Over the years, my husband consistently blows up, hangs up, verbally vomits, or simply leaves the room when he doesn’t hear what he wants to hear. He ultimately will offer a half-apology, but never enough to soothe my troubled soul or to ensure that the verbal explosions never happen again. I can’t trust him with my feelings. What am I to do to heal?
Let’s be candid—in every relationship there are plenty of times when we won’t hear what we want to hear. While marriage is intended to be a place of support and protection, it is also a place where we will, at times, rub each other the wrong way. It is a place where we make statements to our mate about their actions that trouble us. We must have the freedom to do so, if said in a respectful way.
But what you describe—throw up, blow up, hang up, get up—is more than anger. Imagine if you lived in a war-torn country. You would learn to adapt to the situation, perhaps even find ways to cope effectively. However, never knowing when war was going to break out would take some toll on your psyche. You deserve better!
Let’s review again what your mate does and then talk about what you can do to counteract it:
- Throw Up: The act of verbal vomiting, without consideration for the impact of this behavior on the mate. This is overwhelming to the mate, leaving scars and apprehension for when and how this will reoccur in the future.
- Blow Up: These may be short, hot burst of molten words, designed to show one’s impatience and intolerance for what you are saying or doing.
- Hang Up: With the click of the phone you realize you’ve been cut off. Your voice will not be heard. You are left with the profound realization that his feelings trump yours.
- Get Up: Where your mate leaves the room or the conversation. While it may never truly have been a dialogue, there is no mistaking that you are now completely alone. Your words are not of enough value to be listened to attentively and compassionately.
Each of these is, of course, horrifically detrimental. You are not in a healthy give-and-take relationship. Your husband’s destructive, dysfunctional actions leave no room for a vibrant, caring, loving relationship. The presence of this passive-aggression prevents you from having healthy, dynamic interaction.
What can you do to facilitate the possibility of positive change?
Be honest about these behaviors. Tell yourself the truth about how harmful they are. Affirm the truth that you cannot heal unless you are free from abusive experiences.
Acknowledge the impact on you. It is one thing to tell yourself the truth about the negative impact of these behaviors, but something even more powerful when you acknowledge the impact on you.
Journal about these behaviors and their impact on you. How are you coping? How have you adapted to the detriment of your personhood? What have you lost over time? What has coping cost you? Write about how you wish to be treated.
Tell someone. It is tempting to keep your troubles to yourself, but such secrets are rarely good for you. Find support from some people who can understand these behaviors and encourage you to set boundaries on it.
Set boundaries. Someone has said, “We teach people how to treat us.” In other words, bad behavior cannot continue where it is not tolerated. Garner the support and strength to take a stand. Speak out about the destructive nature of these behaviors. Let your mate (and others) know that you insist on being treated with respect.
Invoke consequences when your boundaries are violated. Boundaries are only as good as your ability to maintain them. Guard what is important to you, and confront anyone who violates your sanctity. You’ll send a strong message to people when you tell them how you expect to be treated—and an even stronger one when they violate a boundary and you speak clearly and confidently to them about it.
In summary, remember that you are a child of God, and as such, you have no business allowing yourself to be violated. Don’t tolerate bad behavior. I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome reactions by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.