BLOG: WHEN YOU'RE CONFUSED AND FRUSTRATED...
This week's blog is based on a question asked recently by one of our regular readers, Louise, and is a question you may relate to as well.
“I am having trouble figuring out what to do when my partner is refusing to talk about an ongoing issue we have related to how we manage our money. He says since we just argue every time we discuss money, it’s not worth talking about and he will walk away. How can we begin to have a conversation without fighting? I am confused and frustrated that we can’t resolve this. I also get very annoyed when he won’t talk with me. Thanks for any suggestions!”
Your question is one that many people are challenged with so thanks for taking the time to write in and for sharing it with other readers too.
It is not surprising that you are “frustrated and annoyed” because the research shows that your partner’s tactic of walking away and refusing to talk (stonewalling) is one that is often responsible for the breakdown of relationships.
That said, when a couple is arguing ineffectively and nothing gets resolved, to continue a heated discussion is really not in anyone’s best interest. The next empowering step is to figure out a better way.
John Gottman, the marriage researcher and psychologist found that “stonewalling” was overwhelmingly done by men, with women overwhelmingly conducting “criticism”. In his studies, men’s physiology reached a state of arousal prior to them “stonewalling”, while the female partner showed a physiological reaction of increased heart rate after her partner had “stonewalled”.
That could explain your “very annoyed” response as your heart rate may increase when your partner walks away.
Although you did not say if this was happening in your partnership, if you are critical of your partner’s behavior or reactive when he walks away, your criticism can have a backfiring effect on future conversations.
Additionally, I am a firm believer in taking 100% responsibility for our part in any ongoing conflict. When you mentioned you are “confused”, this is often a subconscious way the ego supports us to stay stuck and not take responsibility, instead of making a decision to figure out another way.
The way you can start having a conversation without fighting is to decide and believe there is another way. What could you accomplish with your partner if you decided to figure this out together?
I have found in my own marriage of 34 years, that when I approach my husband frustrated and annoyed that is often reflected back to me. When I am calm or when we are having fun I find that our conversations, even about heated topics, can be discussed in a much more effective way.
Lastly, as you have often heard and probably would agree-you are not responsible for your partner’s behavior and you cannot change him. You can only set an example and change your own behavior.
If nothing seems to change after taking action on your part and you are still not able to talk without arguing, you may also need some additional support. Often outside support in the form of a therapist, counselor, spiritual advisor or coach will give you more tools and other perspectives.
Hope this is of some help to you!
All the Best,
P.S. You may also want to check out our Courageous Loving Webinar where you will learn even more about communication styles and creating the relationship you'd truly love (whether you are single or in a relationship).
PP..S. If you would like more support in applying these principles, give us a call. In between our speaking and coaching engagements, we carve out a few individualized sessions each month. Schedule your appointment here.