Hill, when me and my H were at our roughest, he took everything I said poorly. He could come home from work and I'd ask, "How was your day?" and he claimed I was interrogating him. I'd say I preferred Pepsi over Coke, and because he likes Coke, he claimed I was calling him an idiot with bad taste. Sometimes you just have to accept that YOUR truth isn't universal, and other people are entitled to their own opinions, and MOST OF ALL: ascribing intent to someone else who has not explicitly expressed it is a DJ.

As someone who lived with a person who took every statement as a personal attack, I have to let you know: you are exhausting to live with. I imagine Grace feels much like she must walk on eggshells in order to live peacefully with you, and has decided she's not willing to crumble under your massive, know-it-all ego. You don't know everything, Hill, and you certainly don't own the truth about other people's opinions. If she *did* feel like you should have taken the item back to the store, so what? Why does that feel like an attack? Oh, that's right, because:
I could not possibly win from.

Win what, exactly? Your ability to continue to be right about any and all things under the sun? Probably if you got over this incessant need to win (and Grace lose, apparently), you'd see some improvement.

"Principled person"--what do you mean by this? Is one of your principles to get your knickers in a knot every time your wife asks you a question? To immediately jump into defense mode, so you can be assured of "winning"?

In our case, the answer lied (mostly) in my H's reactions. Because I was committed to working MB, I was more aware of what I was saying, and because we were coaching w/Steve, I could have dialog with my H about his reactions (What is it about "Have you fed the dog?" that made you feel attacked?--much like you, he felt bad because he couldn't say, "Yes!" He FELT that I was asking him in order to point out what a lousy husband, dog owner, and man he was because he couldn't even feed the flipping dog. Was that my intent? No, my intent was to not double-feed the dog, which was acting hungry. If it had been fed, a small snack would do. Contrary to my H's opinion, I had not been watching his every move so unless I asked, I had no idea if he fed the dog.)

Anyway, when you read about someone else in the same type of situation, does it look any dumber to you?

Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.
(Oscar Wilde)