Relationship Breaking argument cycle

  • Thread starter Overwhelmed Hubby
  • Start date
O

Overwhelmed Hubby

Hi,

First post here. Just wondering if anyone has any good advice for breaking the cycle of unproductive arguments? My wife experiences bad emotional flashbacks and when she is triggered we tend to descend into a black hole of cyclical arguments that consume more and more energy and get more challenging as she becomes more emotionally dysregulated. I try and remain calm, create space for her emotions and validate her concerns (even if I disagree) but after several hours of reiterating why she’s so upset it’s difficult to not get defensive or need a break due to feeling overwhelmed. I haven’t found a way to gently pause the argument until things have calmed down, without further triggering her - she tends to associate me needing a break to regather myself and let things calm down with a rejection, or me ‘not prioritising her’.

Any advice from people further down the road?
 

Freida

MyPTSD Pro
So - my hubby just refused to fight with me.
Made me crazy! LOL

But yep. Flat out refused. Walked away, went to another room, drove off.
It worked, but it didn't really help the relationship.

Later we learned the "time out" technique. When we were in a nice calm place we set the ground rules and BOTH agreed to use them. Write it down if you have to.

For us: During an argument either party could call "time out." Then we went into separate rooms for 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes we could decide if we were going to continue to discuss the problem or if we had gotten calm enough that it wasn't an issue. IF it got heated again, time out was called again. and again. And again. Each time it was 20 minutes of not being around each other. It's pretty effective if for no other reason than it wears you both out.

The big challenge is to keep each of you accountable to the rules in the heat of the moment.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Flat out refused. Walked away, went to another room, drove off.

This is my strategy. Arguing with a ramped up sufferer is like throwing gasoline on the fire. They’re not going to listen to a word you say anyway, may as well save yourself the stress. They may eventually get to a place when they can discuss, but this is the starting point.

Don’t engage. Don’t be a target.
 
O

Overwhelmed Hubby

Thanks both. That’s useful. I hate stonewalling her because it feels so harsh and can trigger her further but sometimes I have had to just drive off or go mute. Leaving for another room tends to result in her following me around the house with lots of screaming and slamming of doors.

The time out option is definitely the way forward but she even gets triggered when we try to discuss strategies or boundaries like in during calm intervals. My current plan is to try and get her to join for some relationship therapy where someone can help facilitate the conversation on time outs.

Any advice on how to sell the time outs as a strategy?
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
i wait until a quiet, stable moment to bring up ways to disrupt and channel our argument cycles. we both have the emotional intelligence of machetes during the heat of an argument. discussing the strategies during more stable moments helps considerably. a relationship counselor could be an excellent assistant to facilitate the dialog, but my hubs and i have managed to facilitate changes on our own.

another strategy we like to use is, "bracketing." in this step, we work to give our individual summaries of the argument after the heat of the argument has passed. it helps us avoid covering the same old ground, over and over again.
 

Freddyt

MyPTSD Pro
The start to understanding her side is to understand that with PTSD the part of the brain that interprets incoming communications is not the rational prefrontal cortex but instead its the part that can only assign fear and anger to incoming communications.

Communication need to be clear, concise, and lack as much emotion as possible. No hinting, dancing around, just the plain and clear facts. Because when I feel like she is dancing around something and doesn't want to tell me - it's bad, and my anxiety gets worse and even if its good - it still feels bad.

I'm a sufferer but I have for a long time used - You said, I heard with my wife because of my propensity to add negative emotions and feelings when there are not any.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Boundaries.

All these strategies and methods will only work if she is in a place where she can manage them.

You’re getting some great advice from sufferers here, but I’m looking at this from the supporter side. I’ve been in your space. If your sufferer is gunning for a fight or projecting you have to lock boundaries in hard before you can try any type of communication strategies.

You may have to establish the boundary that *you* will not argue or engage before she gets the picture that you need an alternative to arguing, especially if you are getting targeted for being the “cause” of the argument. If she follows you it doesn’t mean you have to engage.

I personally leave the premises if my partner won’t respect my boundary, and over time he has realized that I am not playing around when I tell him I am not going to argue. If he gets his feelings hurt that I leave, then that is honestly his problem. He doesn’t get to hold me prisoner to yell and argue just because he has PTSD.
 

HisWife22

Sponsor
The start to understanding her side is to understand that with PTSD the part of the brain that interprets incoming communications is not the rational prefrontal cortex but instead its the part that can only assign fear and anger to incoming communications.

OMG. My supporter mind is blown by this. I need to think alot about this statement.

OP - I echo boundaries and refusing to engage. You'll need to find a way to discuss this during calm times, and I agree that a therapist may help with that.
 

Mee

MyPTSD Pro
Any advice on how to sell the time outs as a strategy?
I’m a sufferer with a great husband- remembering his needs and that he is holding mine in consideration while ‘putting on his oxygen mask’ helps me hugely.

‘I am not leaving or avoiding this and I do know you need to express this to me but I need to also stay centred for x activity’.

‘I love you and want to support you but I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed right now, is there anything we can do to support each other until we are both better able to revisit this?’

You have mental health needs too - even if it’s ‘just’ maintaining yours. For me, Remembering the person I love most can carry burden of this affliction can remind me that I need to shoulder more weight , revisit how I am containing or not and what I am discussing in therapy and how my T can help me improve in this.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
she even gets triggered when we try to discuss strategies or boundaries

I just noticed this.

There is no discussion about boundaries. She has no say in your boundaries… you set them, and you enforce them. She can choose to respect them or not, but they are yours.

You cannot control anybody’s behavior but your own, so you have to remember that about boundaries. Setting a boundary isn’t telling her “you cannot do x!” It’s telling yourself “when she does X I will not tolerate it. I will remove myself from the situation” or however you want to manage. It’s about your response to things you can or cannot tolerate. She will do what she will do. You need to communicate your boundaries, but she does not get a say.

If she disrespects your boundaries then it is up to you to enforce them. If you say you won’t tolerate something, don’t tolerate it. If you say you will remove yourself, remove yourself. If you say you will not engage, don’t engage. You need to be consistent. If you’re inconsistent then you may as well have no boundaries.

Boundaries are crucial when you have a partner with mental illness. You will get steamrolled by them. Typically when your partner has issues like this everything is all about their needs. Your boundaries have nothing to do with their needs. This is a time to do what you need to do for your own mental health. Don’t get sucked into their spiral. You need to maintain your own mental health because somebody needs to be functional.

I probably sound harsh or “mean”, and this is why a lot of sufferers get bothered reading supporter posts. However this is the reality of being the “healthy” partner in a PTSD relationship. It’s not romance and fairy tales. It’s reality.
 
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