Thanks for your replies. My first thoughts when reading these responses are a huge contradiction between two viewpoints:
(1) Soar suggested that: “the kind of calmness you are holding as an ideal for yourself and her is not helping” and “sometimes you gotta get down and dirty into these negativities to allow things to express themselves and clear the air”.
(2) LastLegend suggested to: “Keep a calm and clear mind right now. Only calm and clear mind can deal with a problem effectively”. Similarly, Gyurme Kundrol suggested that: “men need to be stable, like mountains, unchanging and unmoving when a woman has an emotional outburst” and “She wants to be able to freak out and have you be unmoved by whatever she is saying or doing” – to be a “stable rock”
I should add that both 1 and 2 above are familiar. Sometimes I manage to keep calm and don’t get caught up in it. Other times, I do get caught up in it. Unfortunately, both ways receive the same responses from her. LastLegend pointed out that I mentioned that I have been “avoiding conversation” because I “feel it does not help”. That’s not actually accurate. I always try to engage in conversation. But when it starts getting a bit aggressive, that I am blamed for doing things that aren’t actually accurate, and when I’m not given any credit for the things I do right, I have two responses:
1. One is to answer all accusations. I point out how I feel, and why some of the accusations are simply not true, and if other accusations are true, I try to provide a good reason why I did or said something. So we get this pattern: my wife says, “You, you, you, you”. And I say, “well, I did this because you said that”, and “I then did that because you said something else”. After all, everything is interaction, right? Then all she hears is me saying “you, you, you, you” and then says, “You’re blaming me for everything”. She does not hear that the conversation started with her blaming me for everything. Sometimes she will then say, “I am bad, it’s all my fault”. If you are being challenged and accusations are being thrown at you, what else can you do in that particular conversation than to provide your side of the story, to defend yourself, to show your perspective in order to help the other person understand you? Especially when (because my wife is speaking a second language) she is suffering as a result of a misunderstanding, and I try to explain that it is a misunderstanding and she is suffering for no reason. But when I talk too much in my defence, and it’s hard to stay calm when you have a lot to say and you are being constantly interrupted and not listened to, and what you say is then further misunderstood, she will then say, “You just go on and on like a woman”. Ok, we have big cultural differences. In her culture, women are supposedly “meant” to nag their husbands, and men are meant to be quiet and take it. For me, not only do I oppose (on principle) these male / female gender roles and associated expected and acceptable behaviour, but it is also unhelpful because when someone asks a lot of “why” questions and throws out a lot of blame and accusation, I feel like they deserve a reply! It also annoys the hell out of me that the topic of conversation has been hijacked by childish accusations, and that I have to engage with, well, sexism (against women). I’m the man, and I am then telling her that I object to her saying that an argumentative way of talking that she does not like in a man is “like a woman”. I am human! I am me! I am not trying to be “like a man” or “like a woman”. Gyurme Kundrol is right that “She wants to know, and see, that she is with a real man” – but I totally disagree with that expectation and very narrow conceptualisation of what a “real man” is meant to be. Her brother in law used to beat her sister. Is that a real man? Domestic violence is common in her culture (yes, it's everywhere, but still there are differences in attitudes towards it). It also contradicts the idea that my wife has that men are meant to stay calm and quiet and let women’s emotions pass. If I get argumentative, emotional, even cry, then I am not a “real man”. Basically I am meant to shut up! Apparently, real men shut up! Isn't that oppressive? I am meant to shut up while someone is having a conversation (no, an argument) with me and keeps pulling me back into the conversation (argument).
2. The second response is to leave the room. If a conversation is too aggressive and it isn’t going anywhere, and I’m not being listened to, but I continue to be challenged with aggression, and whatever I say only makes it worse, I leave the room. Then apparently I am angry and left the room. Sometimes I feel calm doing that. But I am told it is anger by someone who is angry with me.
But in neither of these responses am I avoiding conversation; in the second case I am avoiding bad conversation having tried to engage but without success.
Regardless of gender stereotypes, on an individual level I try to be calm, like a rock, but it doesn’t work. Even if I can maintain it, the process (the trauma of arguments) just makes me feel totally sick and unhappy – that means it is not working. I read somewhere else a discussion about relationships and arguments, and someone pointed out, “Why should anyone be the rock?” My wife has said before, “Just ignore me when I get like that and it will pass”. But she is impossible to ignore. Ignoring her makes her angry. Engaging with her makes her angry.
Thanks, Anjall, for your questions. I won’t answer them all here but I am going to answer them all “offline”. But as for the question, “Do the two of you have any outlets for stress relief?” Well, I do exercise to keep fit and for stress. I meditate. And I’m here discussing all this. My wife does not do anything to address her side of things. I know that I can have a successful relationship – and I feel like I invest a lot into this relationship but it is not appreciated and it is taken for granted. So whereas Gyurme Kundrol says “Either you figure out how to run a successful relationship or your relationships will slowly burn to the ground and you will never figure out why”, I worry about my wife. I want her to figure it out, too. After all, she has said before that her behaviour is very much like her sister – and her brother in law used to beat her sister! So, whatever happens with us, I don’t want her to repeat all these mistakes again. I can be impatient at times, but I don't want my wife to be with some who is REALLY impatient.
LastLegend also asked many questions that I will think about “offline”. Thanks for those, it’s very helpful.
Soar, you’re right about not analysing things necessarily in linear sequence but to see the whole picture. That makes sense.