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Being able to communicate

posted 3 years 3 weeks ago
My boyfriend and I have been together for 14 years and I can't say that it's been an easy road. He's great when it comes to talking to me when I'm upset as long as it's not him that I'm upset with. If he has done something that bothers me, he starts to shut down. It doesn't help in the least bit that I start to get extremely mad when he does shut down. Sometimes it's almost as if he doesn't care and other times, I would swear everything I say goes in one ear and out the other. I'll get the, "okay" or the, "you're right, I don't do anything." Almost as if he's going into some poor me pity party. This of course takes the conversation completely off of what he did in the first place because I feel bad that I've upset him!

Is there an easy way to get across to him what he's doing that bothers me so badly?

posted 3 years 3 weeks ago
First realize, there's no easy way to get someone to change or listen if they don't want to. But that said, consider the moments when you are trying to get him to pay attention. What I have learned with my spouse is saying something I'm not happy about in the moment usually gets a negative response. But if I choose a moment that things are good and we are being open and talking, then I can bring things up and get them addressed (doesn't always mean they'll be fixed, but it at least gets the conversation going).

posted 3 years 3 weeks ago
That's a great idea! I'm normally the type of person that wants to solve an issue immediately. If I don't want to solve right away or at least bring it up, I tend to let things pile on until I explode. Sometimes it's not even him that makes everything tip but guaranteed he's the one that it all comes out on. I don't know why I never thought to bring up what's bothering me when I'm in a calm mood and so is he.

posted 3 years 3 weeks ago
Like your boyfriend, I also start to shut down when confronted with something that I have done to hurt the people I love. It is not because I do not care, but in the moment it can be too overwhelming for me to process and respond. If you would like to have a more open conversation with him about an issue, wait until you are both in a calm state of mind and are alone together with plenty of time to talk. It can also help to use I statements rather than you statements. For example, instead of saying "You annoy me when you do x," an I statement would sound more like "I feel x when y happens." This sounds less like you are accusing him and also holds you accountable for your emotions and responses. It could also help to have some potential solutions to the problem. This can help him not be pulled into the pity party you were talking about while feeling empowered to change his behavior if needed. In the end, though, it is up to your boyfriend to do the work necessary to improve himself.

posted 3 years 3 weeks ago
I am like your boyfriend when my husband will confront me with things negatively. I don't shut down as a way to be mean to him or spiteful, what he says is hurting me. I am a very anxious, sensitive person, so I need a little bit of calm and quiet to process what I'm thinking and feeling without flipping out on my husband and hurting his feelings more. Like others have said, when he approaches me later on, when we're both calm, the results are much more productive. Another thing that will put me in the "shut down" mode can be a really rough/agitated tone. Even, when my husband isn't directly mad at me, I can infer from his tone that he's upset with something. He and I are both guilty of that, so we've taken to telling each other, "Hey, I'm not mad at you, I'm just ____. Sorry I was snappy". Maybe that could get him to talk to you more about his feelings. Best of luck. Smile

posted 3 years 2 weeks ago
I was engaged once to a guy who always shut down during a conflict over ANYTHING. It got to the point where I felt like I couldn't talk to him at all or express myself if I disagreed with him because of that shut-down state. It didn't enrage me. It depressed me. And it changed who I was.

Fortunately, that relationship ended (he broke it off), and I met my husband, who is an AMAZING communicator. Plus, he never shuts down...he flies out the door (at least he used to. I put a stop to that by holding him once and not letting him go until we worked through things). We've been able to work through things like champs ever since!

As far as the shut-down situation, that's not something you can deal with on your own. And it's not something he can even really "fix" himself. It's part of who he is, and going on past experience, that's not something that's going to change without some counseling. It wouldn't hurt to maybe get some professional couples counseling, but he might need some on his own - not that he's crazy, just that it's very hard to get out of the shut-down mode without unbiased help.

Also, judging solely on his response to you, it sounds like you might be blaming him for your being angry - "You don't do enough around the house," etc. That sort of thing naturally puts people on the defensive. I second the rephrasing of your communication of your feelings to him to exclude the "you" statements. Like, "I get really frustrated when you don't put your dirty clothes in the hamper," instead of "You never do anything to pick up around here. I have to do it all." That sort of thing.

Oh, and just the fact that he only shuts down when he's in conflict with you shows how much he cares about you and your relationship, in my opinion. Higher stakes sometimes bring out the most dysfunctional behaviors.

posted 3 years 2 weeks ago
Thank you so much for the help ladies!! I guess looking at it from his standpoint, I can see why he would shut down. I did try to reword things a few days ago. I can't say that "you" still didn't come out here and there but he did seem to actually listen this time without getting overly upset.

posted 3 years 2 weeks ago
One thing that has really helped the communication in my relationship is a book called "Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love" - it might sound lame, but the concept is literally holding a meeting each week to discuss things. The meetings are broken up into four sections - Appreciation, Chores, Plan for Good times and Problems and Challenges. It's a really worthwhile read and since we incorporated the marriage meeting concept into our relationship we have noticed such a difference in how we relate to each other. It might be something to look into! Smile

posted 3 years 5 days ago
The problem with men is they don't like being told what to do. They have their ways of expressing themselves sometimes it hurts us as women.

Women would rather talk things through, critically analyzing things while a man prefers to keep silent until the woman calms down. We need to understand that people react to situations in different ways.

posted 3 years 4 days ago
I can certainly understand your situation. My ex was one that liked to shut down and ignore the problem or try to get away from talking about it. In some ways, my daughter is the same way. I think it stems from a psychological issue as neither one likes confrontations and are very fragile in their self-esteem. It is much easier to not deal with the issues than go through the process of changing. They feel it will just fix itself if it is ignored.

Everyone had some great ideas and I agree that waiting until both parties are calm and not in the heat of the moment to talk and try to work things out by talking about what issues you have as well as his issues. It is important to not be judgmental or critical when you each start opening up about your feelings. Good luck and I hope things work out for both of you.

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