of people who try to avoid conflict.  You are not alone.  Some conflict avoiders have done great and heroic things in human history.

Another thing that "might" help . . . do not view "conflict avoidance" as as the worst thing.  Adolf Hitler caused the destruction of tens of millions of human beings.  avoiding conflict in a relationship is far, far, far, far, far, far, far away from being the worst thing in the world. 

Perhaps my advice is not helpful?  In that case, please accept by best wishes in place of my advice.  - epictetus

Edited by Epictetus

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17 hours ago, Lezarus said:

Hi cheddar ,

you love your wife and I'm sure she loves you too. Can you elaborate on why you fear conflict in your marriage? For example are you afraid of how you're going to express yourself, or how she's going to react, or are you worried she will leave you?

 

I'm not worried she will leave me.  We are very faithful to each other.  We're both terrible communicators.  I fear opening up a huge can of worms that will alter things between us.  Could be good, could be bad.  Thats what I fear.  I like to express myself and wear my heart on my sleeve.  She is the opposite, keeps most of her emotions and thoughts to herself.  Usually I have to pry to find out what's going on in her head.  It's always been this way.  Frustrating.  She is a very passive person and so am I.  If I find an issue with something then I have to bring it up or it will never get talked about.  That makes it look like I'm ALWAYS the one that has problems with things, not her.  She VERY RARELY has issues with anything in our relationship.  Probably the most easy going non drama kind of spouse you could ever have.  She just goes with the flow of life with very few complaints.  So if any kind of argument ensues, you can be sure it starts with me.  Not because I'm mean but because she will not take much responsibility for anything in our relationship.  

This is where the issues start with me.  I have a professional career and make 90% of our income.  She works part time.  This isn't the issue.  The issue is that I can't get her to meet me half way in our marriage because she either doesn't care or doesn't care about me, or both.  I do all the house work, all the yard work, every bit of the cooking, do all the grocery shopping, pay all our bills, take care of two vehicles and whatever else needs to be fixed on a house.  Even sex is initiated by me 100% of the time.  Makes me feel like I'm not attractive to her.  Not exaggerating.  She simply doesn't care if we live in a filthy dirty broken down house.  I take the brunt of all the responsibility in our relationship and she just follows along never having to make a decision about anything.  This causes huge resentment with me.  She wants to live in a house but doesn't want to help take care of it.  I can't force someone to do things they don't want to do.  What's so irrational about this is that as long as it stays this way everything remains very civil between us.  Its just not fair.  I'm just getting tired of having a partner that doesn't play an active part in our marriage.  Most any "normal" person would never put up with this.  Me on the other hand don't have the balls to do anything about it.  I often ask myself what the payoff is in living this way.  

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2 hours ago, Cheddarhead said:

I'm not worried she will leave me.  We are very faithful to each other.  We're both terrible communicators.  I fear opening up a huge can of worms that will alter things between us.  Could be good, could be bad.  Thats what I fear.  I like to express myself and wear my heart on my sleeve.  She is the opposite, keeps most of her emotions and thoughts to herself.  Usually I have to pry to find out what's going on in her head.  It's always been this way.  Frustrating.  She is a very passive person and so am I.  If I find an issue with something then I have to bring it up or it will never get talked about.  That makes it look like I'm ALWAYS the one that has problems with things, not her.  She VERY RARELY has issues with anything in our relationship.  Probably the most easy going non drama kind of spouse you could ever have.  She just goes with the flow of life with very few complaints.  So if any kind of argument ensues, you can be sure it starts with me.  Not because I'm mean but because she will not take much responsibility for anything in our relationship.  

This is where the issues start with me.  I have a professional career and make 90% of our income.  She works part time.  This isn't the issue.  The issue is that I can't get her to meet me half way in our marriage because she either doesn't care or doesn't care about me, or both.  I do all the house work, all the yard work, every bit of the cooking, do all the grocery shopping, pay all our bills, take care of two vehicles and whatever else needs to be fixed on a house.  Even sex is initiated by me 100% of the time.  Makes me feel like I'm not attractive to her.  Not exaggerating.  She simply doesn't care if we live in a filthy dirty broken down house.  I take the brunt of all the responsibility in our relationship and she just follows along never having to make a decision about anything.  This causes huge resentment with me.  She wants to live in a house but doesn't want to help take care of it.  I can't force someone to do things they don't want to do.  What's so irrational about this is that as long as it stays this way everything remains very civil between us.  Its just not fair.  I'm just getting tired of having a partner that doesn't play an active part in our marriage.  Most any "normal" person would never put up with this.  Me on the other hand don't have the balls to do anything about it.  I often ask myself what the payoff is in living this way.  

That definitely doesn't seem fair at all. Any relationship is a two way street and she needs to hold up her part of it. You're not doing anything wrong but you ARE enabling her behaviour. 

I know it's easier said than done, but you really need to tell her how you feel.  Sit her down and explain to her that you've had a lot of things you've been wanting to get out of your chest and you hope that she will be open to listening to your concerns. Most of the time it's not WHAT you're saying but rather HOW you're conveying your message. She will likely instantly get defensive and close off if she feels like she's being attacked. I know it's cheesy but even wording things like "I FEEL like you x y z" makes a big difference than saying "YOU'RE always x y z". 

Just be calm, sit her down, and tell her that some things need to change in order to ensure both of your happiness. Tell her you'd appreciate it if your duties are spread out more equally. Explain to her that you're exhausted and it's stressing you out. 

Shes your wife, you should never hesitate to speak up and tell her how you feel, no matter what her personality is like. You have the right to express yourself to her, you have to take the first step. I know you can do it, and I'm sure she would want you to be happy. She can't change something or fix a problem if she doesn't KNOW it exists. 

Good luck , I'd love to know how things turn out (I'll be praying for the best! )

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