I've always considered myself to be a great communicator, but lately, I'm starting to wonder. I'm newly remarried (to my high school sweetheart) and he swears I want to be in control and that I am not aware of how difficult I can be. I told him that others have always told me that I have a calm nature and that I am not argumentative. He says the reason no one has ever told me how argumentative I am is because I am intimidating.
I'm trying to find out how I can understand what he's saying and whether or not this is true about myself. What would you suggest?
The impression I am getting from you is that you are a person who is open-minded, psychologically flexible and able to take responsibility for yourself and your actions. You do not strike me as a person who is emotionally defensive, therefore you are willing to take a look at yourself and the way that others perceive you. This combination of traits suggests you are someone who is psychologically and emotionally mature. The fact that you are willing to take an honest look at yourself and your manner of communication certainly indicates that you have what it takes to overcome any personal barriers to good communication.
Since you stated that you've been married once before, I wonder if you encountered this concern with your first husband. It sounds as if you have never heard this type of feedback from anyone with whom you have had a relationship. It could be that your new husband is adjusting to marriage with you and has perhaps a slightly distorted view of how you are. That can happen. Remember, two or more people will look at the same picture hanging on the wall and see that many different things. Perception is a tricky thing because it is influenced by the viewer's internal circumstances, arguably as much as if not more than the external world.
I believe your best bet is to check this out with people whom you know and trust. Preface everything with an appeal for openness and try to assuage all fears your friends may have about offending you. I would also suggest that you try some of the self and relationship tests offered at Queendom.com and PsychTests.com. There is an excellent one on anger and also one on conflict management. Answer those questions completely honestly (don't second-guess yourself; go with your first response) and see what you come up with.
The fact that you sincerely want to know is such a healthy characteristic. When we look inside ourselves there is nothing to fear, believe me, and so much to be gained. Truly, if you learn that you are not a great communicator or if you find some areas of weakness, that's terrific! You made a discovery. There are so many choices and so many available ways to work on improving communication skills. In fact, at the end of each of the tests I mentioned, you are given some suggestions and areas to focus on if you're interested in self-improvement. The hardest challenge of all is the part you have already undertaken - facing yourself, taking an honest appraisal and being willing to deal with what you learn. For that you deserve high praise.
Now here's one more possibility, D'Arcy. Maybe there is something amiss with your husband. If it seems after talking to your friends and doing some honest self-evaluation, that he is literally the ONLY person who perceives you this way, well, then it is his problem, isn't it? Actually, if you want the relationship to work, it's both of your problems. I wonder, however, since he's obviously known you for a lot of years, has he never noticed this until now? If not, why now?
I think you're on the right track, D'Arcy. Keep asking and try some of the tests I mentioned. No matter what you learn, it can't hurt and it may help a lot.
Good luck and take care.
This question was answered by Melanie Fisher, L.S.W, A.C.S.W, she is a licensed social worker and professional psychotherapist in private practice in Pennsylvania. Trained and experienced in clinical social work, she uses the theoretical framework of attachment theory, object relations and ego-psychology. Her specialty areas include mood disorders, family dynamics, relationships and addictions.For more information visit: http://www.geocities.com/mfisherlsw/MelanieFisherLSW.html