Significant other interprets everything as personal

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Yesterday in couples counseling the therapist said to my husband, “You consistently interpret everything she says as a personal reflection of you and it always gets you into trouble, causes you a lot of pain.”

That was one insight that helped me immensely, to hear it defined so clearly.

She told him it was from old programming from when he was a baby-child and it’s forever getting in the way of his happiness and satisfaction.

He started a new personal T last week, so the good news is that he’s getting treatment and might be able to start reflecting on himself.

A couple of other insights... I forget what she called it, but she asked him if he notices how often he uses the terms “should and must”. I was glad she pointed that out. What is that cognitive distortion called?

Also she asked him why when she asks him to speak directly to me he can’t do it. (Example: He says a bunch of stuff and projects how I’m feeling and she tells him to speak directly to me and he says, “She already knows,” or “I’m not going to go over all that again,” or “What I just said.”). His reason was that he thinks I’m going to twist his words around because “she’s smart and good at arguing.” When she finally got him to ask me a question directly, he just steamrolls over the response and goes back to talking to her.

Some insights I realized about myself... so many of my problems in the past (and even present?) came from not speaking... not speaking up, not speaking my truth, not saying what bothered me. But now I realize that since my husband consistently misinterprets my words and behavior as personal affronts, even in the times I felt bold enough to speak up, he would have had trouble understanding me.

It’s like we’ve been pretending at having real communication, real intimacy, authenticity. I didn’t realize that adults can play house too!

It makes perfect sense to me now that in my broken state, where I had so much difficulty speaking for myself, and lacked a solid stable sense of self, that partnering with someone who says what they want to say and hears what they want to hear, would be a kind of safety. Because my own words were mostly vacuous, no solidity, wishy-washy, enabling, aiming to please—that I could NOT have partnered with someone who took me at my word, who depended on my accountability, who expected me to be representing my needs—I was unable to do that. My communication style was to try to figure out what the other person needed or wanted and then to either ally with them or get away.

Likewise, my husband could not have partnered with someone who had a strong sense of self and a voice because he is not yet able to hear other people—he only hears himself and consistently interprets the words and behaviors of others as a personal reflection of himself. No wonder it’s so hard for him to have friends! No wonder he’s so grumpy!

In some ways I feel stronger having this insight. In some ways I feel enlightened. In some ways I feel compassionate toward him. He absolutely is that scared little baby. But I’m not his mama. I have to be my own mama. And mama to our kids. I have to believe that he is strong enough to overcome this problem of personalizing everything. He has to believe he is strong enough.

The future is still up in the air. My husband really likes the couples counselor. I do too. I find it odd that he wasn’t more humble when she pointed out how he misinterprets words and behavior as personally directed. Maybe he wasn’t accepting that information yet. I can empathize with that. I know what it’s like to hear something over and over again before it takes root. I have to give him time.

On the positive side, at home, he seems to be avoiding blow-ups, he seems to be able to keep those at bay, and more just talking about stuff.

I’m looking for support in my insight. I needed to write it all out. I guess this is an accomplishment! Because I feel stronger, enlightened, and more compassionate.
Oh well done @Searching4Self!! What a discovery.:hug:

I feel stronger, enlightened, and more compassionate.

You are working hard and it seems like your husband is reaching a point where he too is discovering that he can do much better.

Your therapist sounds awesome. I wish my ex and I had sat down in front of a therapist like that. I might have found out a lot sooner what he was really doing and then possibly I could have made some much better choices when he left.

You are moving towards better communication together and that has got to be a good thing for all of you.:)
Wow! You could easily have been describing me and my hubby’s relationship. Glad you are being patient with him, and that he is willing to work on the relationship with you. Even after 25 years of marriage, mine still doesn’t take anything I say personally. Here is the flip side of that: when my hubby actually hears me, he assumes whatever I am saying is either wrong, crazy, or stupid. End of “discussion”. Maybe he is taking everything personally and I just haven’t realized it. Anyway, I’m so happy for you that this is getting sorted out for you and you are better able to state your own needs and intentions. I hope you both continue to improve your communication.
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