Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I was a single mother after my divorce for twenty years. I dated, I
hooked up, and then I decided I wanted to find the right guy. I am
mid-fifties though look younger, and a well-educated professional. I
didn’t want an old fuddy-duddy but rather someone to build a life with.
With Martin that mean relocation (I was happy to end my job and find
a new city) and adjusting to different politics and life decisions. But for
the most part we are happy. But he is a vet with PTSD and poor
communications skills. In decorating our new house, he says,
“Whatever you want.” But when I express a point of view that is not
what he has proposed, as in something as small as a different paint
color or tile pattern, he just turns on a dime and says “Never mind, do
whatever you want!” and walks out. I love this man and want to be
happy with him. How can we learn to disagree without it becoming a
major argument every time?
Compromiser, not Fighter
Every relationship has issues, and every relationship develops
patterns. Some can be good and healing. But others, especially in the
realm of communications, can lay an unsound foundation that will, in
the tough times that every life includes, make it much more difficult to
feel like you are on the same team in life. I am ignorant where PTSD
fits into the picture or pattern, and assume and suggest that he be
treated by whatever interventions are available and helpful. My advice
is limited to household and much smaller problems of daily living.
It’s important that you both acknowledge the interaction is fractious,
unpleasant, and not how you genuinely feel about one another.
Assuming that’s true, you don’t need to start at a marriage counselor.
But if you try some techniques that do not work, it’s worth considering
a couples’ counselor for even a few sessions. What seems big to you is
routine to them, and they may have fixes you can’t imagine. In the
interim, try starting with a conversation over a good meal. Say you
want to work on communication and have two ideas. First, whenever
you are making a decision, each of you should get 2-5 minutes to lay
out your case without interruption, with the other listening and not
interrupting. Then a discussion until you make a decision you can both
live with. Second, identify a code word, something unlikely to be part
of your normal conversation. Something silly like Pineapple! Tofu! Or a
word likely to elicit a laugh is good. Saying it translates to I think
we’re about to enter our bad communications place. Can we sit down
for fifteen minutes and talk things out (using method number one)?
Keep trying this until you learn to talk to one another or agree you
need external help.