Husband construes everything as critical???
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Old 10-07-2011, 12:42 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Husband construes everything as critical???

Hello all. Thanks in advance for your support or advice. I have a strange issue here and no clue how to work on or with it. Been together roughly 10 years, 1 child still a baby.

My H is very, very avoidant. If I bring any issue to him, no matter how small, or even not an issue at all just a statement or a question he does 1 or 2 things. 1, he will either adopt a "hang dog demeanor" mumble and wander away, avoiding the topic and refusing to address it at all. Or he will immediately become defensive and go on the attack, becoming accusatory or shoot for the gut with the meanest thing he could possibly say in the moment. These tactics have resulted in any issues I may have being eft hanging, never dealt with and me rarely approaching him about anything at all.

I've struggled for a long time on what to do about this and I think I'm beginning to understand it more. I try to talk to him about what's causing him to do these things and his claim is that I am super critical of him. I swear I'm not. He also claims this about any close personal relationship he's ever had, relationships, close friendships, parenting relationships... he claims they all were this way.

So I think we're beginning to get to it. I've started asking my husband to repeat back what I said. He is unable to repeat it back without adding onto it a negative twist that he's included on in his mind. I explained that I feel him adding this twist to what I say is damaging to both of us and muddies the statement turning it into something else. He says this is simply the nature of communication and maybe I should be clearer.

I've even told him I want to show you what I'm talking about. I'm going to ask you to not do something, something that I don't actually mind and don't actually want you to not do, just as an example of how you are interpreting what I'm saying. I said "I want you to stop picking up the binkey off the floor and putting it into baby's mouth." (eh' the floors are pretty darn clean and I don't mind. I do it too.) He immediately came back with "Oh, so you want to force me not to do something but you get to do it. You're just controlling. You want me to behave exactly the way you want. You want to turn me into a robot." Then I reminded him of what I opened the statement about that I was going to say something innocuous, something that I did not really mind at all.

So H is adding a twist onto whatever I say to make it a critical statement in his mind and holding against me that I am a critical person towards him.... but I really, I'm not being critical it's in his head. Anybody have any ideas? I could use a little help here.
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Old 10-07-2011, 12:53 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Husband construes everything as critical???

Right or wrong, I'm guessing your husband is interpreting the binkey request as a selfish demand. After all, you haven't mentioned anything about what you are doing or why you even think it is necessary. You are in fact asking him to change his behavior without including him on the process with that statement.

How about, "I read an article the other day about health, and I'm concerned about the baby. I'm worried he will become sick if we give him the binkey after it falls on the floor. What do you think?"

If he is used to hearing demands, he may interpret this as an attempt to get him to clean the floor more or whatever, but if you assure him it is about the binkey and your concerns, and make it sound more like a joint decision instead of a selfish demand, you may have better luck.
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Old 10-07-2011, 12:59 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Right or wrong, I'm guessing your husband is interpreting the binkey request as a selfish demand. After all, you haven't mentioned anything about what you are doing or why you even think it is necessary. You are in fact asking him to change his behavior without including him on the process with that statement.

How about, "I read an article the other day about health, and I'm concerned about the baby. I'm worried he will become sick if we give him the binkey after it falls on the floor. What do you think?"

If he is used to hearing demands, he may interpret this as an attempt to get him to clean the floor more or whatever, but if you assure him it is about the binkey and your concerns, and make it sound more like a joint decision instead of a selfish demand, you may have better luck.
No, you've misunderstood. I don't actually want him to stop giving her the binkey from the floor. I have no problem at all with it. And I told him before I said it that I did not actually have a problem with it nor want him to stop doing it. What I was getting at was to show him how he's reacting or unable to not react in a specific way to a request or statement even when he's been told beforehand that it is an innocuous statement and not something I really want.
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Husband construes everything as critical???

Despite the fact that it wasn't an actual problem it still showed a flaw in the way that you approach your H. You're not responsible for his reactions, but you can handle requesting the changes you would like to see differently. If you were to ask me to guess who you were talking to when starting a request with the words " I want you to..." I would assume a child or subordinate. That is more of a demand that a request.

Try opening phrases like "Would you mind" and "What do you think about." He is your equal and wants to be talked to as such. How do you react when he disagrees or refuses to do what you'd like?
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:29 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Husband construes everything as critical???

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Despite the fact that it wasn't an actual problem it still showed a flaw in the way that you approach your H. You're not responsible for his reactions, but you can handle requesting the changes you would like to see differently. If you were to ask me to guess who you were talking to when starting a request with the words " I want you to..." I would assume a child or subordinate. That is more of a demand that a request.

Try opening phrases like "Would you mind" and "What do you think about." He is your equal and wants to be talked to as such. How do you react when he disagrees or refuses to do what you'd like?
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He does not refuse or openly disagree. He simply avoids, refuses to answer of becomes attacking on a different point but will not discuss a request directly.

Another example: A year ago I was in our bedroom watching a show on my laptop. He came into the room and rearranged the laptop to where he could see it but I could not. I said " Could you put that somewhere that we could both watch?" He said " You're always attacking me and I don't feel welcome." He stormed away. He since has slept every night for the last year on the hardwood office floor.

Another example: He borrows my car and throws trash in the back seat. I will say " Hey, maybe we should go clean the car out?" He says "So you're saying I'm a pig, you think something is wrong with me." I try to say no. He says "Well you're the pig, you left a cup on the counter last week. You're such a slob."

I think the behavior is bizarre, I will admit that. It's like me saying "Looks like it's going to rain." and him saying "So that's my fault?" And me saying "what?"
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:36 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Husband construes everything as critical???

October,

I am really glad to see you taking initiative here because if you let things go, your ship will eventually sink, it's just a matter of time.

First, you need to listen to what he is saying and accept it. As illogical, incorrect and irrational as it may seem, this is really the way he hears things and you are best advised to respect this.

Little differences in phrasing can make a big difference in perception. Completely avoid any statements that start with "you" as in "you this" and "you that" or "you think" or "you need"

We know "I want" is still a little too harsh for him so try requesting with "I need" or "I would like" or "I hope" or maybe even "If you don't mind" or "If it's OK with you"

Clearly something in your communication is setting of an avoidant response that is outside your h's rational conscious control. Your attempts to bring this to his conscious attention are unlikely to be well received. He has to want to understand this for himself.
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:44 PM   #7 (permalink)
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October,

I am really glad to see you taking initiative here because if you let things go, your ship will eventually sink, it's just a matter of time.

First, you need to listen to what he is saying and accept it. As illogical, incorrect and irrational as it may seem, this is really the way he hears things and you are best advised to respect this.

Little differences in phrasing can make a big difference in perception. Completely avoid any statements that start with "you" as in "you this" and "you that" or "you think" or "you need"

We know "I want" is still a little too harsh for him so try requesting with "I need" or "I would like" or "I hope" or maybe even "If you don't mind" or "If it's OK with you"

Clearly something in your communication is setting of an avoidant response that is outside your h's rational conscious control. Your attempts to bring this to his conscious attention are unlikely to be well received. He has to want to understand this for himself.
Okay. Thanks for your response. I do understand what you are saying. I am certainly willing change any you this statements to I need statements.

I will say though that I have found the same response when using all of these terms. I have also witnessed it with his communication with others as well.

I guess the additional question is what to do if changing those statements does nothing? What can be done if he has a personality trait that changes innocuous statements into something critical toward him personally in his mind?
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Husband construes everything as critical???

Has he been abused at any point in his life?

His reactions come across as someone who feels cornered as a way of life.
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Has he been abused at any point in his life?

His reactions come across as someone who feels cornered as a way of life.
I agree, they do sound that way. He has said he was never abused.

He was adopted into a family at birth and says he always felt as if he was treated like a fostered dog from the pound that his parents had taken in and that he was supposed to be oh so grateful to them for rescuing him from his awful life. His brother, also adopted, has said some similar things but not as extreme.
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:55 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I agree, they do sound that way. He has said he was never abused.

He was adopted into a family at birth and says he always felt as if he was treated like a fostered dog from the pound that his parents had taken in and that he was supposed to be oh so grateful to them for rescuing him from his awful life. His brother, also adopted, has said some similar things but not as extreme.
So he's been emotionally abused and doesn't know it. Just my opinion.

As someone who has been abused as a kid, if this is true, you should assume in his mind that you now fill the role of his adoptive, abusive parents and he is doing everything in his power to protect himself from them/you. He's not going to understand how destructive it is without therapy.

Here's to hoping I'm wrong.
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Old 10-07-2011, 02:04 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Husband construes everything as critical???

It's amazing how many time in the few days that I have been reading and posting on here that I see something and it's like looking in a mirror.

I was to a degree your husband. Everything that the wife asked me would seem negative. Every little statement she made I would in my head take to the extreme... (ie... wife calls and mentions that she wants to take a mutual friend (male) out to lunch for his birthday... in my head the wheels turn and I think... oh yea... bet that's not all)

First a question. Is your husband a only child? Did he have very sheltering and possessive parents?

For me the answer was double sided. First I had to realize that I was actually doing this and understand that it was not the right thing. Until he can really realize what you just said and what he just tacked onto it... you won't get anywhere. When my wife now asks me for something or tells me something I really do stop for a second.... repeat it back then answer.... that extra second or two where I mentally repeat the request.... gives me time to reel in the knee jerk reaction. Which is the same thing your husband is doing.


At the same time be really carefull of what and how you say things. Like most of the other posters be very aware of the verbage that you use when asking a question or wanting something done.

If your husband is willing have him play a little game with you. Take some sort of recording device (I was going to say tape recorder then realized that it's 2011) and sit down with him. Turn the recorder on and ask him for something. Then have him repeat what you asked for.... Do this a few times then play it back. It might still not work but by hearing his own voice back and yours it might do something
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Old 10-07-2011, 02:05 PM   #12 (permalink)
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So he's been emotionally abused and doesn't know it. Just my opinion.

As someone who has been abused as a kid, if this is true, you should assume in his mind that you now fill the role of his adoptive, abusive parents and he is doing everything in his power to protect himself from them/you. He's not going to understand how destructive it is without therapy.

Here's to hoping I'm wrong.
I think maybe this is what it is. He's never been able to hold a job for very long because of this same behavior with bosses. He instead does short project work or runs the business with me.
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Old 10-07-2011, 02:14 PM   #13 (permalink)
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First a question. Is your husband a only child? Did he have very sheltering and possessive parents?
He's not an only child. But he is an adoptee. His parents were strange to put it mildly. Mom had a terminal illness (scleroderma) that was obvious and it was made clear that she could die any day from as far back as he can remember. He was used as a nursemaid from a very young age, even caring for her when she was in traction by himself when he was 6 or 7, though the family was very well off and could have easily had a nurse. Dad was a doctor. The parents sent my H to private school and his brother (only 2 years older) to public school. Mom spent much of her time in bed and dad spent his time away (maybe at work). The home was very large with the children having their own wing, so the lifestyle was very, very isolated. Though they were wealthy they dressed the kids in goodwill clothing whether it fit them of not. At 14 my H was hit by a car and put into a compound cast and had to walk over 2 miles to the bus to get to school the day after surgery and every day following because mom was in bed. So yeah, they were weird people.

I'm going to see if my H is willing to play the game and I think it's a great idea.
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Old 10-07-2011, 02:31 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Husband construes everything as critical???

It is very likely that his childhood has caused some parts of him to simply not grow up. His conflict style that results in the sulking and/or lashing out are essentially the only tools he knows - the same tools a child who was powerless against abusive parents would try to use.
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Old 10-07-2011, 02:38 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I will say though that I have found the same response when using all of these terms. I have also witnessed it with his communication with others as well.

I guess the additional question is what to do if changing those statements does nothing? What can be done if he has a personality trait that changes innocuous statements into something critical toward him personally in his mind?
Delivery tone and body language also play a part here. Something is triggering a return to childhood feelings and their childhood response. Parents that were detached or not present either physically or emotionally can be a factor. An adopted child may have had infant attachment problems and may have received less emotional warmth from their adoptive parents.
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