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kib Offline OP
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Anyone else struggle with a relationship in which the negative moments are so small it would absurd to make issues out of them, and in any event you simply can't 'win' or get any acknowledgement of your point, but taken grain by grain, they make up a 100 pound sack of salt on your back?

That, seen as an ongoing pattern and not individual nitpicking events, they do matter?

I have a husband who Does Not Want to get into anything. Ever. And so he makes up for "quality" (sorry, I mean big abuses, not that I think they're quality events) with quantity. He'd never hit me, but he would physically pick me up and move me over in a store if he felt someone else wanted to get by, even if they're 10 feet away, instead of telling me his perception so I could decide / engage. Even if I tell him I hate that, he'll say, "I was just being polite". And any criticism whatsoever that it's not his place to be polite to strangers about My body would be met with scowls, snarls and "fine, I just won't help you any more", followed by silence until I either apologize or change the subject. If I try to object, calmly, that I don't see this as "helping me", rinse and repeat.

He would warn me about a physical danger you'd have to be four years old not to be aware of. "watch out for the car door" when I'm standing three feet away from it, like I might rush up and stick my hand in there. Again, he's just being nice. He agrees vigorously with any comment I make about myself that implies I'm clumsy, even though he wouldn't make a direct insult out of clear blue. This time he's making a joke, as I clearly did.

I think you can see from the examples, especially the last two, I'm being ridiculously over-sensitive. There are similar strange incidents with my mother in my childhood (offhand I can remember her talking on the sidewalk with a neighbor when I was about 12, casually turning to me, and squeezing a zit on my face (!) )

This always makes me wonder if I'm just inappropriately triggered by his behaviors. But the bottom line that I always come to is, maybe that's true, that I get really upset about certain very small things. But if I feel these behaviors disrespect my self-authority, it really shouldn't be a question of whether I'm right or not. This isn't an essential behavior, it's a choice. I mean, if you tell me you hate mushrooms, I'm not going to put them on your pizza "because mushrooms are perfectly fine".

Now I know, the bottom line issue here is that I'm dealing with someone who refuses to engage. I want to work on issues that bother me, but there's just no starting a convo with Mr. Teflon. I have some understanding of why, but that hasn't helped me get any traction whatsoever.

So I'm left with the crazy making thoughts. Really? I'm thinking of leaving this marriage of 15 years because he takes keys off my keyring when he needs them without asking, and then doesn't put them back? Seriously, I'm contemplating a separation because he insists on running the fan when I'm cold, because he isn't? Oh come On, I'm going to start an argument about whether it's appropriate to warn me to use a potholder when I'm the only one who ever cooks?

And you???????


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Welcome to MB.

Originally Posted by kib
And you???????

The thing is, your marriage is about YOU. It's about your feelings and your love bank. It's not about us. Whether we would get annoyed about the specific thing you mention, or whether we would leave our marriages over similar incidents, isn't the issue. The issue is that YOUR feelings of love have been eroded by your husband's indifference to your feelings and complaints, and if he wants to keep you, he needs to listen to, and accept, every complaint you make, and work rigorously to eradicate the offending behaviour.

Have you read any of Dr Harley's (the owner of this site) basic concepts? Have you read about
Love Busters? Please follow the link within that article and read more about annoying habits, how they destroy love, and how they can be stopped.


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kib Offline OP
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Thank you, SugarCane, I will read that. I was just wondering what other people have done in circumstances where they simply don't know what to tell themselves, it wasn't specifically asking other people what they think about my situation. But I sometimes feel like I'm living in quite a nice house, but suffering from 1000 mosquito bites. The mosquitos are coming from a pond that should be drained, except it belongs to someone else and there's a tall fence around it. Assuming the mosquitos are not carrying some deadly disease, I ask myself, 'do I sell my house and move away anyhow?' And that sounds both like self-care and insanity. Anyway, thanks for the link.

ETA: I did read over the Love Busters, and feel like I'm starting in the wrong place. My husband's "tall fence" is not about specific behaviors, it's a refusal to engage. I saw myself in some of the Love Busters, I'm certainly not blameless, but any attempt to communicate about this, even if I'm saying something that's more like, "I notice that *I* tend to be disrespectful toward your feelings sometimes, could we talk about that?" the response is going to be something like, "It's all good, don't worry". Even if I come back with "No, I don't feel like it's good, it bothers me when I _____, how does it make you feel?" I'll be met with "I don't mind", or "that's just normal" or a silent gentle shrug and then a complete change of subject. If I try to pursue, he'll leave the room because he's 'busy'.

It's Never armaggedon, it's never even a frown. Fifteen years of Teflon "I'm fine", fifteen years of me turning away and giving up, giving him what he wants, which is a pretty long history of pattern.

Last edited by kib; 06/15/21 10:44 AM.

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Originally Posted by kib
But I sometimes feel like I'm suffering from 1000 mosquito bites. The mosquitos are coming from a pond that should be drained, except it belongs to someone else and there's a tall fence around it.


As you start to explore the information available here you will find two things that will drain the pond.

One is restoring romantic love to your marriage because that will give you both an incentive to work on the problem. The pond will no longer belong to someone else; it will be your jointly owned pond. So much easier to drain!

The other is learning how to make effective complaints. I am guessing that you are not being explicit enough with Mr Teflon. Find a neutral moment to talk, the end of a meal or early morning are often good times. Then everything needs to be framed as being about you "I find it distressing when I find keys missing from my key ring, I would love it if you asked me. Then I could help solve the issue in the most effective way". Be as specific as possible about the problem and make the problem yours. Be sure to thank him when get he gets it right and be patient; old habits die hard so it may take more than one round.


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Thank you Living Well. Sorry, I went back and edited my post while you were responding, instead of adding a new one. I know this is judgmental but after fifteen years I can't help but know this: he has extreme issues with any sort of criticism or confrontation, having little to do with me and everything to do with his childhood, and he refuses to unpack that, he's found a comfortable MO in his fence that he defends at all cost. I am not a psychologist ... I don't know how to dig into this, and I don't really feel it's appropriate, given his stance on the matter. So I'm left over and over with the same question: how does a person define what they won't tolerate, when moment to moment it's so minor? It's not actively awful, it's not even actively unpleasant, it's just an almost astonishing lack of depth and bonding, or at least the verbalization of that which I feel I need.


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Originally Posted by kib

ETA: I did read over the Love Busters, and feel like I'm starting in the wrong place. My husband's "tall fence" is not about specific behaviors, it's a refusal to engage. I saw myself in some of the Love Busters, I'm certainly not blameless, but any attempt to communicate about this, even if I'm saying something that's more like, "I notice that *I* tend to be disrespectful toward your feelings sometimes, could we talk about that?" the response is going to be something like, "It's all good, don't worry". Even if I come back with "No, I don't feel like it's good, it bothers me when I _____, how does it make you feel?" I'll be met with "I don't mind", or "that's just normal" or a silent gentle shrug and then a complete change of subject. If I try to pursue, he'll leave the room because he's 'busy'.

It's Never armaggedon, it's never even a frown. Teflon "I'm fine."


In response to your update:

Many people are conflict avoiders; I am married to one. It took him a long time to learn that conflict did not have to be scary but he now brings up his own complaints which is fantastic!

Don't make this a conversation, just state your issue and stop there. 'How does it make you feel?' is his worst nightmare question, at least for now.

Of course if he gives you feedback, thank him. If he changes the subject, drop it. Come back to it another time.

You cannot make it vague as in "I tend to be ..." or "I notice that . ." Complaints must be specific. "After we finish eating, I would love it if you helped to clear the table".


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Originally Posted by kib
Thank you, SugarCane, I will read that. I was just wondering what other people have done in circumstances where they simply don't know what to tell themselves, it wasn't specifically asking other people what they think about my situation. But I sometimes feel like I'm living in quite a nice house, but suffering from 1000 mosquito bites. The mosquitos are coming from a pond that should be drained, except it belongs to someone else and there's a tall fence around it. Assuming the mosquitos are not carrying some deadly disease, I ask myself, 'do I sell my house and move away anyhow?' And that sounds both like self-care and insanity.

I'm not sure if you understand that I was supporting you. Your analogy does not sound like both self-care and insanity at all - it sounds like self-care. If somebody else is in control of something that affects you so unpleasantly - like mosquitos - and they won't do anything about the unpleasantness, it makes absolute sense for you to move away. It would be insane for you not to move away.

Originally Posted by kib
ETA: I did read over the Love Busters, and feel like I'm starting in the wrong place. My husband's "tall fence" is not about specific behaviors, it's a refusal to engage.

And here again, I think you have misunderstood me completely. The point of the Love Busters article is to show the effect of love busters on the love bank. Love busters drain the bank; that's all there is to it. If the draining behaviour is not stopped, sooner or later the offended spouse will be out of love and will want to leave. This is what is happening to you. The article wholly verifies what you feel and why you feel it.

I asked you to click through to the section on annoying habits because, in the main, the behaviours you complained about would fall into this category. Dr Harley's point is that it does not matter whether the habits are outrageously disgustingly annoying or whether they are relatively minor on some commonly-agreed, objective scale. The point is that if they annoy a spouse (i.e. YOU), they need to stop. And since they are just habits, they can be un-learned. Unlearning can take weeks, but with persistence, any annoying habit can be overturned. What it takes is a will on the part of the annoying person, and your husband lacks that will. That is why your marriage is in trouble.

Originally Posted by kib
I saw myself in some of the Love Busters, I'm certainly not blameless, but any attempt to communicate about this, even if I'm saying something that's more like, "I notice that *I* tend to be disrespectful toward your feelings sometimes, could we talk about that?" the response is going to be something like, "It's all good, don't worry". Even if I come back with "No, I don't feel like it's good, it bothers me when I _____, how does it make you feel?" I'll be met with "I don't mind", or "that's just normal" or a silent gentle shrug and then a complete change of subject. If I try to pursue, he'll leave the room because he's 'busy'.

It's Never armaggedon, it's never even a frown. Fifteen years of Teflon "I'm fine", fifteen years of me turning away and giving up, giving him what he wants, which is a pretty long history of pattern.

I don't think that your approach show that you're conflict avoidant at all. I think you've been reading the literature that suggests using "I" statements. I read in your posts that you have tried a number of different ways over many years to tell your husband to stop doing the annoying, thoughtless things that he does, and you have tried those many different ways because none of them has worked. The despair that you're expressing is because you've actually come to see that it does not matter how you express your complaints; he does not take them seriously. He does not see to hear them because he does not want to deal with them. And when you try to express your complaints in the form of your being unhappy about the way you're so often upset with him, he brushes this off with "it's all good". If I read him correctly, he thinks that every spouse has irritating habits and we all need to learn to live with those irritations and not complain about them. This attitude is of great benefit to him, because it is unlikely that you annoy him anything like as much as he annoys you. He can live with your irritations, but the problem is that he wants you to reciprocate and live with his. But this is what you can't do.

So my asking you to read the articles was to show you the rational basis for why you want to end you marriage, and to explain that the solution is not for you to suck it up and live near the mosquito swamp.

The solution is for you to push for your husband to listen to, and act upon your complaints. You need to tell him that you are very unhappy in your marriage. You shouldn't threaten him with separation; for the moment, you should work upon being taken seriously. One step you can take is to call him out every time he does something unacceptable, and to stop him in the act, if possible. (How he came to physically move your body without your being able to stop him is beyond me.)


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Originally Posted by kib
...he has extreme issues with any sort of criticism or confrontation, having little to do with me and everything to do with his childhood, and he refuses to unpack that, he's found a comfortable MO in his fence that he defends at all cost. I am not a psychologist ... I don't know how to dig into this, and I don't really feel it's appropriate, given his stance on the matter.

This is what I was getting at. It isn't that he doesn't understand that you're actually complaining about his behaviour - that you express yourself so indecisively that he doesn't realise that it's a complaint. It's not about your being conflict avoidant, it's about his refusing to take complaints seriously, and taking offence at what he sees as criticism. If I understand your first post correctly, he understands perfectly well that you don't like mushrooms on your pizza but puts them on there anyway because you shouldn't dislike mushrooms on your pizza, because "mushroom are perfectly fine". Why would one person do that to another? Would he treat a colleague at work that way if they went out for pizza? Would he place the order with mushrooms, against the colleagues objections, because "mushrooms are perfectly fine"? If not, why does he treat your feelings with less respect than he treats other people's? He KNOWS what you dislike, but disregards your feelings and does it anyway.

Originally Posted by kib
So I'm left over and over with the same question: how does a person define what they won't tolerate, when moment to moment it's so minor? It's not actively awful, it's not even actively unpleasant, it's just an almost astonishing lack of depth and bonding, or at least the verbalization of that which I feel I need.

You've defined it perfectly well; I don't understand why you think your definitions are a problem. And some of the actions you described were "actively unpleasant".

This takes us back to the articles: it does not matter if the issues are very "minor" in the moment. The problem is that they are eroding the love you feel for him, and it is unacceptable for him to disregard his wife's feelings.

I think that you came here looking for ways to work on your feelings, so that your inner responses match the "minor" nature of the offences - but I'm trying to tell you that you're going about this the wrong way - the opposite should be your approach. His actions need to change. Your feelings will not change.

It is not a personal attack for him to be told that you do not like the way he behaves. It is an opportunity for him to change the behaviour so that he does not lose your love.


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Thank you a lot for the clarification, SugarCane. I will mull over what you said, I promise! I guess where I might be going with all of it is that the annoying behaviors aren't really the problem, but I take the little behaviors very personally in the aggregate. I honestly think I could deal with picking mushrooms off my pizza for the rest of my life, I couldshriek, "AAAKKK, a Mushroom!" and throw it at him, and we'd both fall over laughing about it and in a peculiar way it might actually Add to the love bank.

But I'm very analytical, and when my mind says mushrooms, keys, bizarre 'protectiveness' when it's objectively unnecessary, this, and that, and that, and that, it comes together in my mind in a 'diagnosis' of a deep issue. I know 'keeping score' is supposed to be a very bad thing, but I sort of feel like not being observant of a pattern is putting blinders on. I feel like I'm invisible, like I don't really have a reality as an individual human to him. The armchair psychologist in my head says, "Woah, this is a seriously &*%'ed up interaction." And the rational (excusing?) part of my mind says, "you're being an idiot, it's a mushroom."

So ... maybe I should just throw the mushrooms, and say, "please don't take my keys off the ring", and "it's ok, I knew you were opening the door". Maybe addressing the little stuff one silly superficial thing at a time really would make a sea change in my underlying perception, or in his general behavior. ... but would it?

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I don't get this. I've agreed with you about the importance of your feelings. Are you going to keep saying "but..." when I confirm that your feelings need to be taken seriously?

Are you here essentially to find a way to change your feelings?


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Originally Posted by kib
So ... maybe I should just throw the mushrooms, and say, "please don't take my keys off the ring", and "it's ok, I knew you were opening the door". Maybe addressing the little stuff one silly superficial thing at a time really would make a sea change in my underlying perception, or in his general behavior. ... but would it?

Addressing the little silly stuff one silly superficial thing at a time is a very effective way of identifying the offending behaviour and seeking change. Tackling each thing as it happens does not mutual exclude getting it taken seriously. What you're really suggesting is tackling each offence at the time it happens. Complaining calmly but firmly each time he does something annoying could be very effective. Complaining angrily or emotionally would make the entire exchange unpleasant, which you should try to avoid.

So: don't joke about the mushrooms as if the whole thing were funny, since it isn't, but take them off and repeat that you do not like them and you do not want him to put them on a pizza for you. Ask him not to take you keys off the ring every time he does it. Explain that you were not going to do something dangerous each time he implies that you were. Ask him to stop doing those things. Ask repeatedly.

But don't do this in the hope that you can change your perception of the problem. There is nothing wrong with your perception of the problem; the problem is that the behaviours affect your feelings for him. Your perceptions will not change, but his behaviour can easily change.

Dr Harley would never suggest trying to change your feelings about annoying habits and behaviours. You might as well try to stop the tide.


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Once again thank you. I am realizing that this may not be the right group for me ... I have always solved my problems by digging into the root causes and making decisions from the understanding I uncover. I haven't used a behavioral therapy approach and I'm not sure I could ever really be on board with that without knowing the "why" behind the behavior; respectfully, I find that understanding whether the behavior is primarily out of fear, disrespect, poor communication skills or whatever does indeed change my feelings. Maybe I'm seeking the impossible. I do appreciate all the time and thought you've put into trying to help me, and I apologize if I've just been barking up the wrong tree - and being a public nuisance as well. smile Peace to you.

Last edited by kib; 06/15/21 03:58 PM.

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Originally Posted by kib
Once again thank you. I am realizing that this may not be the right group for me ... I have always solved my problems by digging into the root causes and making decisions from the understanding I uncover. I haven't used a behavioral therapy approach and I'm not sure I could ever really be on board with that without knowing the "why" behind the behavior; respectfully, I find that understanding whether the behavior is primarily out of fear, disrespect, poor communication skills or whatever does indeed change my feelings. Maybe I'm seeking the impossible. I do appreciate all the time and thought you've put into trying to help me, and I apologize if I've just been barking up the wrong tree - and being a public nuisance as well. smile Peace to you.

I see that you strongly believe that changing you feelings is probably the right way to go, and I'm not going to convince you that the solution is for your husband to change his behaviour. However, how do you propose to get to the "why" behind the behaviour? Would you try and discuss it with him, or would you ask him to go to therapy, so that the therapist can uncover the "why"?

Before you go, I'd just like to urge you to write directly to Dr Harley. I think it would be a shame if you were put off using his method because of the way I expressed it. Dr Harley will write back to you privately, but if you want, he could address your question on the radio show, where we could all hear the answer.

I didn't know much about behavioural therapy, or any other psychology approach, until I read Dr Harley's work. Having read enough to understand it, and having linked his arguments to my own experiences, I readily accepted his arguments about the way that love is built. If it's all a matter of a love bank that is filled by the right behaviour, and depleted by love busters - and I believe it is - then it's our behaviour that matters, whatever its root causes. That's not to say that there is no such thing as root causes, but that we don't need to explore or understand them in order to change our behaviour.

In Dr Harley's approach, the onus is on the offender to change his behaviour. That can be done with practice. I think you're still looking to change your feelings, and to learn to live with you husband's foibles. Well of course, you can learn to live with them; many people do this in marriage. Some do it by detaching and not actually caring too much about what the spouse does. Some do it by letting go of the idea of romantic love, and being happy with peaceful cooperation - there's a lot to be said, after all, for having someone always there to change your tyres, or cook dinner.

But you've been trying to do this, and you are not happy, to the point where, in your first post, you talked about leaving your husband. Clearly the silly little things he does are not silly or little to you. You believe that this means changing you. I think that, if only because you have expressed such unhappiness, you should try corresponding directly with Dr Harley before giving up on his method.


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I agree with SugarCane, please write Dr. Harley.

Email your questions to Joyce Harley at mbradio@marriagebuilders.com. When your email question is chosen to be answered on the radio show, you will be notified by email directing you to listen to the broadcast. If you would like to consider being a caller, include your telephone number. You will be called by the Harleys to explain the procedure to you. Every caller will receive a complementary book by Dr. Harley that addresses their question.


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Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



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Originally Posted by kib
But I'm very analytical

That's great! The MB program is perfect when you are analytical oriented. It is designed by a psycologist with afinity to engineering. The first thing dr Harley does is to figure out the logic behind a problem.

Quote
I know 'keeping score' is supposed to be a very bad thing

This article explains all about keeping scores. For me it was an eye opener.
https://www.marriagebuilders.com/the-giver-and-taker.htm

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It is ok to have a different approach, except that your appoach has shown to be ineffective as you are still unhappy. The definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing, but expecting different results.


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