My wife and I have been having struggles around yelling, and perceptions about yelling. When she is angry or frustrated, she often responds by yelling. When I ask her not to yell, she often says "I'm NOT yelling!" Or she responds even more loudly "THAT wasn't yelling. THIS is yelling?" Or she replies sarcastically "Oh, give me a break." When she responds in any of those usual ways, I feel belittled and dismissed, which then gets ME angry, and things just escalate. I've been trying to get her to see that what doesn't feel like yelling to her, DOES feel like yelling to me. For example, last night when she raised her voice I said, a few minutes later, "When you just raised your voice before, did that feel like yelling to you?" And she responded "No." I said "Well, it did feel like yelling to me." And she said, "I don't want to talk about this." Which frustrated me, but I let it drop.
Then later last night my wife did yell at me, by anyone's standards, around an incident with the TV. I responded by saying "You just watch what you want. I'm going upstairs to read because you just yelled at me." She replied "That's because you were trying to control me." I said "If you think I am trying to control you, then please say that in a normal tone of voice. I am not going to put up with being yelled at like that." And I left the room.
I acknowledge that my leaving the room feels just as bad to her as her yelling does to me. But I know if I had stayed she would have continued yelling and I would have ended up yelling also. And I don't want to do that.
So, this morning, she said "Can we talk about last night?" I said, "What would you like to say?" She acknowledged that she yelled at me and she shouldn't have done that. She said she was angry and she told me why. She said when I tell her not to yell it feels like I am telling her she can't get angry, and that feels like I am trying to control her. I told her I understand why she got angry last night and I was sorry for what I had done. I said if she had said "what you did just made me angry" instead of yelling at me, I wouldn't have left the room. I said she has every right to get angry whenever she wants, and she also has a choice what to DO with that anger. And I said, "If what you choose to do is yell at me, I am going to leave the room. Because I am not going to put up with being yelled at anymore. I don't deserve it. And if I don't walk away, I will end up yelling back, and then it will just escalate. We have gotten into this habit of yelling at each other and I don't want to do that anymore. When I am mad at someone at work I don't yell at them, and I bet you don't either. So why do we yell at each other so much? I am trying really hard not to do that anymore. You can do whatever you want. I'm not telling you that you can't yell at me. You can yell at me all you want. But when you do, I need to walk away."
She said "I feel when you say I am yelling it's because you don't want to hear what I have to say. Instead of walking away, can you ask me to repeat myself in a lower tone of voice? And then if I don't, you have every right to leave the room." I said "I will try to do that. And when I do say that, will you refrain from responding with sarcasm by saying something like 'Oh, give me a break! That wasn't yelling.' Because when you do that, it feels like you belittling me and dismissing my feelings." She agreed. She also agreed that if she says something sarcastic or continues to yell, then I have every right to leave the room.
After the conversation, I thanked her for asking to talk about it. And I said "Do you feel like we've reached a resolution?" She said yes, it felt that way. I said it felt that way to me also. And I kissed her. :-)