how do i argue constructively without emotions taking over?

Postby Persephone » Sun Jun 05, 2005 2:01 pm

I have realised that i have a problem with arguing constructively. If something has been upsetting me and finally we begin to discuss it, i find myself becoming very heated and unable to calm down and discuss it rationally. It usually ends with me physically walking away from him (or occasionally him from me - and i fear this is because i am setting a bad example). I also find myself over-dramatising and ending the relationship. Saying something along the lines of, 'we are obvioulsy not suited and you obviously dont care enough, so lets finish it'. I don't mean these words, they are said in the heat of the moment in order to get a reaction from him, but i know that this is not the way to go. I am turning into the girl who cried wolf. I have promised that if i get very upset in future i will try not to do this and instead will let him know that i am too annoyed and pissed off to talk and that i will speak to him tomorrow. I am not sure why i try and test him and his love. After all, everyone argues and i can't always be in the right, but i feel that when we are arguing, i need to know that he does love me and want me and when i give him these ultimatums or finish the relationship, all i want is for him to say 'but i love you and can't be without you'. I am not a particularily needy or insecure person in other areas of my life and i cannot understand why i act like this.
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Postby Diamond Living » Sun Jun 05, 2005 8:29 pm

If something has been upsetting me and finally we begin to discuss it, try to talk things through before it builds up too much, maybe try writing how you feel down in a letter and give that to him that way you have time to think and you won't say anything you may regret later.
DL x
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Postby angrywife » Thu Jun 23, 2005 5:15 pm

Hi, I am actually facing the same problem. I live thru every single day with a set of nosy, conniving group of in-laws, and for all that I have suffered in the past, I have now come to mistrust them, and hate them. Apart from all this anxiety that I have in my head all the time(because they are around all the time, think 'Everybody Loves Raymond, and there is a much-loved Amy in the picture too!!), I also seem to have become impatient and have this longing for everything in my life to be perfect!
Also, at this time, I have pretty bad health and fertility problems (had a surgery recently), and my career has gone to nought. I don't know how to put my life together and make it liveable. I am frustrated all the time and always on the verge of exploding, ONLY AT MY HUSBAND THO...

Anyways, how are my problems similar to yours? Well, I feel lonely in my married family (my parents are in a far far off state), and I feel like my husband is the only one I trust and love, and therefore I am more or less a cling. Right now my husband is my only support (I am quite the introvert), and if anything, anything at all, the smallest possible thing should go wrong, my husband has to take the brunt of my frustration.

I am so glad I found this forum, because just this weekend, I told my husband that I am gonna have to leave him to relieve myself of all the crazy things that keep happening(as I have umpteen times before). This is regardless of whether he has done something to make me mad or not(it could be someone else, my doctor, my Sister in law, mother in law, work, etc). I had been yelling for half an hour by then, and threatened to walk out so now he was mad, so he said, "Well, if you feel that way, you initiate the divorce process, and I shall sign off on it, to free you". Then I tell him, "Better still, I have an immediate remedy, why not just kill me?! Solve all of my problems and yours!!" I was a raving crazy maniac!

Now my husband is sick and tired of me. He says I always have a problem in my life, I gotta learn how to deal with people and my emotions.

I honestly don't know where to start with controlling my anger. I always lose sight of the objective, and take the argument to how mean my in-laws are and how stupid my life is. Plus, my in-laws are always gonna be there, for all I know, probably my whole life. And they always say and do things to hurt me. But I want to be able to control my anger, and certainly not endanger my marriage due to the insensitivity of someone else. My husband is unhappy that I am unhappy with his family. I am unhappy because I do not have control of my tongue when I am with him. And I hate to think(later on) that I hurt him so much.

Again, I am turning into the girl who cried wolf. Any amount of tears or shrieking is now starting to NOT affect my husband in any way. So how do I argue about what actually the matter is that set me off in the first place(Stupid things like him getting 4 loaves of garlic bread instead of 4 garlic knots, or keeping his clothes unfolded, or papers lying around, whatever), and how do I keep my anger from getting totally out of control??

Please Help.
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Postby Persephone » Fri Jun 24, 2005 2:57 pm

hi there. You do sound very frustrated and wound up...
Does your husband know how you feel about your in-laws? Maybe he has no idea how you feel! Sit him down pronto and tell him if he does not already know.

After my last major arguement with my boyfriend in which i did the usual thing of being overly dramatic and making ultimatums we had a good talk (after a few cooling off days...). He explained that when i say something he generally believes me. In the same way that if i said 'i'm feeling ill' he would put me to bed and make me a hot water bottle and try and do what he could to make me feel better, if i say 'i want this relationship to be over and i'm sick of this', he will also believe me and back off and leave me alone. After all, it is only what i have asked for. How is he supposed to know that 'piss off' means 'please beg me to stay and tell me i am the most important thing in your life'?

He explained to me that i have to talk to him rather than storming off and that if i am finding it hard to form the right words and just want to shout and swear at him, I have to let him know that i am having problems communicating and need some time to cool down.

I am willing to do that as i love him very much. Although of course it is not easy when your blood is boiling and you feel that you are in the right.

I also feel that my boyfriend is my major support. I am relatively new to the area in which i live and my boyfriend grew up here. None of my friends are here and i am currently looking for work so feel quite cut-off in that respect. It is easy to rely on him too much.

I think your major concern is to let him know what is going on in your head. If he can understand a little of what you are thinking and feeling then he will be better able to understand why you act the way you do.
A break down in communication is the surest way to a troubled relationship. When you are having a calm moment, sit down with him and say that you feel you are relying on him more than you would like and that his parents are upsetting you - and everything else that is making you flip out.

He loves you and doesn't want anger and bad feeling any more than you do. I am sure he will more than appreciate your honesty and openess.
Do it tonight if you can. And please let me know how it goes.

x :)
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Postby kfedouloff » Fri Jun 24, 2005 4:13 pm

You two might like to give the Anger Management download a try.

It's not the complete answer, but could help you to calm down a bit and think about where to take these issues.

Good luck!

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Postby angrywife » Tue Jul 12, 2005 12:42 pm

Thank you for your replies.

Persephone, I am so glad you had a chance to talk to your boyfriend and sort things out. Its given me hope.
I have started to analyse my temper, and I know a lot of it comes from having to deal with my in-laws everyday. And since I can't say anything to them, my husband has to do one thing wrong for me to bring it all out on him.

Recently, I did sit down and have a chat with him. I told him I couldn't go on with daily in-laws occurrences forever. My husband thinks I am selfish and said that if I can't get along with his family, I should probably leave!!
Well, so at first I was sad that seven years of marriage could bring this on me. But atleast, everything is out in the open now.

I am presently working on my own anger, keeping it in check by ignoring my in-laws and their stupid comments, as much as possible. I think I may be over-sensitive and have decided to let things go before they get control of me.
Plus, I do try and keep my anger in check as much as possible.
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Postby Persephone » Wed Jul 13, 2005 5:41 pm

hi there.

well done for sitting down with your husband, although i am sure you would have appreciated a different response.

I think that most women would go a little crazy if they were surrounded by their in-laws day in, day out, so I think it is unfair of him to imply that you are selfish. I also think it is unnacceptable that he does not stand up for you and allows them to insult you.

Will there be a time when your in-laws move out (or vice versa)? It sounds like your really need a home of your own so you can have some space.

Is your husband normally supportive? Why do you think he is having a hard time in seeing your point of view?

I don't think it is possible to lay down ultimatums in relationships. He certainly should not be saying to you 'put up with my parents or leave'. That implies that he is the more important one in the relationship and that his views are more valuable than yours.

If you discuss his parents, make sure you do not directly attack them as he will become defensive. They are his parents after all and he loves them and does not want to hear them criticised. Say that their proximity and constant presence is making it hard for the two of you to have a normal marriage. Keep the onus on the two of you.

I would hope that he can at least understand the need for privacy and time alone. Maybe another talk is in order. If he loves you he can't just give up can he?
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Postby angrywife » Thu Jul 14, 2005 12:40 pm

Hi Persephone, thanks for your reply.

You are right, when I tell my husband that his parents are mean to me, he gets defensive, because he loves them and cannot bear to hear someone 'diss' them.

It is only because I love him so much that I have decided to focus on OUR time together rather than use any 'together' moments in discussing his family. I am also constantly taking deep breaths and reminding myself to ignore the bad, and be calm at all times.

I would try hard to make this marriage work, because, even though my husband and I don't see eye to eye on everything, I know that he does love me. There's no point in messing up our relationship because of someone else!!

I shall keep you updated.
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Postby disarmfromwithin » Wed Jul 20, 2005 8:45 am

This all comes down to being assertive instead of angry, assertiveness is not about winning arguements it's about telling people what you think and how you feel, to be able to do this you need to be aware of what your human rights are, so that others do not try to impose their values and wants and needs onto you:



• To recognise and accept my own value systems as appropriate.

• To say NO to anything, when I feel I am not ready, if it is unsafe or it violates my values.

• To dignity and respect.

• To make decisions.

• To have my needs and wants respected by others.

• To terminate conversations with people who make me feel put down and humiliated.

• To NOT be responsible for others behaviour, actions, feelings and problems.

• To make mistakes and not have to be perfect.

• To learn from my mistakes.

• To expect honesty from others.

• To all of my feelings

• To be angry with someone I love, if they hurt me.

• To feel scared and say ”I’m afraid”

• To grieve over losses in my life.

• To safety and security.

• To make decisions based on my feelings, judgement or any reason I choose.

• To change my mind at any time.

• To be happy.

• To stability. Ie roots and stable healthy relationships of my choice.

• To own my personal space and time needs.

• To be relaxed, playful and frivolous.

• To be flexible and comfortable with doing so.

• To change and grow.

• To be open to improve my communication skills so that I may be understood.

• To make friends and be comfortable around people.

• To be in a non-abusive environment.

• To take care of myself, no matter what.

• To trust others who earn my trust.

• To forgive others and myself.

• To give and receive unconditional love.

So when inlaws or anyone else try to violate these rights be assertive, but don't try to win arguments.

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Postby angrywife » Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:22 pm

Thanks Robbie, yes I need to stop arguing/fighting to get my point across. Unfortunately, I just don't seem to have the communication skills that are so important in today's world, to convey our feelings and needs and wants.

I lack the tact to ask for and get some help or work done. There are times when I choose the wrong words to express myself, and it comes out all wrong! I am also a complete introvert and even when people come home to visit, I have a hard time coming out with just "hello" and "goodbye".
So I keep everything inside of me. When something does happen, I find myself raising my voice begging to be understood, and then crying thru the whole process.

My in-laws live with me, unfortunately they are the ones that put me down and it would be impossible to terminate conversations with people living under one roof.

The only saving grace is that I do have my own values in place. I do like to think for myself, take my own decisions, I love my freedom and my privacy.
I do TRY to be perfect, and I do sometimes expect people to be a certain way, but I have worked on that in the last couple of years, and believe me, I am no longer judgemental of anyone, and may not understand why they say or do the things they do, but I just let it be - thats them, unlike me!

To learn from my mistakes - I used to be so sensitive, still am maybe, that criticism is really hard for me to take. Also, I live in a household where I am constantly berated for small things like she is so inefficient she forgot to put that away. Or she is so much in her own world that if I had not suggested she do it like this she would never have figured it out. Or even if I take up responsibility to do something from start to end, someone else butts in once its all set up, and of course, no one even realises that I had any part in getting it all done. All the jabs are in front of friends, family and relatives to embarass and humiliate me. Like I said, I am more sensitive, so maybe someone else in my place would just let it roll right off their back, but it hurts me.
Anyways, so I do make mistakes, I tell myself I am not perfect. But until I conform to my in-laws standards of what a DaughterInLaw should be, I am not even supposed to be happy with myself, as I am!

To expect honesty from others -well, my 'family' even lies to protect their self-image, regardless of who is present in that room - no shame at all. I expect absolutely nothing from them. They just come with with my husband, thats all. I have few friends and only a couple that share the same values that I do, them I really value.

I allow myself all and any feelings - anger, hurt, fear, anxiety, and do not feel guilty for the person I am - thats just me. I do however have problems in expressing myself, and therefore no one understands me. I am also stubborn about opening up in any way, because I am so very uncomfortable with even a second person in the room, let alone a group. Even in a group of 6 people, I speak maybe 2 sentences per hour. I just listen and laugh. If someone jokes or comments about me, I have no comeback, ever. I just smile and wait for the awkward moment to pass.
I am always inhibited in front of anyone but myself - do not dance, sing or monoact, etc.

I am forever afraid to be criticised or judged by anyone, I am forever reliving the past in my head and am NOW reluctant to give myself unconditionally to anyone.

I am training myself to put myself before others so that if I may ever find myself alone out there in the world, I will be able to fend for myself.

This is just my immediate reaction from reading what my Rights are. I do wish to grow as an individual, but am so afraid to face the world out there. And find it so hard to force myself to mix with others, so that every social gathering is something I am just waiting to get out off. I would much rather just curl up in bed with a good book or watch tv!

(The only people I am close to are my parents, whom I trust implicitly, and I love my husband, regardless of what happens, because I know he loves me too)
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Postby disarmfromwithin » Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:32 pm

It really saddens me to see you in turmoil, and i know i have issues around trying to save the world. but then is it me i am trying to save (this is known as dysfunctional rescuing) i work with so many people who are similar in many ways to you and it is a shame that i do not live in the states, otherwise i would try to find a way of helping you through this.

Let me know how the anger diary is going.

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Postby disarmfromwithin » Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:41 pm

Very often the barrier to self esteem and assertiveness is because we play out scenarios in our heads, for instance if i need to be assertive with my mother i will play out scripts in my mind of what i might say when she says something and so on. We then build up a fear, this fear leads us to think that we would be better off leaving it instead of rocking the boat. actually the fear is rarely as bad as reality. as an exercise make a list of situations that you avoid, then pick one. Make a decision that you will desensitze yourself to this one situation and play it out for real. this will help you to then go onto being able to handle most situations without the fear factor stopping you, which means you stop living in your head and start living in reality.

I know this seems very simple and to be honest it is something i work with my clients over a period of time, but try it once and see how empowering it can become

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Postby clearlymad » Wed Jul 20, 2005 10:44 pm

I am so glad to find this site! I did not even realise that it was anger I was dealing with. Called it frustration.However the more I read, the more I see myself. My anger gets the better of me at work, and because I dont assert myself, it seems to eat at me, until eventually the wrong people perhaps are the ones who finally receive my outburst of temper. My family usually forgive me, but its not fair on them. At work it is different, and I find myself becoming very unpopular with the more tolerent ones, and in serious trouble with those that are less tolerent, and my job is now at risk. I am very keen to learn to control my feelings, and am aware that this will not be easy particularly at stressful times at work.
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Postby angrywife » Thu Jul 21, 2005 2:30 pm

It sometimes helps if someone can just sympathise with you. When I am on this forum, and get replies, I feel like I am not all alone. :-)

You remember I had requested an anger diary. I have had one outburst(tears, raised voice and all), and a few episodes where 'family' has been so manipulative and mean that I hate them - I think there's some anger there too. All on record...

But you know what surprises me, I used to be a person who would take a hurtful comment and live with it for months, some things that happened 3 years ago, I still remember. But, this time around, I had decided that I wouldn't let anything get to me, and honestly, I just don't feel that sting in my heart beyond that particular day.

I think its amazing that I can move on and live every next day with the same people like nothing ever happened. However, I do have mixed feelings about whether this is not an improvement or leading up to a future explosion!

I am willing to try every little tip to get mental peace, including meditation and deep breathing, almost everyday, even for a few minutes...
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Postby angrywife » Wed Jul 27, 2005 1:19 pm

Robbie, I have been thinking about your 'desensitization' post. You are so right. I didn't even realise I have been doing this and for so long. I am so tense around my in-laws, I probably speak and interact as less as possible just to shield myself from any uncomfortable comments or situations that may arise. I have played the past too many times in my head, and built an anticipation in myself for everything that could happen in a particular setting!

I think it will take time for me to move out of that thought setup, but I will start working on that soon, just as soon as I have a better hold over my emotions. Doing pretty well, if I may say so...:-)
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