My husband and I communicate by text about tough things, because in person, we don’t communicate well. When we talk in person, we drift off topic because he gets defensive. Afterward, he is apologetic and loving, but nothing gets resolved. He has been increasingly unkind toward me, but at least he keeps it private (not in front of the kids). I do not want to leave him, but I am not happy. What should I do?
Accept that your well-intentioned effort has failed. Employing technology to process emotions does not work for you or your husband. Communicating in person isn’t working either, and has not for some time. Can you recall any moment in your relationship when you both opened up to each other in an emotionally fulfilling way? That conversation could serve as a template for structuring new and future discussions. If not, here are some essential rules for any difficult negotiation. For starters, preparation is key. Try to process some of your own emotions before talking to your husband. You can write in a journal, chat with a good friend, pray for insight or dance off your anger, but do something that allows you to enter the conversation as centered and open as possible.
You must also commit to keeping the conversation focused on one issue only. If the conversation wanders off course, bring it back to the topic that requires resolution. Doing so is an act of love for yourself and your husband. And when you and your husband start talking, don’t list every wrong thing he has ever done. If you are angry about your partner’s overspending, for example, bring up only the most recent crisis. Share your feelings using specific language about how his actions affect you, but do not blame or shame him. Don’t say: “You don’t care about your family, you’re selfish and only care about yourself!” Say this: “When I saw our bank account overdrawn by $1,500, I became frightened. I need to feel financially secure, and I want that for our children, too. When money we need to live and pay our bills disappears, I lose all trust. How can we work on this together and avoid having it happen again?”
You and your husband may be able to find a path into emotional intimacy by working together on communication skills. But you may need a neutral third party to guide you. If he is unwilling to see a marriage therapist with you, consider taking a communication course for couples.
Every once in a while, when I invite one of my friends to do something fun, she will bring her 13-year-old daughter along without asking me beforehand. It’s awkward, of course, because the kind of conversation I want to have with another adult must be ditched in favor of talk that is appropriate in front of her teenager. I have tried to drop hints, but she brings her daughter along anyway. How can I get her to understand that I am uncomfortable?
If this other adult is truly your friend, why are you dropping hints? The core of friendship is direct, honest and compassionate communication. Without it, you have an acquaintance, not a friend. So tell your friend that you prefer to decide with her when it is appropriate for her daughter to join you both, and when it’s best to hang out unaccompanied by a minor. If she balks, don’t be offended. She might be the kind of parent who imagines herself as her daughter’s best friend. It’s a popular concept, although rarely true. More often, it’s a parent’s method of maneuvering around her or his own inability to be emotionally intimate with another adult, or to control a son or daughter’s relationships.