A subscriber reached out recently with a comment that really struck me and it gave me the kick in the pants that I needed to drop a note with some thoughts on what they said in case it could be helpful to you.
Here’s what they wrote in:
“I need some help with not bothering my husband. Right now I feel like I can’t say anything without it bothering or upsetting him. I have resorted to not talking.”
Can you relate?
One of the hardest things I hear people struggle with is the feeling that they can’t help but upset their spouse. Their mere presence seems to bother or upset their partner.
This is an awful experience, to feel resented and even hated by the person who you are supposed to be moving through life with.
What do you do when you feel like no matter what, you upset or bother your spouse?
My subscriber who wrote in told me that they have simply stopped talking. If you feel like any interaction with your spouse is like walking on a land mine, it would make sense to simply stop talking and avoid the land mine, and many people resort to that.
In fact, there is usually one person in a distressed relationship who slips away first. Their goal is to not rock the boat. They just want peace and harmony, so they get real quiet.
As in the case of my subscriber, they feel that no matter what they do, they upset their partner, so they have resorted to not talking.
It makes sense to stop talking or even being near your partner if it feels that your very presence irritates your partner. If you are the trigger for their partner’s anger, the solution could be to disappear.
Now, I am not familiar with the details of my subscriber’s relationship or yours, but in my experience, disappearing or not talking never solves the problem.
In fact, not talking makes matters worse.
More times than not, when I meet with someone who seems frustrated or upset all the time by their partner, it’s not because their partner’s presence is making them mad, it’s actually the sense that their partner is not present. It’s the feeling of not being heard, not being seen, not being understood or that the partner is not thinking of them or caring about them that manifests as frustration and anger.
Underneath that frustration and anger can be fear that they don’t matter to you and a sense of abandonment in the relationship.
Now, as the recipient of your partner’s anger, you have no way of knowing this, unless of course they tell you, so it is not your fault for clamming up. You are doing the best you can to protect your relationship!
But can you see why shutting down is a bit sabotaging if your partner is upset because they think you don’t care?
Not talking only reinforces this myth that you don’t care about your partner. By avoiding them, they feel that much more abandoned.
So what do you do instead if anything you say might set them off?
Try to have a real conversation.
Ask them to talk, and let them know why you have been especially quiet lately. Let them know how it feels like they don’t like you very much and that everything you do seems to bother them, so that’s why you’ve been quiet.
Take a risk, and ask them what’s bothering them.
This is easier said than done, but ask them:
Do they really dislike you as much as it feels they do?
You can tell them you read an article that suggested that maybe they are feeling lonely or like you don’t care about them…ask them if that’s what’s going on?!
The more curious and compassionate you can be — with them and with yourself — the more likely that you will start to connect again.
I realize this is really difficult, particularly if you do not feel emotionally safe with your partner.
Your brain may be in survival mode and prevent curiosity and compassion, and that only makes sense.
If you are facing and feeling rejection every day of your life, making yourself vulnerable can be 100X more difficult than scaling Mt. Everest.
Try to slow yourself down and be mindful about what is even happening in that complex and brilliant world of yours.
There are ways to get there, such as talking to a therapist or learning more about yourself and relationships, and while disconnecting yourself may feel like the only solution for now, it will only set you further apart.
If you found this post helpful or it gave you some kind of nudge (just like my subscriber nudged me), join my newsletter for more tips, suggestions and to possibly go deeper (subscribe by entering your email address below).