Arrogance, Arguing and Low Self-Esteem
I'm a newbie here. I've just spent a sleepless night after a huge argument with my husband and am hoping someone might be able to give me some perspective.
Overall, we have a very happy, companionable marriage. He has two grown children who do not live with us. We are both very independent people and have both shared and solo activities in which we participate. I realize this letter will make my husband sound much more awful than he is: he is also honest, faithful, dependable, bright, funny and in general, a good partner. I truly love him. We don't argue very often, but when we do, it can be a doozy.
My main issue is two sides of the same coin: he can be very arrogant and condescending, and I am often left thinking that he must think I'm a real idiot. He not only denies this but looks at me like I'm crazy, which means that then I feel like I'm not only an idiot, but a crazy idiot to boot. To give some perspective, his older daughter graduated college summa cum laude, lives on her own, works two jobs and speaks a foreign language, and is planning to go to grad school.Yet he has told me that he thinks she's an idiot and he's disappointed in her. And his contempt for her is evident when he talks to her. So when he talks to me with a similar tone of contempt, I figure he must be contemptuous of me, too. The other side of the coin is that he is very unaffectionate and never gives any positive feedback: no compliments, no gratitude, no "way to go, girl". So I am left with only the negative feedback.
Complicating this is that, although fairly accomplished in many avenues, I've always suffered from low self-esteem. I've worked on it in and out of therapy, and am generally OK. But he latches onto this so that if I ever take issue with how he talks to me, he deems it 100% my issue and never examines his own behavior.
Last night I made the mistake of asking his advice on how to deal with a situation at work. I say mistake, because asking his advice (although it's often good advice), is like saying "lecture me about how I should do things, and do it in a really brusque, condescending manner". If I try to discuss the issue/advice in order to work out the situation in my head, he takes that as arguing with him. He said he thinks I should just listen to his advice, and take it or leave it, but that if I'm going to discuss it, then why did I ask for his opinion at all?
My second, biggest mistake last night was attempting to use our discussion about the advice as an opening to talk about how I've been feeling lately that I get the impression that he thinks I'm stupid. Would he use this opportunity to assure me that he loves me and thinks I'm very bright? No. Even sniffing around the edges of the possibility that maybe I might have an issue with anything he does, he interprets as a completely uncalled for criticism of him. Then it becomes the same old song: I have no right to criticize him, the problem is 100% on my side and/or in my head, and then it becomes not about finding a better way to communicate long-term, but about him winning this argument right then and there and ending it as quickly as possible--which he did last night by standing there and yelling at me for 10 minutes, then walking out of the house.
I am completely willing to cop to my own self-esteem issues in this, but the problem is not 100% on my side. Even when I try to be as non-threatening and fair as possible, he simply goes ballistic if I call any of his behavior towards me into question. Any ideas how to deal with this? Mostly I just avoid the issue, which keeps the peace, but eventually his continued condescension just simply wears me down. And don't suggest counseling--he surely knows more than they do, too!