Husband Gets Angry When I Tell Him How I Feel: He Gets Defensive When I Tell Him How I Feel

When couples come to me for help, the first thing I do is observe how they communicate with each other. Communication is often the gauge of the health of a relationship. There are certain effective communication principles that can help you create a more harmonious marriage or relationship; and certain styles of communication have been linked to relationship and marital problems.

When couples seek marriage help and relationship advice, they are often locked in ineffective communication patterns that have spiraled out of control. When this occurs:

~Conflict increases;
~Resentments and emotional wounding intensify;
~Emotional intimacy suffers;
~Physical intimacy suffers;
~And you may feel more "stressed" in general-your relationship problems can impact other areas of your life.

As you can see, significant relationship problems add up when communication flounders.

Marriage help: Effective versus ineffective communication

One area where couples often get themselves into trouble is attempting to give each other feedback when one person is doing something that the other finds troubling. John Gottman, Ph.D. (a prominent marriage researcher) makes an important distinction that you should be aware of:

The difference between complaining versus criticizing.

Whenever you complain, you are giving your spouse/partner important feedback about something you'd like to change. So periodic complaining can be good for your relationship!

For instance, "You left the milk out last night and I had to throw out the entire gallon" is a complaint that lets your partner know that s/he needs to be more mindful during his/her late night snacking.

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A criticism is very different. Rather than focusing on the behavior you'd like to see changed (leaving milk out all night), criticisms are directed at your partner.

Staying with our milk example, a criticism might look something like, "You left the milk out all night. I can't believe how lazy you are!"

As you read the two examples above, I'd like you to think about which feedback would make you more likely to "hear" your partner's message and which would make you more defensive? Criticisms have the power to stop communication in its tracks.

The couples that seek my relationship help are frequently involved in a criticism-defense-counter criticism pattern. The person hurling criticisms makes his/her partner feel attacked (and defensive) and when this occurs, the likelihood of a counter-attack increases ("Oh, yeah, you're even lazier than me!").

This is a big reason why communication falters.

So when you give your spouse/partner feedback, try your best to focus on the behavior you'd like to see changed, rather than verbally attacking your partner for his/her unwanted actions.

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I often hear from wives who hope that getting their husband to come home after a separation is almost imminent. The key word is almost. Often, the husband has finally admitted that he is considering returning home, but all the wife hears are words like "maybe" or "thinking about it" and she wants words that signify more certainty. She doesn't want to think about something that may happen. She wants to think about something that is absolutely going to happen because she misses her husband horribly and she knows that it is time for him to come home.

I heard from a wife who said: "my husband and I have been separated for about two and a half months. He is the one who wanted to separate. I have never wanted to be apart. Recently, things have gotten a little better between us. I will admit that I have pressured my husband to come home because enough is enough. At first, he told me that the more I pushed him, the more he was going to take his time. But last week, he finally admitted that he had been considering coming home. I asked him when he would come to a final decision and he got frustrated and told me that I was pressuring him again and that he couldn't give me a set date. All he would say is that if things continued to go well, he could see himself coming home sometime in the future. I want to make sure this happens. I can't imagine continuing our life this way. I am so tired of living alone. So how can I make sure that this actually happens and that he actually comes home?"

Believe me when I say that I understand feeling this way. I was the wife who used to smell my husband's unwashed clothes when we were separated because I just wanted some part of him with me. And I wasn't shy about constantly asking him when he was finally coming home. But in my case, the more I asked, the worst things deteriorated. And I don't think that my situation is uncommon. I have heard with many who experienced the same thing that I did - that the best way to make sure that a separated husband comes home is to focus on continuing to improve your relationship and to give him an incentive to come home rather than focusing on making him feel pressured so that he will cave in.

Be Very Aware Of What You Are Asking Him To Come Home To:

Often, we go with the strategy that is most in alignment with our emotions. We feel panicked, lonely and desperate, so the most obvious thing to do is to share those feelings with him. But guess what? He doesn't want to feel (or hear about) those negative feelings. He wants to feel elevated with you. He wants to feel happier, and move alive when he is with you. He wants to feel like being with you is actually some sort of escape.

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Contrast this with a woman who is intent on pressuring him so much that he finally caves in and comes home because he just doesn't want to hear anymore nagging. Which husband do you think is going to be more excited to come home? The husband who has watched his marriage improve and enjoyed a new spark in his relationship? Or the husband who saw some improvement until his wife could think of nothing else other than getting her way and getting him home?

Frankly, the husband who is being pressured is going to wonder if his wife is only on her best behavior as a way to lure him back. In other words, all of that wonderful progress that you've made in your marriage is now at risk of being questioned and doubted. To me, it is just not worth the risk. I know you want him home, but pushing him too fast can put all of the progress that you have worked so hard for at risk.

Give Him More Of What He's Already Told You He Wants:

So think about it for a second. He's already told you that he wants for things to continue to go well. He's already clued you in that he likes the new dynamic between you. So you already know what is working.

And you already know that he loses patience and gets frustrated when you try to pressure him. So this is what you want to do much less of (or even stop altogether if you can manage it.)

To be honest, your husband has almost given you a road map to get him back home. He's said that if things continue to go well, that is what is going to happen. So your job is to make absolutely sure that things continue to go well. Now, having said that, you don't want to go overboard and to appear that you aren't being genuine. Make sure that things feel very natural.

To answer the question posed, although you shouldn't ever try to "make" or "force" your husband come home, doing what you know is already working is the best way to ensure that you continue to progress so much that he genuinely, willingly wants to come home.

Saying or doing the wrong thing can actually cause your spouse to feel even more distant from you. You can make your spouse fall back in love with you, all over again.

You don't have to worry about whether your spouse is on the brink of asking you for a divorce. You can control the situation and use specific techniques to naturally make them fall hopelessly in love with you.

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