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Help! I’m married to an introvert

Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers advice for your problems

by Psychologies

My husband absolutely hates it when our kids invite their friends over. For some reason, we all, including me, the wife and mother, have to ask his permission. We all live here and I believe our kids should not feel like guests in their own home. However, even when we do get the ‘green light’ from him, my husband pouts, won’t engage with the guests and sometimes just goes to our bedroom and shuts the door, and we all get the evil eye the next day.

This passive-aggressive pouting, and stonewalling the day after, is just too immature. What can we do to understand him better? Obviously, he is an introvert and we need to accept that. At the same time, we are all extroverts and we don’t feel he is accepting of us. Help! Name supplied

In your current description, your husband is like a child having a tantrum, and you are potentially, in his eyes, the high and mighty bystander. These positions make you feel badly about yourselves and each other. I think the introvert/extrovert thing is just a red herring though, but I will come back to stonewalling. The main point I want to get across to you is that none of this sounds sustainable, fair or fun.

Has something in his life changed – perhaps at work – or has there always been this tension, but it has somehow worked out differently? I find it difficult to imagine how a household that has babies and small children, as yours must have done, worked under the conditions you describe now.

Perhaps you are aware of The Gottman Institute when you refer to ‘stonewalling’. Dr John Gottman was the first to identify how deadly it can be for a relationship when one partner completely switches off – and how physically distressing it is to be on the receiving end of that.

The first step to overcome stonewalling is to stop talking. It seems you have both (temporarily, we hope) lost the ability to listen to each other. The calming-down process could only take 20 minutes, but it’s best to commit to re-engaging on the point within 24 hours.

There is no point taking time out if you are not actually calming down, so please be wary of thoughts that keep you feeling like a victim, such as ‘I don’t have to take this any more’. The main technique to practise is very similar to the practice of meditation – imagine a place where you feel calm and safe, and focus on your breathing. I suggest you search the website of The Gottman Institute for ‘The Practice of Physiological Self-Soothing’. The Institute also has helpful books, a DVD you can use at home, and a list of approved therapists you could consult (see ‘More Information’, below). I cannot recommend this work highly enough.

Give these techniques a go with your husband, and please let us know how you get on.

More information

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line

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