I don't know if "conflict seeking" is the right way to describe this or not.
I don't even know if it's his problem, my problem, or a mutual problem.
Basically, every discussion, every disagreement, and every expression of negative emotion on my part-- it all turns into a fight. Zero to yelling in 10 setconds flat.
In 16 years, I haven't been able to find a way out.
If I state my opinion, it's an argument.
If I advocate for my point of view, I'm being controlling and aggressive and it's an argument.
If I try to guess his opinion, I'm being a people-pleaser, and it's an argument.
If I try to extract his opinion so I can agree with it, I'm being passive-aggressive and it's an argument.
If I talk about negative emotions (anger, fear, sadness, grief, hopelessness), I shouldn't feel that way, and it's an argument.
If I talk to someone else about negative emotions instead, that's emotional adultery, and it's an argument.
If I just don't talk, that's withholding, and passive-aggression, and it's an argument.
If I just don't react, that's withholding, and passive-aggression, and it's an argument.
Short of smiling all the time and making lots of smalltalk, there is NOTHING I CAN DO that isn't going to turn into an argument (and smalltalk isn't safe either; sooner or later I will make a mistake that can be turned into an argument).
This has always been taxing. Several years ago, I got so tired of it that I decided to just do the submissive wife thing. Smile all the time, always be available for sex, make no demands of him, keep all my feelings to myself, jump to meet every request, not pursue any interest that wasn't in his immediate service, say "YES" to everything. I enjoyed the NOT ARGUING. After about 5 years of that, I had a complete nervous breakdown. Which was, of course, my fault. And AN ARGUMENT that has been ongoing since 2011 (when I finally ended up in the hospital wanting to kill myself).
I'm a nervous wreck. I can't go back to being a submissive wife again (he won't allow it-- now it has to turn into an argument even if I say "YES" to everything). I can't handle everything being an argument any more. The mere thought of having to speak unless I'm saying something like, "I love you honey" or "What do you want for breakfast honey?" makes me shaky and sick to my stomach.
Either the arguments have to stop, or we have to separate.
And separating isn't an option. Our kids are too little, and it's common knowledge that either I would relinquish all parental rights and walk away or it would be the custody battle from Hell.
ETA-- Self-awareness on his part isn't going to happen. I KNOW how painful self-awareness can be for the variously disordered (I'm an Aspie-- I would love to stop being obsessively self-aware every waking moment, but I understand that that is something I must never, ever allow myself to do b/c The Beast Autism will slip it's leash if I relax my guard). I would NEVER wish that pain on him. Plus, as painful as constant obsessive self-awareness is for me, at least I had the blessing of a loving, supportive, basically emotionally healthy family growing up. He didn't. He was subjected to an almost total lack of support and constant and unending low-to-moderate level verbal and emotional abuse. His self-esteem, while it looks great on the outside, is a fragile and hollow shell. He could never sustain self-awareness without completely and totally crashing.
If there's going to be a change that stops the arguments, I'm going to have to be the one to make it.