Joanne: I’m married to an only child. He has twin brothers that are 10 years younger than him, and that’s why I consider him an only child. (His parents are still together btw, no separation there) I am an oldest child of eight kids. I read your post about how only children deal with conflict. It was very enlightening and I experience the some of the same issues with my husband. I have been learning more about how he handles conflict since we have been looking for a new house. I have a really hard time getting any kind of resolution or conclusion from our discussions. I usually get very upset because it just seems like he says his piece and then he doesn’t understand my side of the argument. It feels like I can get some kind of closure after an agreement with anyone but my own husband! How can I communicate better with him? I feel very distant from him and I asked him if he feels the same way and he said yes. He says that when I disagree with him it feels like I don’t trust him. I do trust him, but I think we can get along even though we have our disagreement. I’m in need of your advice!
Bernice: Many thanks for your email. I only get a slight sense of your difficulty with your husband so I will make some fairly general comments and offer some ideas. It appears to me that your husband states his view and does not consider yours, rather than not actually understanding it, as you say? If this is the case it seems his negotiation skills are perhaps not well honed. You say nothing about his own parenting, so you might want to consider how negotiation was/is handled in his family. For example: Was there any? Or was it the norm for a parent to state their opinion and have it accepted without question? This does seem a possibility from what you say: ‘When I disagree with him he feels like I don’t trust him.’ It appears there is an expectation that what he says is ‘the truth’ and not just an idea. This makes it non-negotiable!
You said the post I wrote on ‘How only-child adults deal with conflict’ really helped your understanding, but I am not sure in what way. It seems from your email that your husband in fact avoids conflict by a non-negotiation stance? If this is the case, I think if you break down the issues involved and take one at a time, you may get areas where you can agree and perhaps areas where you can accept the difference?
My other thought is that buying a house can bring up a lot of feelings beyond the practicalities of house buying. For example space, responsibility, expectations etc. I wonder whether something is not being spoken by him but underpins some of his thinking, which is out of kilter with your own? This could mean that he is avoiding facing this problem head on. However, this of course could equally apply to you!
Are there some unspoken expectations that neither of you are addressing? You are both feeling distant from each other; this could infer something is not being said. When we get into a pattern of relating in a certain way it is often caused by an unspoken, need, wish or fantasy that neither side is owning. Once this is owned you can usually move on. It might be worth thinking if this is a factor in your present situation. Do you both want to buy a new house? What will it mean to you and him if this goes forward? Are children involved in some way?
I hope some of these ideas help to clarify the situation.