DH says I'm negative and pessimistic, and it's bringing him down

close_1972October 10, 2007

He's been saying this for y e a r s. I finally decided, after spending a long time contemplating whether I really was such a negative person, that I'm not. At least I don't think so.

How do I tell?

My assessment is that he's projecting his own negative, pessimistic attitude onto me. He readily admits that he is a negative person, but says my negativity makes his worse. He says I'm negative b/c I'm critical and I complain. I don't believe I'm critical to the point of being unreasonable or impossible to please nor do I complain to excess, but I believe I have the right to complain a little or be "realistic" about something (ie, point out both the good and the bad) rather than just say the nice things...don't I? Wouldn't it be "fake" if I never said what was on my mind, and instead only told him what he wanted to hear?

I don't know that I know how to objectively assess the situation, or what to do with whatever I discover. I believe my core tendency is to be optimistic about things, for example I think we can resolve things in our marriage (but he does not, he thinks we're too different) but I do have a critical eye. I seem to have some perfectionist qualities; over time I've worked to overcome some of the problems that stem from that, but it's still part of my nature.

I feel like when it comes to some issues, issues that DH is "sensitive" about (anything where he's personally involved), DH wants me to never express myself or my differing opinion or make any critical comment. He doesn't want my "negativity". I feel like by holding all those things in that I can't be myself. I feel like he's being childish to be so hurt by a critical remark, and living in some sort of false reality, where I'm supposed to blindly believe that everything he does is wonderful.

By the way, the last statement I wrote would send him over the edge b/c he can't stand when I make sarcastic comments, either.

What is going on between us and can I do anything about it without feeling like I can't be myself?

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Don't know if applies to your situation, but....

A close friend since college days (4 decades ago) and I had a pattern of sarcasm between us that began in college and continued through the years. A lot of "negativity" and one-upmanship built in. Seemed like all good fun when we were younger but I didn't care for it as I grew older. We were essentially competing to see who could invent the best put-downs. About five years ago I decided it was simply rude and annoying and called a halt to it unilaterally. Simply informed him directly. I changed my own pattern at once. He took a few months to come along after I rebuffed him each time he did it again. Our e-mails and conversations are much more satisfying now -- we broke the pattern. Wondering if that's what's going on between you two.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 11:41AM
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well, the only way to objectively assess the situation is for a non-interested 3rd party to observe you both as you normally act.

my wife always says i don't do this or that, or that i am putting her down about certain things. most of this is stuff that she "thinks" she remembers happening. 2 weeks ago she told me she was going to bed. i asked was she going to clean the kitchen since i had done it every night that week. she said i had not,tha tshe had been doing it. i pulle dout a note pad where i had written down exactly who did what for the week. SHE was thinkign about 3 weeks prior when i was out of town for a couple nights. and on top of that those nights she ate dinner either take out or at someone's house!

the human brain remembers what it wants to remember, not necessarily what actually happened.

as to the remarks, learn to keep them to yourself. my wife cannot take constructive criticism either. our daughter is her first child, my second. each and everytime we are discussing WHY our daughter does somethign, if i say anything about how my wife handles it, i am putting her down. for example, both of them throw tantrums. my wife is very quick to go from a whisper to flat out shouting at us. and she cannot figure out why our daughter does the same thing.

you should agree with your husband that neither of you will criticise the otehr unless specifically asked. then stick to it. you will both feel better.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 1:55PM
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Don't let another person define you. It's all subjective, anyway. One person's opinion against another's. If you have honestly examined your behavior and you don't think you are negative then don't accept his opinion as the ultimate truth. However, it's good to remember that in every criticism, there's usually a grain of truth. Be as honest with yourself as you can be.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 9:47PM
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asolo--it's never been a one-upmanship type of thing but I appreciate your example and how you set a new boundary.

davidandkase--here's an example of something that happened yesterday, where he said I was negative and critical. We were at the grocery store (me, DH, our toddler). He decided he wanted to buy some coffee for a coffee machine at work, a coffee machine that he said he didn't know who it belonged to and it's never used. I said "so for all you know, it's been rescued from a garbage can" (I was laughing when I said this) and he just joked that he was going to use it anyway. Then he commented that he couldn't decide what kind to buy. I told him what I liked. At that point he decided to buy the largest can of Folgers the store sold. We have NEVER drank that kind before. I said something like "you're gonna regret buying such a large can of coffee if you end up not liking it". He got really angry at me, said I was being a negative, critical b* and that he was going to do what he wanted. This type of incident is common and usually ends up w/him blowing up and saying he's doing what he wants and doesn't care what I think. When did I tell him he couldn't buy what he wanted?!

I wish a 3rd party would follow us around and asssess the facts. I feel like DH is so darn sensitive and misinterprets at least 50% of what I say. It's like we're reading out of completely different books.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 9:27AM
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I am sailing in the same boat Close. Me and my husband accept that we both are two parrell lines. But I dont misinterpret wht ever he says...but he does. The incident tht u shared...happens with me every time we r out for shopping.He gets stuff from costco just to try and then of course he desont like them so i end up either storing them coz they r too expensive to throw or i just give it to some friends but nothing changes him.I am looking for a solution. We end up arguing or hurting each other every weekend.there is hardly a weekend when i dont cry or end up feeling hurt.
He is too sensitive and takes things in the direction where it is not possible for me to think also .
we are definatley reading different books.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 12:18PM
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Yes I think it would be great to have an independent arbitrator observing the family dynamics, sometimes.

Now, to dissect the coffee incident. This is the way I see it.

"you're gonna regret buying such a large can of coffee if you end up not liking it".(negative) I see this as a criticism, I am afraid. You are making judgements about your DH, and I would imagine he felt foolish.

It would have been better to say nothing, or even suggest (positive) another can of coffee, by saying "how about this coffee".

I decided not to be judgemental about anything, anymore, a while ago. It really is very negative.

If you see your DH doing something that you don't agree, with or like, well ask yourself, does it really matter if I just let it go ?

Lots of things happen in my life, home, that drive me up the wall, but its just not worth it to bring it up, most of the time.

My dear old mum always said to me "save the bullets for the big battles". Meaning speak when its necessary and let the rest fly past.

I hope I haven't been too brutal !

All the best

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 4:14AM
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popi--after I wrote about the "coffee incident", I kind of thought my remark sounded mom-like (and my mother is very critical). Your alternative comment sounds better, and I'm trying to learn to phrase things more like "I" statements (as part of being assertive) which I'm sure would have been better.

It's hard, though, to watch him waste money. As it turns out, the coffee machine at his work is broken so he bought coffee, filters, and creamer, and now he has to likely buy a coffee machine. He is not a "measure twice, cut once" kind of guy, which is the opposite of me, and I get stressed and anxious over his mistakes/oversights. Don't get me wrong, I get stressed and anxious over my own mistakes as well. :-) I guess another thing about the coffee that bugged me is that I make him coffee in the morning, and at least half the time he doesn't drink it or pours it into travel cup and forgets to take it to work. I see that as being wasteful, and I'll go through phases where I only make coffee for myself, but then he'll complain that I didn't make him any coffee.

I guess it all sounds kind of petty, but frustrating nonetheless.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 8:43AM
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do me a favor, sit down and think LONG AND HARD, was he liek this before you married? if so, did you expect him to change? if you did you are sadly mistaken. if he was not liek this, and changed this way afterwards, then maybe you two need to work out some deep seated problems.

before we got married we hardly ever had an arguement. after, we were constantly arguing(still do at times). my wife had expected certain things about me to change and when it did not she started to get real critical of everything i did. as a result i started to criticize her every move as well. i finally decided i had had enough of the arguing and had 3 choices, live with it, change it, or get a divorce. option 3 was out. i took the combination of options 1&2 by stopping the criticizing on my part and not letting anything she said get me upset. used to she would say something and get me started on her, now i just simply say ok, and then go about my business. for instance, we ran out of creamer at work. i grabbed an extra can we had at home and my wife threw a fit wanting to know why i should have to supply the creamer. i told her i was the only one who used creamer at work, other than when SHE drank coffee there as well, so i saw no problem with it. took a little while, but she finally realized i was right.

as to him buy another brand coffee when he won't hardly drink the coffe you make at home, maybe he does not like that brand and just wants to try soemthing else. he may know that if he says soemthign you will start off with teh "but we have always drank this brand". i am not sure if you would, but in his mind that may be what he sees happening. so he just chooses to avoid starting the fight by these little subtle things.

if he had come to you and said he wanted to buy a coffe maker and supplies for work, would you have reacted the same way as you are now?

as far as being wasteful, you use the same amount of coffe to make a pot. if he does not drink his cup full, were you going ot have an extra cup or would you have poured out the rest in the pot when you had your 1-2 cups?

BTW, i don't mean this post to sound like it is all YOU in wrong. i am simply pointing out things abotu what you said. there are always 2 sides to every story, and he may well be a major jerk causing this, or you could be making mountains out of molehills, there is no way for us to tell or for anyone here to legitimately put either of you down for your actions. i can only speak to my experiences with the same basic actions by my wife.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 10:45AM
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A lot of these issues didn't come up before we got married; we were just out of college and didn't have any money. I think part of it was me harboring some expectations that things would be "different" after we got married. In retrospect, that's equivalent to thinking that he'd change, but at the time I wasn't making the connection.

I am not offended by the alternate viewpoints, this is why I went ahead and posted on public forum. I want to know what other people think, I certainly don't want them to agree with me to be nice. My husband's family does that and, as a result, I don't really trust much that they tell me. I don't talk to my mom about personal issues, either, b/c she is biased and just thinks DH should change. I do bring stuff up in marriage counseling but we don't have an appointment for a few more weeks (and I guess I need to be heard NOW) :-)

Part of what makes things hard, though, is that DH doesn't want to talk about the issues we face; he says we just aren't a good fit and that we'll inevtiably divorce. That's what prompted this post. I guess I'm negative about little stuff (like the coffee) but I do think things can work out between us and I'm doing my best.

Back to the coffee, he initially brought up wanting to make coffee at work and I suggested he take the one we use at home (which is a little 4-cup) and we'll get a nicer one. He said that was fine. If he had said he wanted to buy one for work I think I would have been fine with that, too. And as for wasting the coffee I make, I do not make all 4 cups unless I expect him to drink it. I'll measure out enough for me and I'll just make that. Is it common to make the full pot if you don't plan to drink it all? Maybe I'm anal-retentive, I also mix decaf w/regular. I didn't grow up with anyone who drinks coffee so this is just how I do it. I think DH wanted to get whatever brand he bought b/c his parents probably drank it (even though he didn't say that or indicate it in any way). The reason he didn't want to get what we usually buy, so he said, was that ours is too expensive. But I feel like if you buy a huge can of something you don't like and won't drink, that's the biggest waste.

I wanted him to buy a small can of a different brand, so he could be sure he liked it before making the committment. He did the same thing with protein powder once: bought the hugest size b/c it was cheapest per ounce. Guess what, it smells disgusting and smoothies don't disguise the smell and he never used it. That was more expensive than the coffe, but I feel all these things do add up.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 11:50AM
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When there's a shortage of "overall goodwill" then all of the little things really add up and start to become annoying. Really annoying.

And this little coffee incident sounds like evidence of a shortage of goodwill more than anything specific to the coffee. Could be the "You're so negative" comment could be in exactly the same vein.

The comment that really stands out as requiring attention is this one: "we just aren't a good fit and that we'll inevtiably divorce"

Sounds to me like you're looking at the trees and the occasional leaf -- Look at the forest.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 2:42PM
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yep, if he has it in his head that divorce is inevitable, then you may wan tot really step back and take a look at the big picture. sounds like he may have his mind set on that already.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 5:32PM
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The most frustrating thing of all is that he's been saying we should get divorced since a few months after we got married, over five years ago! I think after our first big fight he was saying we're wrong and should end it. Isn't it normal to have disagreements?

Anyway, what am I supposed to do to get the "big picture" view? How does one approach it from that perspective? Is that where I think "He's got a good job, he's a good father, he doesn't drink or do drugs..."? Seriously, where does the small stuff stop and big picture begin?

Which kind of brings me back to the part about me being myself. If I can't say ANYTHING that could be interpreted as critical or negative, am I just supposed to shut up and become someone who only says things that are nice? How is that being myself around those that are closest to me and I should be able to be honest with? I feel so frustrated and I don't know where to begin. Is that the final problem, that I can't be myself without causing friction? I mean, maybe it really isn't an issue of me being so bad as it is that maybe he's right and we're just totally wrong for each other. :-(

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 6:58PM
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You seem like a nice lady. Being married is a tough job, and like any other job you have to figure out how to get it done without giving yourself and those around you an ulcer.

How can I put this tactfully? I am not suggesting that you become a doormat.
However when you say "am I just supposed to shut up and become someone who only says things that are nice? How is that being myself around those that are closest to me and I should be able to be honest with?" The answer might be that you are better off being the best person you can be, maybe that is also the easiest person to get along with. We can all be nasty and sarcastic or even just tactless. If you do it at work you get fired. Frankly if you do it in the forums people get nasty right back and they don't even know you.

This business of "being myself" can also mean that your husband gets to throw beer cans on the floor, watch football around the clock, and admire the Dallas cheerleaders loudly and in detail. So if you get to "be yourself" remember it could be just as horrible if he gets to do it too. We all restrain & discipline ourselves =-=-otherwise we would let the dishes pile up all month, wear a comfortable robe all day, weigh 390 lbs. and let the kids eat pizza for breakfast. (I apologize in advance to anybody who does weigh 390--but you might give her the same advice anyway)
The best way to get the "big picture" is to think about what would happen if you do get a divorce. I have a very attractive friend who divorced her husband--and really thought that she would marry just as well and live happily ever after with an attractive guy she knew slightly. She was delusional! Now she thinks DH wasn't such a bad guy after all but too late--he has remarried to somebody who adores him.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 8:04PM
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"Anyway, what am I supposed to do to get the "big picture" view? How does one approach it from that perspective? Is that where I think "He's got a good job, he's a good father, he doesn't drink or do drugs..."? Seriously, where does the small stuff stop and big picture begin? "

I think you are on the right track here, big picture, means your overall life. Each day is full of detailed events, big picture stuff, is exactly what you said. Also stuff, like, health, happy children, security, contentment...things that are the core values of your life.

"I just supposed to shut up and become someone who only says things that are nice? How is that being myself around those that are closest to me and I should be able to be honest with? I feel so frustrated and I don't know where to begin."

I think thats a good way to be. I have decided to do that. I don't think I have lost me, I am just a new, and improved me, who can hold up my head with the knowledge that I haven't hurt someone else's fealings. Why is it so important to pass judgment on people ? Do you have to give an opinion about everything ? (I say this in the nicest way Close!)

I really admire you for standing up here, and reading people's comments.

I have the same problem, as you with the making of coffee for my DH. Except its tea in my case. I think its polite to make tea for others if you are making one for yourself. So most of the time I make it for him. But he often doesn't drink it and it sits cold, and I think why did I bother. So I don't let it bother me, now, I just don't make it anymore.

Sometimes I think we can do too much, and we keep doing it, and it really isn't appreciated, so then its time to pull back. There is no point in tying yourself up in knots, and making yourself miserable over petty things.

Try going outside, look at the flowers, breathe the fresh air, there are more important things to think about.

One more thing. I think when we decide to change our negative behaviour...it takes TIME. Be patient. Work at it.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 10:46PM
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It can happen that the easiest things to focus on are the things that go/are wrong in our life, our day, the world. Look at the news, that's almost totally focused on negative cr*p that's happening around us, then it's gets us looking at life that way too. Maybe you feel your critisism is honest and constructive, and shouldn't be held back, especially if you've got perfectionist tendencies. Those people always want to share the better/quicker/cost effective way which starts to appear like the ONLY way things should be done, and that can't be when there's two of you together. Imagine how it would be for him, always having the downside pointed out. He's always being challenged on what he's doing, buying, building. Would be difficult, he would feel like he can't measure up to you - and maybe he doesn't.

I've gone through periods of negativity with DH, with him being negative on everything (so it seems). Example: he'd gone golfing for the day (lucky guy - I'm home with the kids cleaning house) and comes home. I ask him brightly how it went, he grumbles it was too windy, and the people playing in front were too slow. Well, this was the 3rd or 4th time in a row he'd come home after golfing and complained, so I calmly stated he should quit golfing if the experience was that cr*ppy. He recoiled, No he still had fun, what the heck am I talking about? Turns out he still had fun (a bad day of golf is better than a good day at the office), but chose to focus on the negatives.

Good Luck with how you go about this, I wish you well.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 11:01PM
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"Which kind of brings me back to the part about me being myself. If I can't say ANYTHING that could be interpreted as critical or negative, am I just supposed to shut up and become someone who only says things that are nice?...I feel so frustrated and I don't know where to begin. Is that the final problem, that I can't be myself without causing friction?"

This is how I'm feeling now. My husband feels that I'm challenging and judging him all the time. I feel like I can't say anything to him without him interpreting it that way.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 12:28PM
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I think you really need to communicate more on the little things. Why not just ask him each morning, "hey honey, I'm making coffee, do you want some?". Some days he might want a cup, some days he might not. Instead, if you make him some and he doesn't drink it, you feel it is a waste, or you just think to yourself "well, I just won't make him any coffee" which has a small hint of "I'll show him" kind of thing going on.

The reason I can say this, is I went through EXACTLY the same thing with my DH. Sometimes he just doesn't want hot coffee it the morning so I always ask him.

And sometimes I truly think most men lack a certain amount of common sense. Buying a huge can of coffee at Costco would have been something my DH would have done. Then if I would have pointed out that it wasn't a good idea he would have said something like "you just think your ways is always the right way". And I would have thought to myself "that's because your way is really stupid and my way IS the right way and you are a total idiot!"

This sounds really strange, but I swear my mother saved my marriage by one simple statement. I called her one day and said I can no longer be married to someone so stupid. (Yes, many of the little stuff he did was adding up). Now, keep in mind, my DH is a very smart computer person who makes great money and is well respected at work. But he was constantly doing stupid stuff at home. So what she said to me was (excuse the language) "your dad is a dumb ass too". I said indignently "NO HE'S NOT". My dad is a brilliant Intellectual Property lawyer and a true family man. She said, "oh sure he is", and she started naming examples of the stupid stuff he does. She said most men just have no common sense. You just have to live with it and don't try to figure it out, and don't constantly point out how wrong he is (even if he is). They will just see it as nagging. When you do have a better, smarter, more sensible way of doing things (which 99% of the time you will), it is all in the approach. I don't feel I've lost myself in trying NOT to point out DH's complete lack of common sense. It is definitely hard not to say things sometimes, but it does get easier, and you will both feel better. Trust me. A man doesn't want to spend his life with a woman who doesn't respect him and regard him well.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 1:42PM
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Since this was brought to the top, I thought I would provide an update: counseling works (see other thread).

Regarding my negative and pessimistic behavior, our marriage counselor did not believe I am negative (and I don't either). He felt I was just the kind of person who approaches things in a way that can be CONSTRUED as negative, especially if the person takes things personally.

For example, someone might share an idea and I generally respond by coming up with reasons why it won't work. It doesn't mean I don't like the idea at all, I just want to troubleshoot the idea a little. His advice for dealing with my DH was that I train myself to say a positive before I give my reasons why something won't work. My understanding was that I would do this to benefit the person sharing an idea with me, so they won't immediately think I'm sh*tting all over their idea etc.

Now, he ALSO told DH that his job is to reiterate to me what he thinks I said, to clarify whether or not he's understanding me. So if I say "it may not solve all the problems because of blah, blah, blah" and what he hears is that I think it's a bad idea (when that's not what I'm saying) then he is supposed to respond "Are you telling me that you think this is a bad idea?" instead of just getting mad. So we BOTH have to take steps to improve our communication, and we are, so it's been a lot better.

I wish I could give specific advice to you, cheerful1. My communication problems with DH were a result of BOTH OF US having issues. I'm too blunt and direct for someone like my DH, and he has too much of a tendency to assume rather than seek clarification, which resulted in him assuming the worst and then being too angry with me to want to discuss it. So I'm learning to soften the comments a little, and try (as much as possible) to phrase them in a way that doesn't blame him. I wish I had a specific example but I don't. Counseling really helped clear it up for us.

In fact, DH very recently told me that when I would say things to him in a blunt and direct manner, he interpreted it to mean that I did not love him. For some reason, he thought if I loved him then I would sugar-coat stuff. ??? News to me but it explains a lot. Why didn't he say this to me years ago? I don't know, I didn't ask. I told him I appreciated him sharing that with me.

jamielovescoffee_az: you are absolutely correct that it seems to be all in the approach and not necessarily the message.

By the way, DH later told me...MONTHS later...that the coffee he insisted on buying WAS gross, and that I was right after all. Now, though, I think that whole argument was PETTY and I'm working on just letting some things go. Why should I be so concerned over what kind of coffee he gets for himself at his work?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 4:14PM
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Umm, hmm. Gotta say I am the type of person who gets very irritated at little details, but a lot of that is the nature of the work I do.

Details are critical. However at home they are not.

I have learned and it came with age to "not sweat the petty stuff & to pet the sweaty stuff" (sorry HAD to add that second line!)

Anyway the coffee stuff, it is nit-picking. Let him bring in whatever coffee stuff to work, it probably helps him feel like he is contributing and is definately good for office moral. Maybe encourage him to pick up coffee for you and surprise you with what kind.

you have to let these little things go or you're going to drive yourself nuts. There will be much bigger things to face ahead trust me.

I never know who is drinking coffee in the am, sometimes my Skids do and sometimes they don't. I make a whole pot and usually throw out 1/3. Is it wasteful-totally. And if DH commented on it, things would not be pleasant. He nitpicks me on occassion for losing my cellphone/car keys-most recently in the grocery store-don't ask me how.

However I will say he graciously went and retrieved my phone from the teen who found it and did not say a word about it to me-though he would have been justified. However just last night I had to listen to a 20 minute lecture about how to print a envelope with a document open -Duh! I am not retarded!!

Your DH needs to stop the divorce talk, DH did that the first few yrs of our marriage, but stopped. I'm not sure why he did it or why he stopped it. Maybe testing me/ or afraid I'd do it?

I'm certainly in no position to give marital advice, but just advise as a woman to you, don't make yourself crazy over the insignificant things. Spoke from a true lifelong pessamist (but I'm working on it.)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 4:32PM
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"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

-- George Bernard Shaw

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 7:45PM
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Oh so true, asolo... that's one of my favorite quotes. Never heard anyone else quote it before.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 12:32AM
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""In fact, DH very recently told me that when I would say things to him in a blunt and direct manner, he interpreted it to mean that I did not love him. For some reason, he thought if I loved him then I would sugar-coat stuff. ??? News to me but it explains a lot. Why didn't he say this to me years ago? I don't know, I didn't ask. I told him I appreciated him sharing that with me.""

If he had mentioned this, years ago, Close, what would you have done ?

I think your situation is very similar to my own, except my DH is like you and I am like your husband. We have had the exact same discussions...its amazing !

My husband is direct, he believes he needs to tell people when they are doing things wrong..of course this causes problems, because people get their feelings hurt. Your counsellors' idea of using a positive comment (to prepare the recipient for the following negative comments) is a clever way to handle the situation. I have said this to my DH, but he just does not get it.

I use that technique, myself. It does work..its all about being empathic towards other people.

I have wondered if some people don't feel empathy ??

    Bookmark   August 10, 2008 at 6:15PM
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