Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meltdowns and Misery

I've always been very prone to crying. Since I was young, you only had to raise your voice to me a little, and the tears would come pouring down. You might say I'm too sensitive and I've tried to get better, but I don't seem to have a lot of control over it.

I'm also not the most patient person in the world. Neither is my husband. He'll do some small thing, and I'll react with what seems like very minor frustration. I wouldn't even remember it a few seconds later but that frustrated reaction from me will spark even bigger frustration from him and he'll raise his voice. Next thing I know I'm defending myself from accusations that I'm flying off the handle at him and I'm crying and he's upset. It's all so silly, really. My comment was thoughtless, literally, just a reaction to a minor annoyance (come and go in an instance without even noticing it). But it sparks a huge reaction on his part and then next thing I know I'm sobbing.

It's a frustrating pattern. I recognize it but I don't seem to be able to fix it. Today, for instance, it took what would have been a very minor amusement and turned it into a fight. I wanted to take a picture. I started to do it when my husband said, "here, let me." He then proceeded to back up to take a different sort of picture than the one I had been setting up when he tried to help. I said, "No! not of all of me, just this!" He then proceeded to take a picture that showed all of me (which is definitely not what I was going for in this case) so I took back the camera and took the picture I had been setting up to begin with. "I just wanted a picture of my hand, like this! Not of me! I'm a mess!" (it was early in the day and I was still in my pjs).

He felt I had dismissed his help unfairly and been rude. I suppose I did dismiss him but I couldn't understand why he'd try to take such a different picture than the one I had been doing when he offered to "help." I was frustrated and I let it show. Then it became an argument which ended with me in tears. Not a good start to the day. All over a lousy photograph that I no longer wanted anyways. After all, it was supposed to be a fun little thing and there was no fun left in it anymore. I can't look at the picture without thinking about the argument.

In my examination of my life this year I am trying to figure out what to do to improve my life. This is one thing I've definitely not figured a solution to but I recognize it is a problem. My feelings get hurt and I get angry and defensive--and the tears start flowing almost immediately. If he is angry, I'm immediately angry and hurt too. It isn't a good reaction but it is an instinctive one with me. Somehow I need to find a way out of this destructive pattern.

Do you have any thoughts on how to break instinctive reactions and destructive patterns in relationships? If so, I'd like to hear your thoughts.


  1. Sorry you're feeling stuck with this Real Me. It is so painful when a huge argument grows out of something tiny.

    You call this a destructive pattern, but do you both feel it is actually a threat to your relationship? It's worth getting this in perspective, by reflecting on how often you argue like this, in relation to all the good times you spend together and the general strength and love within your relationship (which is what comes across most in your blog). Maybe talk to your husband and find out between you if it is a serious problem that needs dealing with. Alternatively, the fights and the messy emotions that go with them might be something you could both agree to accept, within the bigger context of a basically healthy relationship. Even if you do find you need to change this pattern, accepting your own tears, anger, frustration and impatience is a big step towards freeing up the energy and self-confidence to deal with them differently.

    All couples fight - or, as I once heard said and am inclined to agree with, all couples who still have feelings for one another fight. Personally I don't think trying to avoid fights altogether is healthy; the principle of 'fighting right' (one of Gretchen's posts) is much more helpful, plus ensuring that you have a routine for forgiving each other, completely letting go of the argument, and talking through / resolving any background issues or problems that triggered it.

    It's definitely worth thinking over how your family / upbringing has shaped your feelings about arguments, anger, defensiveness, frustration and crying. What kind of reaction did you get when you cried so much as a kid? Was it okay for you to be angry and impatient, or were these emotions frowned upon? Again, it's good to share this with your husband and find out his background story. Doing this might help you get more of a handle on why you both react in arguments as you do. It's something I found really helpful in shifting my own inherited perceptions of anger and arguing.

    Is there any hidden agenda behind these arguments, ie specific problems or anxieties that are not being dealt with directly, so instead you're fighting over little things? Is it about one trying to control the other and being resented for it? Anything similar going on?

    On the other hand, my experience is that quite a lot of fights are just fallout from one's immediate emotional and physical state. Do the arguments tend to happen when one or both or you are tired, or feeling insecure, or hungry, or overcommitted, or rushing, or first thing in the morning before you're properly awake, or premenstrual, and so on. Something I try and do is mention to my husband if one of these factors is making me irritable before I start snapping at him, and it does help take the tension out of the situation and avoid big meltdowns. It doesn't always work :) but it helps some of the time.

    Pressing pause in an argument - taking a couple of breaths or counting to ten - helps, but takes a lot of practice. It can be enough to break the escalation of anger by giving you a space to control how you're reacting.

    Hope some of this helps, and that you're able to get where you need to with this.

  2. All good thoughts, Astral Cat. I'm still processing my thoughts on this though. All I know is that one or two times a month (at least) I end up in tears because my husband is angry. It's stupid stuff, really. Our relationship is a good one and this isn't a major factor but I do know I want it to change. I don't like that we keep doing it.


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