How can I communicate to my wife that she displays the same type of behavior that she accuses me of.

My wife is very quick to be defensive, to back out of a conversation that she doesn’t like the trajectory of, she’s convinced that I raise my voice “every” time we get into a disagreement, but knows very well that my raised voice doesn’t equate to me yelling at her - she curses and gaslights me and the volume of my voice goes up when attempting to illustrate that for her after it’s happened. My voice is deep and loud and she knows good and well that excitement (good or bad) will cause me to unknowingly speak louder, it’s a bad habit but I know in my heart that she knows she’s not being yelled at or made to feel small or dominated - she just seems to slam on the brakes and won’t communicate any more after it happens, and her and I need a big dialogue about the things that are CAUSING the argument in the first place. I have acknowledged my voice, over explained myself and tried to make it clear every time that it happens that “I’m sorry you’re right my bad, I’m not meaning to raise my voice, I will be more mindful of it moving forward.
Asked by James

Hello James,

My name is James and I am licensed in the state of Florida as a Mental Health Counselor. 

As I think of the situation that you describe, I think your wife has 'changed', she has probably become more verbal and less patient than she was at the start of your relationship. I also think that you most likely have changed also.

The dialogue that you need is not necessarily about the "things that are CAUSING  the argument in the first place." That discussion might prove fruitful however the dialogue that I believe is needed involves you and yourself. 
Basically you are the Husband and she is the Wife. You could start your self dialogue by asking what difference the topic makes if the result is that your wife feels disrespected or threatened. Her "throwing on the brakes" could be a stress response.

So, having admitted to having certain specific characteristics to your voice ("my voice is deep and loud") and having described her behavioral and verbal response to your specific verbalizations I suggest that you change your tone, literally !

Examine your routine, are you regularly engaging in high stress activities?

Do you find any correlation between out of the home stressors (work, traffic, finances) and relationship issues? Many people don't realize their anger cycle until they look for it. If you find that you are bringing outside stress with you when you come home then look for ways to decompress before you engage with home issues.

Try to imagine your wife as a frightened child, your voice is going to be received through that fear filter, making it louder and more aggressive to that child than you intended - as evidenced by your repeated apologies and explanations.

SHE NEEDS TO SEE A CHANGE not hear apologizing.

If the topic is not immediately, physically dangerous then I suggest you hesitate before responding. Take time to process what you are hearing. Ask yourself if you have any active filters that might be impacting your interpretation of what you are hearing. If you have mastered a relaxation technique then do it before speaking. If you have not mastered any relaxation techniques then take a few minutes during your 'personal growth' time and look up, practice and learn to do some of them.

  • LISTEN - the most common complaint that I have heard from couples is one person doesn't listen!  It is always 'the other person'.
  • ASK - make sure she is finished speaking. Make sure she knows you heard her by repeating what you heard (so i need to put the seat down, is that right?)
  • SLOW DOWN- Let her know you don't want to speak without thinking so you need a few moments.
  • SPEAK CALMLY, SLOWLY and QUIETLY- after you decide what you want to say, say it with love. You could start with a hug, 'I love you" etc but remember her complaint is that you yell at her so lower volume is important.

I said multiple levels of concern were indicated by your question. I wholeheartedly believe that your family could benefit from couples therapy. Many couples deny themselves this tool until it is too late. Communication techniques etc. can be like a mechanics tune up, skip them long enough and major repairs are unavoidable. 
What I described is basic anger management or communication improvement related.

Ultimately, James, your self described "bad habit" may contribute to your wife feeling  "small and dominated" and if that is not what you want then YOU be the change that you want to see. Change takes time.

You both deserve to feel safe and loved and happy in your home.

I hope this motivates you!


James Pelzer LMHC