Episode 144 Ama Conflict With Spouse (1)

Conflict in Marriage

Questions sent in by listeners. There were some really great questions asked in this episode. Interestingly, each question had to do with an unresponsive spouse.  

We will often get stuck in a situation and not know how to do something different. The answers to these questions are a starting point for you to begin thinking differently about your circumstances.

Each answer in this episode applies the principles of Differentiation – the ability to be mature in your relationships by being strong inside yourself and connected with another person at the same time.

Questions asked in this episode:

  1. My adult children have cut off communication with me because of things my husband has done. How do I convince them to view me as a separate parent so they will communicate with me.
  2. I’ve been trying to do all the things I’ve learned in the podcast, but it’s not working. My spouse isn’t willing to connect with me. What now?
  3. My husband calls me names when we don’t agree. How can I keep the peace?

If you would like to submit a question to be answered on the podcast, CLICK HERE

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Self-Esteem Boot Camp


Full Transcript

Tina Gosney  00:03

If you’re struggling in your family relationships and nothing you do makes it any better. Maybe even gets worse. You’re in the right place. My name is Tina Gosney, your host as well as your family relationship coach, and positive relationship strategist. When you make peace with what’s happening inside of yourself, you’ll begin to find the peace you’re looking for in your relationships. This is the coaching your family relationships, podcast. Let’s get started.

Tina Gosney  00:38

Hey, welcome to the podcast today. I am so glad you’re here.

Tina Gosney  00:42

I’m Tina Gosney. I’m your relationship and life coach for the day. And I welcome you to the podcast. If this is your first time that I’m so glad you’re here. If you’re a longtime listener, you are so appreciated and welcome.

Tina Gosney  00:58

We’re going to do some more asked me anything questions today? I thought it was really interesting with the submissions this time that they all had to do something with conflict with a spouse. And this will be a really interesting episode for the Ask Me Anything questions.

Tina Gosney  01:19

Before we get into those, I want to let you know that I have two boot camps summer boot camps coming up. The first one is on boundaries. One of my most downloaded episodes is on boundaries. And I know this is something that can be really elusive, it can be really tricky to figure out can be elusive to figure out how how to use boundaries, what are boundaries anyway, we use them effectively and in the wrong way all the time. So if there is a situation in your life where you feel so out of control, so unable to control what is happening, maybe you’ve tried so many things to resolve it, but the other person isn’t listening, or they aren’t respecting all your efforts to try to resolve the situation in a different way than I need you to come to the boundaries bootcamp.

Tina Gosney  02:16

Because boundaries, like I said before, they are so elusive to us, we do not understand them. We’re afraid of them. Because we’re so afraid of losing the relationship or damaging a relationship. So instead, we lose ourselves, we don’t do anything, or we lose ourselves in their relationship, we might get really angry or resentful, or we complain or accommodate instead of collaborate. Or maybe we just feel like we’re putting up a boundary and we cut off contact. None of those things really need to happen except in extreme situations, which are not that common. So if this is something that you want to learn more about, that you want to learn how to do effectively, then I want you to come to the Boundaries Boot Camp. This is for you.

Tina Gosney  03:08

I’m also going to do a Self-Esteem Boot Camp. Why am I doing a self esteem bootcamp? Well, I want you to think about if your relationship was a bridge, if your life was a bridge, the way that you think about yourself is the water that runs under the bridge. It is always there. It’s always running. And it’s always affecting what is going on on that bridge. We can’t get away from it.

Tina Gosney  03:39

Just imagine if you could be more aware of how you are measuring yourself against others, of how you’re measuring yourself against your own expectations. We all compare ourselves to other people compare ourselves to what we think that our life is supposed to look like. That is normal human behavior. In fact, you’re probably doing it right now. Because we do this all the time. And most of the time, we’re unaware that we’re even doing it. Your subconscious is going to look around to see if you measure up if you fit in, if you’re doing what you were supposed to be doing if you’re fulfilling your purpose in life. And whatever however you measure yourself against that, whatever that internal measurement is. That is what you think about yourself. It’s going to show up every minute of your relationships, and it’s going to show up in every minute of your life. boundaries and self esteem work together in our relationships.

Tina Gosney  04:45

However we protect ourselves, connect with others or measure ourselves depends on whether we show up as a healthy or as an unhealthy version of ourselves. Boundaries and self esteem when we use them to work together, we can move into a place of health in ourselves. And when we move into health with ourselves, then we are capable of moving into health and our relationships. But first, we have to be healthy inside of our own skin, I would love to have you do both boot camps, because they do work so well together. But if you can only do one than just pick one, there’s a link in the show notes go get signed up.

Tina Gosney  05:30

So interesting that all of the questions submitted this round, have to do with conflict with a spouse, mainly the husband. And I know that there’s a lot of women that listen to this podcast, mostly women listen to this podcast, I’m not trying to deter you if you’re a man, and you’re listening to this podcast. But I do tend to speak more to women. So it makes sense that I’m getting asked about the husband. If I were a man, and I were speaking to men, I imagined that that would be reversed. But most of these are having to do with a husband.

Tina Gosney  06:07

I’m going to talk a lot about differentiation today. Differentiation is the ability to be strong in yourself, to be who you want to be, to feel free and independent enough to think and feel for yourself. And to know who you are, to have a love and respect for yourself. At the same time that you stay connected in a relationship with another person. Usually we refer to differentiation in a relationship with a partner and intimate partner. But we need differentiation in our families in general. So if you are not having conflict with a spouse, there’s probably someone in your family that you are having conflict with. And so I want you to take these answers today that I give and apply them to that situation instead. 

Tina Gosney  07:03

We all have two very basic human relationship needs. We want to belong to ourselves, just like I said, we want to feel strong and confident and individualized in our own skin. And we want to belong to others, we want to have other people in our life, we want to have a connection and, and secure connections and relationships with other people.

Tina Gosney  07:31

The problem is, is that we don’t know how to do both of these things at the same time. Either we give up ourselves, or and we collapse into what somebody else wants us to be. Or we say I can’t be around you and we leave the relationship.

Tina Gosney  07:48

Differentiation is a process we go through that helps us achieve both of our goals to be connected to ourself, and to be connected to others at the same time. If we can hold on to our own self esteem, our own self confidence, our own self worth. And we can stay in a connected and protected relationship with another person. That is the secret of life.

Tina Gosney  08:19

All relationships, go through periods of connection, disconnection, and then hopefully reconnection. How we go about the reconnection is really important. It’s not a matter of if we’re going to go through this process, it’s when we go through this process. Now when we try to reconnect, either we can just go back to where we were, and kind of sweep things under the rug and pretend like things didn’t happen. Or we can yell it out and say, Okay, we’re fine now. Or we can use it to force us to grow the relationship and up level it.

Tina Gosney  08:57

Our relationships are like crucibles. Do you know what a crucible is? It’s this container that you heat up to refine a metal, it gets really hot. And it separates out the garbage from the precious metals. So when we put our relationship through the crucible, it pressures us. It tests our strengths, it breaks us down. Sometimes it feels like it’s gonna break us, literally break us. We go through that pressure. And because of that pressure, we have the opportunity to come back together and create something new and stronger together.

Tina Gosney  09:38

But we need to know that this is what’s happening. And we need to know that we’re in it for the long haul. We are in it to continue to grow and through our relationships, we grow relationships, our human growing machines. Now you’re going to see in these questions today, that these couples are In the crucible, there are situations where they’re feeling disconnected. They’re breaking down, and they’re going through testing. And it’s possible in some of the situations that the wife might be the only one that sees it.

Tina Gosney  10:14

I’m also going to say this here, although I won’t say it in the individualized answers to the questions, because I don’t know enough about these couples and their situation, if I would give this information to them if I were coaching them, but it is something that everyone in a relationship needs to know and consider. And that is that not every relationship is meant to be saved.

Tina Gosney  10:41

Sometimes the best thing is for a relationship to end, we don’t want to rush into that ending of a relationship and say, Oh, it’s just not working. So I’m just going to call it quits. We don’t want to do that. Of course, we don’t want to do that. But when we have done all that we can do to make it a healthy one. And we’ve done our part to the very best of our ability. There are times when the best thing that you can do for your health and safety is to end the relationship.

Tina Gosney  11:11

Relationships are meant to help us grow and develop. They are that crucible I described a minute ago. If we are unable to do that to grow and be healthy and safe in a relationship, it might not need to be saved.

Tina Gosney  11:29

A key part of a committed relationship requires us to choose our spouse, we don’t just choose the day that we begin to date, or the day that we decide to be a couple, or the day that we get married. That’s not the only time we choose, we actually choose our spouse each and every day. By the way we approach our relationship. If we are telling ourselves, Well, we said yes to each other x number of years ago, so now we’re stuck. Well, that is not choosing our spouse.

Tina Gosney  12:03

So many people will say that divorce is not an option. But I want you to really think what you mean by that. If you don’t truly have the option to say, I don’t choose this, then you don’t truly have the option to say I do choose this. A true choice has to have options. If there are no options, you’re not truly choosing your spouse or your marriage, you’re just choosing to not get divorced.

Tina Gosney  12:32

Okay, so when I want to remind you every time I do these episodes, I want to remind you that the answers that I’m giving to the questions that were submitted are an entry point, or an entry point into a possible place that you could start working on the question the problem that you’re having, because of this format, and we don’t have some follow up with this and a conversation back and back and forth. This is just the entry point for you to begin working on it. And I’m giving you some things to think about some things you can do on your own. When I work directly with my clients, we dive much deeper into these situations. And we might explore them from every angle, taking several weeks to do that. So remember, this is just an entry point. I know that an entry point can start making all the difference. Sometimes we just need to have someone help us see how to take that first step. And that will send us into a whole new path that we can travel.

Tina Gosney  13:37

Okay, let’s get to question number one. This is a little lengthy, so stay with me.

Tina Gosney  13:42

My husband and I have been estranged from our two daughters for a year. They think my husband’s behaviors during a difficult time are not acceptable. The communications between them and my husband resulted in a cut off. Since the beginning of the estrangement, I have engaged in educating myself and done a lot of work that the experts suggest to do. But my husband chooses to focus on something else and wait for the kids to grow up. One of my daughters knows that I’m working hard on fixing the relationship with them. But she said she can’t treat me and my husband as two different entities. She’s not comfortable to text and email and write letters to me and leave my husband out even though she appreciates my work and misses me. I feel so frustrated that no matter how hard I work to meet their needs, there’s no way to make any improvements. I tried to share what I’ve learned with my husband, but he was not interested. And also didn’t believe he had to change. I don’t want to be responsible for and take the consequences of his choices. How do I convince my daughters to recognize me as an independent parent instead of one of their parents? My daughter’s perspective is that my husband is very difficult to accept different opinions, which has been a pressure on them for years. From my husband’s point of view, he’s been working hard to For our family, and has provided the kids with plenty of activities to help them grow up happy and healthy. He doesn’t deserve to be treated like this. And since we are Asian immigrants, too, there are definitely some cultural issues in this.

Tina Gosney  15:15

Okay, long question, but so good. This is such a, an insightful thought out question. And I really appreciate you sending this one in. And mom, wife, I just want you to know you’re in a really difficult situation, my heart goes out to you. I imagine that this feels like you’re stuck in the middle of the most important people to you, and that you are not able to bring them back together. My heart just breaks for you and all that you are trying to do. This is such a difficult situation. And I imagine that your heart is also breaking. I want to commend you for educating yourself, for doing all the work that you’ve done to help you see yourself more clearly in the situation more clearly. Because most of the time that work that looking at yourself, and changing the way that you are operating and seeing things. That is the hardest work of all. I don’t know if you’re seeing that right now. But that is the hardest work you’ve already done, and are working on the hardest work. So I’m sending you all the high fives right now for doing that.

Tina Gosney  16:30

And here’s a question for you. Do you believe that each person in your family is doing the best that they know how to do. And here’s why I ask this. Because we each function at the level of our understanding, and the level of our own development. Sometimes our best looks pretty bad.

Tina Gosney  16:51

I know for me, there’s been times where my best looked pretty bad. But it was all I knew how to do given the circumstances. And I was trying so hard. If each of your family members is doing the best that they know how to do, and you can see that, that I want you to let them know that you see that. It doesn’t matter if you agree with what they’re doing. Or if you wish that they were acting differently. Just let them know that you see where they are right now.

Tina Gosney  17:21

And that doesn’t mean that by you saying hey, I see you that it will like be a way of giving them permission to stay at that level, because you don’t actually give them permission anyway, each of them gets to decide if and when they will open themselves up to seeing things differently. And that always begins just like it did with you by looking at yourself. And by will being willing to be wrong about some things that you the ways that you’ve seen things before the way that you’ve thought before some things that you’ve done. That requires some humility, and we all get to decide when we pick up humility. And when we pick up the opposite club of I’m right and I’m going to dig in my heels in this position.

Tina Gosney  18:11

You asked me how to convince your daughters to see you as a separate parent than your husband. Well, you can’t convince your daughters of anything. They’re going to see and think what they want to you also can’t convince your husband that he needs to change, because he’s going to see and think what he wants to. We don’t talk and convince people out of their hurt feelings. But we can hear what they have to say. We can meet them where they are, we can listen to their heart without trying to talk them out of it.

Tina Gosney  18:43

Now that might seem a little counterproductive, or like it’s just a little small thing. But it’s actually a really big thing. To listen to someone’s pain without trying to change it or solve it is not a gift that we usually give each other. It’s a precious huge gift. And we usually don’t do it without telling them to think differently to feel differently or get defensive because what they said means something bad about us. So just sitting and listening and giving, letting them have a voice for their pain can go a long way. You are working so hard. And you’re not seeing the results you want but don’t give up.

Tina Gosney  19:26

Stay in it for the long haul I’m sure you will without me even saying that. Because I can read that in your question about how much you love every person in this story. But keep being the person you want to be and there will come a day that something or someone decides to make a change.

Tina Gosney  19:45

This is a difficult crucible you’re in and and with it being over a year already. It probably feels to you like it’s never going to end like you’re always going to be right where you are today. But that’s not the case. The more can added you are to being the loving parent that you are being and committed to understanding where your husband is coming from while giving him time to soften when he’s ready, the stronger person you will be, and the more influence you will have in the lives of everyone in your family. And I will bet that there will come a day when they come and thank you for being so strong, and for holding out for what you believe in and holding the line on both ends.

Tina Gosney  20:37

Here’s question number two, I would be interested in hearing more about what to do when we actively tried to do all the things discussed in the podcast, and coaching to try to improve a relationship and it just doesn’t work. Maybe the person isn’t emotionally ready, maybe they don’t see value in doing it. Maybe they just want to feel good about themselves and avoid hard conversations, Whatever their reasons, when we put ourselves out there and try, but it’s not received. What then?

Tina Gosney  21:07

Thank you so much for this question. And I think this really relates has a lot of similarities to that last question. You’re doing a lot of work on yourself and how you’re showing up, you are making a lot of changes in how you’re operating. And of course, you want to see some results, that is completely normal. That’s a human normal human response, to want to see some results for all this hard effort. This is a lot of difficult effort that you’re putting in.

Tina Gosney  21:36

One of the pillars of developing differentiation is that we keep doing the work even when we don’t see results. We keep showing up even when it’s hard. And we’re not seeing the results that we want and the timeframe that we expect it to get them. And that is very difficult to we how do we keep going when we’re not even seeing any results. And we’re not even sure that anything, all this difficult effort, all this hard energy that we’re putting in towards having something different is ever going to pay off. So difficult.

Tina Gosney  22:14

Let’s just imagine for a minute that this person is not your spouse. It’s just a random person that you’re observing. Why do you think that they’re doing the things that they’re doing? Get curious about it, I want you to put aside any judgment, anger or resentment, just put it aside for a minute and look objectively, at Why do you think they’re doing what they’re doing. We all have reasons for what we do. And when we can try to get into someone else’s head can try to start to understand why they might be doing something, why they might be having this certain action or reaction, it can be really helpful in our own minds about what we do next.

Tina Gosney  23:04

Think about this for a minute, when we get married, we marry a person with the same amount of differentiation as us. And we do that naturally. Because if they were less differentiated, we would notice things like, Oh, they’re very overactive at times, and they go out of control, they lose their, they lose it and they get really angry, and I don’t like that. Or maybe they’re closed off, it’s really difficult to be close to them, they kind of always have a wall up and they will let you in. Or maybe they say mean things to you and they demean you. And if you are doing those same things in your life, if those things are normal to you, then you’re the same level of differentiation as them. And you’re going to think this is a match.

Tina Gosney  23:50

If you are more differentiated than they are, you are not going to want to put up with those types of things. You’re going to say this is not my person. If they are more differentiated than you are, they will notice you doing those types of things or maybe similar things. And they’re going to decide that you’re not their person.

Tina Gosney  24:12

We will marry a person at around the same level of differentiation as we have. And then think about how long we are usually with this person. For many people, it’s decades. And then somewhere down the line. We decide, this doesn’t feel good to me anymore. I want something more than this. I want to feel better about myself. I want to be a stronger person who’s better able to handle the difficult things of life. I want to be more at home in my own skin. I want to have more connection in my relationship. I want a closer relationship with my spouse. So we began to change and we start to work on achieving that goal.

Tina Gosney  24:54

But just because we want it doesn’t mean that the other person is willing or even ready to do the same thing. So it’s like we enter the relationship at one level. And we both knew, we both probably knew, I hope that we both knew that as we got older, and that as the years went by that we were going to grow and develop, and we were going to grow up, and two different people that we never know, if we’re going to want to grow in the same ways, it works out so much more smoothly when we do and we both want to grow in the same ways. But there are no guarantees that we do.

Tina Gosney  25:28

And so you might be trying to level up your level of differentiation. And your spouse is saying, No, I’m good right here. And that might be where the disconnect is coming in. So whether or not we are getting the result we want from our spouse, our job, when we’re working on being differentiated, our job is to turn inward for the validation that we’re looking for.

Tina Gosney  25:55

And the results that we’re looking for, in this situation, it might look like this saying to yourself, “Even though my spouse doesn’t want to meet me right now, where I am, I’m going to stay on this road. Because it feels good. It feels right to me, it’s who I want to be, I’m going to when I see an opportunity where it feels right, I’m going to invite them to join me in May, that might look different each time. But I don’t know how it’s going to be received. And if it’s rejected, I’ll deal with my own disappointment. But this is my growth. And this is where I want to be, and I’m doing a good job.”

Tina Gosney  26:32

See how that is self validating. Even when you’re not getting what you want outside of yourself. You can validate, you’re doing the hard work, this is for you. I really hope my spouse comes along with me, because it would be so much better if they did and it would be so awesome if we could do this together.

Tina Gosney  26:54

Here’s question number three.

Tina Gosney  26:56

I have a situation where my husband and I are in a disagreement about Republicans and Democrats. He says what he believes but tells me I’m an idiot, if I go for the other candidate. How do I keep the peace in the family? We don’t We usually don’t talk about politics because of our different feelings. And it’s gotten worse over the last two years.

Tina Gosney  27:17

Well, I’m sure this is a hot topic in a lot of families these days, I’m sure you’re not the only one who feels really divided with politics, especially with this being an election year in the United States, and the election only being a few months away.

Tina Gosney  27:32

So this is just a side note, but I’m gonna guess that this is not the only time that your husband talks to you like this, if he’s willing to call you names when you talk about politics. My guess is that he calls you names in other situations too. And please, if your safety or anyone who’s listening to this, and this resonates with them, if your safety is at risk, that’s your number one priority right now, sometimes with this type of behavior from one spouse, the other ones safety could be could be at risk, because that shows a lot of anger, and a lot of unbridled self expression. I’m not saying that this is your situation. But if it is, or for anyone else listening out to this podcast, please take some measures for your safety first, that is your number one priority.

Tina Gosney  28:19

And back to the question, answering this question. I am so sorry. I’m sure this feels terrible. Especially coming from your life partner, the person who is by your side, who is supposed to have your back and be your support and you’ve created this life and a family with then you calls you names. You’re using several losing strategies. Here’s just three of them. And I’ll give you these are I did podcast episodes on each one of these you can go back and listen to them. The first one is needing to be right episode 126. Needing to control episode 127 And then unbridled self expression episode 128.

Tina Gosney  29:08

So unbridled self expression is: you don’t check yourself. You think just because I have a thought or a feeling, you get to say whatever is in your mind with no thought of how the other person is going to receive that.

Tina Gosney  29:23

Needing to control: if I can get you to feel shame about your choice, then you’ll change and then you’ll agree with me, and I’m not okay if you don’t agree with me.

Tina Gosney  29:35

Needing to be right: you aren’t right unless you agree with me. My opinion is the only right opinion and I’m not willing to see anything differently.

Tina Gosney  29:46

All of these losing strategies are an attempt to get you to give up yourself so that you can mash and meld into him. Remember how I said differentiation is being able to hold on to yourself in a connected relationship, this is an attempt for him to get you to leave yourself and meld into him, he will feel better if you are more like him. If you can prop up his sense of being right and putting right in air quotes, if you do that, he gets to feel good about himself, like, oh, there’s reinforcement that I’ve made the right choice.

Tina Gosney  30:27

If you’re disagreeing with him, it’s harder for him to feel good about himself, because you’re not seeing things the same way as him. And if you refuse to bend, that is even more difficult for him. He’s trying to get you to bend.

Tina Gosney  30:42

This is called codependence or enmeshment.

Tina Gosney  30:46

Now, I have no doubt right now that there are people that are listening to this podcast, and they are saying to themselves, well, Tina, there’s only one right person to vote for in the election, any other choice would be wrong.

Tina Gosney  31:00

This is a very divisive election. And it might even be like more divisive, if that’s even possible, more divisive than previous elections. But I want you to think about this. The thing is, there’s a right answer it right in air quotes, again, on both sides. Both sides can’t be right. At the same time. It’s just an opinion of the person saying that this is the right choice.

Tina Gosney  31:32

I would be curious, Questioner, to know how you are reacting to his name calling? Do you get defensive? Do you just brush it off and ignore it in the moment and then later you get angry and resentful. And maybe there’s ways that you make him pay for it? Are you staying quiet? Are you trying to manage the way that you show up in your marriage, like not saying certain things so that you don’t set him off. These are also I cover these in the losing strategies, I want you to go back and listen to those episodes.

Tina Gosney  32:09

Now relationships are a dance, he makes a move, then you make a move, then he reacts to your move, and you react to his. And you can probably predict what he’s going to do and when. And he could probably do the same for you. We get into this dance where we just get used to repeating the same patterns in our relationships, and we get really good at reading our spouse. If you want the dance to change, you have to start doing something different. And that is really difficult, especially at the beginning, when you start breaking a pattern that is the time that it is the most difficult. And it’s likely that when you try to break the pattern and do a different dance, then his behavior will escalate.

Tina Gosney  33:00

He’s trying to get you back into the old dance because it worked for him. And new dance can feel very confusing. And nobody likes to be confused. So we’d like things to stay the same. So if he’s trying to get you to go back, if you’re trying to change and do things differently, and he’s trying to escalate behavior to get you to go back to do things, the way that you used to do that is normal.

Tina Gosney  33:23

When you hold your ground, when you refuse to go back to the old dance, he has a choice to make. He can either join you in doing something different, or he’s going to lose some connection with you. It throws you both into the crucible where things get messy. They fall apart and they get hard. Things get worse before they get better. But when you can come back together, you’re stronger for going through it.

Tina Gosney  33:58

Those are the Ask Me Anything questions for today. I’m going to do another episode later in the summer. If you want me to answer a question. If you have a question. There is a link in the show notes where you can go just click that link take you to a quick forum where you can submit your question and I will hold on to that until the next time I do one of these episodes.

Tina Gosney  34:22

Don’t forget also that the Boundaries Boot Camp and the Self-esteem Boot Camp are coming up in just a few weeks. They work beautifully in complementing each other. I hope to see you at both. Thank you for being with me today. And I will see you next time.

Tina Gosney  34:44

Hey, if you are finding value here on this podcast, please consider hopping onto Apple podcasts or Spotify and leave a rating maybe even a review your ratings and reviews help other people to find this podcast. Thank you so much for taking the time. To do this and for your support