Arguing back

Hi Brooke,

Today my husband and I had a flavor of an argument we’ve had multiple times in the past and it goes something like this:

Husband tells me I shouldn’t have done something I did.
I feel chastised and judged unfairly. I proceed to justify my behavior, explaining that he’s seeing the situation a certain way but it looked different from my perspective, hence whatever I said or did.
The discussion escalates with him angry that I don’t just let him have his say, that I can’t just listen without arguing back.
I feel like he’s trying to shut me up and now we are both angry and frustrated.

In recent months since joining SCS I’ve been better at dodging these situations and letting comments slide, but today I dove right in and the argument reverberated in me for hours.

What helped me feel better was to think “I let myself be” (what I wish he did) because I was replaying the argument endlessly in my mind, wondering how I should have handled it differently. I did models at bedtime and felt a little better still, but wanted to ask for your help as well.

I’ve posted something similar recently where my husband’s comments involved my behavior around him and our kids, and you said how great that he cares so much, but this time it was about something I did that he felt was clueless and embarrassing to him, so I can’t use the same wisdom.

I’m not sure what the best strategy is for me here. Is it about accepting these comments without justifying myself, letting go of the need to correct his view of the situation, letting him entertain this unflattering opinion of me, and not dive into an argument? Is it a case of “I can be right or I can be happy”?

I think my first hang up here is that I think he should just leave me be and not try to micromanage my behavior, but obviously he should because he does. 🙂

My second hang up is that I feel if i let him have these opinions of me unchallenged, then that’s a pretty poor image of me he has, and will he want to stay married to me then? (One of my number one fears is that he’ll fall out of love with me.) I realize my fighting back doesn’t improve his opinion of me either, but usually the argument does lead him to at least acknowledge that we can have differing points of view on the same situation.

I also don’t want to be the self-effacing wife who just nods and says “yes darling you are absolutely right” every time he wants to correct my behavior to his better liking.

However justified I think my thoughts are, I also see that they are not serving me. They’re just making me feel (and act) indignant, defensive, misunderstood, and ultimately victimized.

I have been playing with thoughts I could think when I feel threatened by what I feel is an unrealistic or unfair criticism so I don’t fall into the trap of arguing (if that’s the solution).

I can let him be wrong about me.
I don’t have to justify my behavior.
I can hear him out without rushing to justify myself.
I know I acted the best way I thought to with the information I had.
It’s ok if we see things differently.
I let myself be.
I don’t micromanage my behavior.
He will see me in whichever light he chooses. I get to choose my own light.

Do you think I could make it a cardinal rule for myself to never justify my behavior under any circumstances (well maybe in a court of law), much like you’ve decided never to beat yourself up about anything? Would there be a downside to it?

Or should I try to change my thoughts altogether about the remarks he formulates? That feels like even more of a challenge than not arguing back. 🙂

I’m sorry this is so long. I will be most grateful for your feedback and guidance. Thank you!