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Dr. Winch --
Your article *precisely* describes my wife's behavior. She constantly misreads my moods, actions and comments, and in so doing, she becomes convinced that I'm angry or disappointed with her, even when I'm not. However, I'm quite forthcoming with her, and on those occasions when I *am* angry, I have no difficulty expressing myself. So what normally ends up happening is that she misreads me, I explain that I'm not upset, she refuses to accept that and presses the issue, and finally we get into an argument whereupon she goes "see, I KNEW you were angry."
Well, yeah. I'm angry NOW.
Even worse, our communication patterns in the other direction are exactly the opposite. She's got a 20-year history of being evasive and closemouthed about issues or complaints in our marriage -- and she refuses to acknowledge them when asked. Even worse, she'll return to a settled topic weeks or months later only to explain that she really isn't happy with the situation and that she didn't feel that she could talk about it before. This is a difficult situation for me, as I'm very solicitous of her opinions; I *want* feedback from her so that if I'm doing or saying upsetting or hurtful things, I can have an opportunity to adjust based on what she wants or needs.
I've explained to her that I can't adjust for her if I don't know what troubles her, but that seems to be ineffective. And I've reassured her many times that I'll tell her when I'm upset or angry -- so there's no need for her to leap to those sorts of conclusions.
It's a very difficult situation and has definitely become an intractable problem for us.
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