Mark Goulston, M.D.
Disagree without fighting
How do you disagree without it turning into a big fight? Your husband is set in his ways. He doesn’t want to do anything differently. He just wants to be able to sit at home and do what he wants to do. He thinks he works so hard, and that’s enough. A general rule that I have occasionally referred to is that actions respond to counteractions; they don’t respond to words. So, after you’ve made a request, and maybe you’ve even reduced to pleading, just stop. It’s only making you angrier.
Come up with a counter behavior that, initially, will not violate the trust, intimacy, or sexuality of the relationship. Maybe say to your spouse, “You have the right to do what you want to do, which is to stay home and do nothing, and I’ll respect that you say that’s what satisfies and fulfills you. However, I also have the right to do what fulfills me, as long as it’s not a violation of our vows. And, since I don’t want to live a lie, I’m telling you now that I’m not going out, looking to have an affair or cheat on the relationship, but I am going to think about the kind of things that I like to do. I will invite you to join in. But, whether you say yes or no, I’m going to do those things.” It will be interesting; you will find that a lot of those spouses will initially say, “Well, do whatever you want,” but they’re only testing you. They’re testing to see if you’re bluffing, and the key is to come up with things that you’ll follow through with.
When you’re going out to do that activity, when you’re going out to some sort of movie, class, or restaurant with girlfriends, make an announcement. Don’t do a passive-aggressive manipulative statement like, “Well, I’m leaving now.” Instead, matter of factly say, “I’m going to a dinner and a movie with some friends. I just wanted to let you know I’ll be home at 10pm. You’re more than welcome to come with, if you’d like.” And then leave.
Now, of course, there one is the danger: You find yourself actually feeling happier, more uplifted, and enjoying life being away from him. Then that runs the risk of a much more serious discussion. But I would encourage you to select activities that aren’t a violation of some of the sacred vows of marriage. Then, if you decide that you feel much more alive doing those things and you’re feeling much more un-alive with you spouse, you may need to have a more serious talk.
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