Posted by fxckfeelings on January 26, 2016Share This Post
Avoiding conflict is an important part of making a long-term relationship work, but going too far to placate your spouse in order to avoid arguments doesn’t diffuse the conflict so much as internalize it. Not surprisingly, if you keep eating shit in order to keep your partner happy, that’s how you’re going to feel, and it’s what your marriage is going to turn into. It’s important then to know when and how to draw the line on agreeableness without being disagreeable; if you can avoid a big fight without compromising your integrity in order to do it, you can make your relationship last.
Early on in my relationship with my wife I fell into a pattern where almost every time we got into a big fight, I’d end up apologizing and admitting total fault, even if I didn’t feel that it was all my fault, basically because I didn’t want to continue the argument. She can be a dirty fighter who is great at playing on my guilt, but also, I’m not very good at being assertive and dealing with conflict. And now, as we have had more complex problems to sort through in our life, and the stakes have gotten higher (kids, in-laws issues, mortgage, etc.), it’s even harder to break this habit, which has resulted in me feeling resentful towards her and emotionally withdrawing at times, which is not something I want to continue. I do get her to “compromise” at times but often those compromises are still tilted strongly in her favor. I’m not a total doormat, but I’d like to stand a little more upright. My goal is to be more assertive, and not fear the outcome of being more assertive with her, which I imagine (based on many past experiences) is her losing her temper (rage, blame, etc.), sometimes making threats (divorce) and making me the bad guy, until I play by her rules.
We’ve often written about how peacemakers are more cursed than blessed, and, peacemakers being what they are, they’ve never sent us an angry response. Unfortunately,
they also haven’t done much to spread our message.
Like all peacemakers, you’re ready to swallow your pride and practically anything else to make peace with your wife. In the short run, peace is what you get, but in the long run you get a growing sense of resentment, the fear of losing yourself, and an inability to have a real relationship with her.
The opposite of this kind of peacemaking isn’t war making; it’s to stop paying so much attention to your wife’s opinions that you lose sight of your own.
No matter how big a bully she is—how disrespectful, irrational, insensitive, or unfair—she’s not the one who’s ignoring your opinions and moral values. You are, so stop talking about her and fixating on her irrational opinions.
Before you analyze her thoughts about an issue, determine where you stand and why, putting aside how the issue makes you feel. Instead, consider how necessary it is for you to take a position in terms of the consequences of your actions and your sense of right and wrong.
Then write a brief statement outlining where you stand and what you believe is the best course of action. Don’t apologize or defend yourself from accusations. Assume that others may disagree, but that you have a right to your own opinion and that you speak from experience.
Then, when it comes time to talk to your wife, show respect for her opinions, but don’t try too hard to win her over. Your goal is to state a well thought out position, even if she probably disagrees with it, then argue its merits, refrain from prolonged discussion, calmly accept the disagreement, and stop any repetitive argument that you feel is unconstructive.
You can’t necessarily make yourself comfortable with this process or stop her from threatening divorce or blaming you for crimes against the marriage. You can, however, develop your own convictions, refuse to accept responsibility for her anger and divorce-urges, and express hope that a mutual acceptance of differences will be better for your relationship in the long run.
You’ll probably never be able to get rid of your peacemaking instincts, but if you can focus on having a peaceful marriage, not sacrificing your own peace of mind just to have a placated wife, then you’ll be putting your skills to good use.
“I hate having conflict with my wife but my peacemaking is killing our relationship. I will not take responsibility for my wife’s unhappiness with our differences unless I truly believe I have treated her badly. I will insist on my right to air my own views without apology.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname