Is it anger or desperation?

The divide between emotional and rational styles to manage disputes are the main hidden factors of our conflicts. The lenses (emotional or rational) we apply to manage a confrontation with our loved one is usually a main contributor to the communication gap we produce and suffer.

Here is an online conversation between a poster in a forum and the response:

“Whenever my wife and I have a “big” or “serious” argument, which is quite rare for us, she tends to be more emotional and therefore aggressive. She is hurt and/or feels an injustice has taken place, which leads to her anger. Her anger leads to her emotionally charged words directed at me.

Her goal is to make me feel the pain or frustration that she feels (to a lesser degree, an equal degree, or a greater degree). She is aggressive in her attempt to achieve this. I, on the other hand, am more of a “thinker” than a “feeler”. I tend to be more reserved and calm in my approach.

If I let her angry words produce anger in me, and I respond to her with anger, I get engaged in a fight and this is not what I want. I blame her for inciting me to fight, it really upsets me that she has the power to move me to use strong words!"

Dear Husband:

Many thanks for this deep and sincere post. I’m awed by the courage you show to get to the bottom of the situation, and to accept responsibility for your own actions. Many thanks for such a refreshing posting.

I was married to a very good man, a caucasian ex-mormon, very quiet and very PA. Your phrase: “she tends to be more emotional and therefore aggressive” was a shock for me…when I thought I was being expressive and showing him my emotions, perhaps he saw me as “aggressive!” Now I can understand the basic deviation of the lenses we used to see each other…

If this is the way you view her emotional attitude, then it’s clear for me that the need you had of “defend yourself " was not helping.

I thought I was showing him my growing desperation… at the walls of his silence, I would escalate with my emotional state, and then, seeing the depth of my anguish, he would show his compassion. I was looking for his compassion, not for a show of how much he could close himself as self defense.

But, he would just leave the room. No words, no conclusion, no closure or decision; just silence….It was very lonely there.

You say:   “Her goal is to make me feel the pain or frustration that she feels (to a lesser degree, an equal degree, or a greater degree). She is aggressive in her attempt to achieve this.”

In my experience, it’s not a tit for tat….is her growing desperation at the communication gap that is producing the rift:

  • I get more emotional,
  • you get more calm and logical,
  • it makes me more anxious to be understood,
  • then you retreat into stony silence...

What other channels have you left her? What other ways are there to express her anguish, her loneliness and the pervasive wish to be understood, deeply understood by the most important person in her world?

The “serious argument” is but the tip of the iceberg, underneath is the anxiety for connecting. If a man sees this aspect, he is now on target. Real emotional strenght from a husband has nothing to do with passive aggressive "calm" and "restraint"

Perhaps wives have the need to receive a very real, caring and loving response from the husband that says:

“I’m here. I’m not scared by your emotional escalation, I see it as a signal of your deep need to connect with me. I will not leave you, or counter attack you; I’m here to listen, to understand, to console, to love you as you are…by the way, when you are so upset, you look so beautiful to my eyes!”

NoraNora Femenia is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Signup free to be connected to her innovative conflict solutions, positive suggestions and life-changing coaching sessions, along with blog updates, news, and more!
  1. Oscar Maintenr, 27 August, 2009

    No way! you are deadly wrong here…she needs to understand what is she doing to make him so upset, and needing to leave her…why women can’t be more rational when they are fighting? they get emotional all the way and it becomes harder and harder to deal with them. Why is it so difficult for them to understand that crying and screaming gets them nowhere fast?

  2. norafem, 29 August, 2009

    My husband and I have had always a very difficult relationship and I can relate 100% to how you describe the sad interaction of two people who escalate a dispute. Regardless of that, do I have to be the only person who makes a bridge between the two? I don’t see this kind of husband to panic and suffer if I say I will go my own way.

    Does your husband walk away from you when you are upset about something? Does he twist the story around to demonstrate it be your fault? When confronted with an issue, does he change the subject and once again puts it back on you, so you feel guilty or responsible?

    I’ve been married 14 years and we have 3 beautiful boys but I’ve come to the realization that in order for me to find peace and a measure of companionship, I will need to separate.

    It is certainly a roller coaster dealing with this kind of man..waiting to hear your advice!

    (Sent by Kathie R. by email)

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