I find lack of clarity is a common cause of marriage problems. When it is not the cause, it often makes things much worse. Husband and wife look at the same situation and see radically different things. Each sees their words and actions in the best possible light, while seeing their spouse’s words and actions less charitably. Of course, this is human nature, and it happens in relationships in general, not just marriages.
I think we do well to assume there are misunderstandings in any conflict we have in our marriage. Some conflicts disappear when misunderstandings are resolved, while others become manageable. The challenge is stepping out of the conflict so you can find the misunderstandings, and this is especially true for men. As I have mentioned before, stress reduces a man’s ability to read other people’s emotions. His fight or flight mechanism kicks in, and rational, reasoned thought becomes unlikely. At this point defending his position feels like a life or death issue (really).
If you see this happening, try something like: “I don’t think we are understanding each other, and I don’t know how to explain what I think to you. Can we take a bit of time to try to figure out how to communicate what we each feel and then try again?” This gives you both time to calm down and analyse what you think, feel, and want. If you can understand each other more clearly, good things will happen.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and I have been known to defend really stupid things.