Relationship problems, anger, violence

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Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby spincycle99 » Fri Aug 08, 2014 5:33 pm

Hi, I’m going through a tough time in my marriage these days. Things are not going smoothly. We’re both under a lot of work pressure etc. I could write pages but I’ll try to keep this concise, limited to two questions – and I would appreciate any helpful comments (particularly from a Buddhist perspective)

I find that my wife is getting very irritable much of the time recently. Then, my mood can change suddenly, and then she thinks that I am the one being irritable, unreasonable. But I know that often, not always, it is her who is short-tempered and irritable first. I know this because many days I manage to keep happy, optimistic, etc., and then I find my wife gets home from work and kind of "snaps" at me, and my mood changes instantly. I try to sound calm, but after a few of these moments in series, I begin to get irritable. Sometimes she thinks I am irritable first. Sometimes she admits it is her, but says that I make it worse by not ignoring her and staying calm. My wife does not see that in some ways relationships are like holding a mirror and seeing a reflection. That how we talk to people is usually what we get back. I wish I could be much more patient. But I am human! It is hard to have a conversation (calmly, like a good quality conversation) when someone is being irritable, critical, and in a sense aggressive. If I try to keep the peace by walking away, it makes her worse – apparently this shows that I am angry, I am the problem, as if I have stormed off in a bad mood! If I try to engage in conversation, it is like hitting my head against a brick wall. But how can I be certain that what I think is happening is really happening? I have thought about leaving a recorder running when we get home in the evenings, and listening to how we talk to each other. And seeing what mistakes I make. Of course, knowing I am being recorded may make be behave differently – but if it improves my own behaviour, that can only be a good thing. And at the same time, I could then see (more objectively) how my wife behaves. But is this unethical, if it is in the interests of understanding what is happening and saving my marriage? I do not intend to show the recordings to my wife. It is just for my own reference. But it seems unethical?

Second question. Recently my wife had especially bad PMT. She was irritable to the point where I could not engage in the conversation without getting irritable myself. I tried to go to the kitchen to do the washing up, but she kept calling me back to the dining table to “talk”. But it was unconstructive conversation. The fact that I kept trying to walk away made her worse. (I was also walking away because we had limited time before going out for an appointment) Ultimately she started throwing things. I tried to stop her by giving her by a hug – hoping this would also stop her from breaking things, and making the situation worse, for which she would feel even worse afterwards. But while she shouted, “I don’t want to see you – get out!”, she kicked me on the leg with the bottom of her foot / heel. At the time I had most of my weight on that leg. Straight away it felt like a temporary “dead leg” but it got worse during the days ahead, leading to hip and knee aches, and bad cramps throughout my leg at night when sleeping, so I am waking up 5 or 6 times a night in pain. And I have been to the doctor about the injury, although I did not tell the doctor the truth about how it happened. Of course I don’t know what PMT feels like. My wife has been apologetic and says she loves me, and that she doesn’t mean to get angry like that. But is any kind of domestic violence to be tolerated? Even when it’s in a rage of PMT? If a female friend told me her husband kicked her, I would know what to say to her. But because it is me, I'm a man, physically stronger than my wife, and I love her and feel bad for her, it is like I am making excuses on her behalf.

I don’t really know what to do…

Thanks for taking the time to read this.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby Soar » Fri Aug 08, 2014 6:10 pm

The kind of calmness you are holding as an ideal for yourself and her is not helping. Tensions have been suppressed and not dealt with and have accumalated. The challenge is to have conversations/interactions when there is some real emotion involved, and somehow learn how to get into and out of these shared negative states constructively which may involve some heated emotions and arguements. It is still important to afterwards forgive and reflect and return to calmness but sometimes you gotta get down and dirty into these negativies to allow things to express themselves and clear the air.

Also dont analyse things so much just in linear sequence, get the whole picture, for example you can drop your logical thoughts at any time and just feel, and be aware in many different ways about what is really going on.

Not so easy and there is so much to learn about how to handle these things.
Good luck.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby LastLegend » Fri Aug 08, 2014 6:41 pm

Information on PMT
http://m.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/pms.htm



Just my opinion.

You mentioned you have been avoiding conversation because you feel it does not help...ok, it's not about who's right or wrong really right now. If we think we are right (even if we are), then will blame others for being wrong. So right and wrong out of the window if we talk about forgiveness. What important is recognizing there is a problem right now that needs to be fixed. When it started? What caused it? Maybe something happened, stress/pressure from work, something changed, etc. Show that you care more than being right. Could be simple as "how was your day at work?" Bottom line is there cannot be 2 fires. If your wife is fire, you must be water. Keep a calm and clear mind right now. Only calm and clear mind can deal with a problem effectively.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby anjali » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:50 pm

Hi Spincycle99,

spincycle99 wrote:Hi, I’m going through a tough time in my marriage these days. Things are not going smoothly. We’re both under a lot of work pressure etc. I could write pages but I’ll try to keep this concise, limited to two questions – and I would appreciate any helpful comments (particularly from a Buddhist perspective)


From reading your post, it seems like both of your lives are out of balance. Some questions to consider:

  • Are your tough times a fairly recent development?
  • Do the two of you have any outlets for stress relief?
  • When was the last time you took a vacation as a couple?
  • Is your wife at an age where hormone changes are to be expected?
  • If both of you are under stress, how have your diets been?
  • Do you both acknowledge that the situation, as it stands, is causing each of you a lot of suffering?
  • What is(are) the most beneficial thing(s) you can do to help relieve your wife's suffering?
  • What is(are) the most beneficial thing(s) your wife could do for you to help relieve your suffering?
  • What would a healing conversation look like for you?
  • What would a healing conversation look like from your wife's POV?
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby Gyurme Kundrol » Fri Aug 08, 2014 9:17 pm

You should read David Deida, his book "The Way of the Superior Man" touches on both how to have a fulfilling relationship on a conventional level, but also how this ties in with higher energies and some concepts of Tantra. It explains the male/female dichotomy well, as well as what a woman expects of a man in a relationship and how this ties into a spiritual approach to ordinary life.

In brief, men need to be stable, like mountains, unchanging and unmoving when a woman has an emotional outburst. If you become emotional too, she wont be able to distinguish you from herself and all her girlfriends who have mood swings, and so she wont feel like you are a rock or support in her life. Women need action, not words. She wants to be able to freak out and have you be unmoved by whatever she is saying or doing. She wants to know, and see, that she is with a real man, a foundation and rock in a world of chaos and change. She needs to know that when her feminine nature gets the best of her, and she becomes emotional, saying and doing things that basically make her seem like shes acting childish, that YOU wont be moved. You should be like a pillar in an ocean. When the water (woman) is calm, or stormy, the pillar is unmoved.

If on the other hand the moment she begins to storm you break, crumble, and get caught up in her torrent... She will not see you as a stable rock. Even if its not conscious, unconsciously she will grow to see you as weak and gradually lose respect for you as a man if this happens over and over again. This is not to say that you can never break, but when it becomes a common, every day thing, thats a problem. Even if she keeps loving you as a person, the fights will increase, unhappiness will increase, she will find more and more things "wrong" with you and life and everything, sex will become less frequent, and you will either end up in a sexless and unhappy marriage or divorced.

Edit: Yes you are making excuses. If you are going to let her kick you and "let it slide" thats going to end badly. You need to call her out on her BS, temper tantrums, breaking shit, hitting you. She needs to know its not to be tolerated and you will leave her if it continues. You also have to be ready to back up these words with action if the need comes, because at this point she is likely to test you just to see if you have the balls to leave her. Her respect for you is already very low (hence, shes now physically attacking you and you do nothing but take it).

Its on you though. 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.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby spincycle99 » Fri Aug 08, 2014 11:57 pm

Hi,

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.

Thanks again.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby anjali » Sat Aug 09, 2014 2:27 am

Spincycle99, I really like this description by Thich Nhat Hanh on the four aspects of true love. It's really talking about how to apply the four paramitas in relationships:

According to Buddhism, there are four elements of true love. The first is maitri, which can be translated as loving-kindness or benevolence. Loving-kindness is not only the desire to make someone happy, to bring joy to a beloved person; it is the ability to bring joy and happiness to the person you love, because even if your intention is to love this person, your love might make him or her suffer.

Training is needed in order to love properly; and to be able to give happiness and joy, you must practice deep looking directed toward the person you love. Because if you do not understand this person, you cannot love properly. Understanding is the essence of love. If you cannot understand, you cannot love. That is the message of the Buddha. If a husband, for example, does not understand his wife’s deepest troubles, her deepest aspirations, if he does not understand her suffering, he will not be able to love her in the right way. Without understanding, love is an impossible thing.

What must we do in order to understand a person? We must have time; we must practice looking deeply into this person. We must be there, attentive; we must observe, we must look deeply. And the fruit of this looking deeply is called understanding. Love is a true thing if it is made up of a substance called understanding.

The second element of true love is compassion, karuna. This is not only the desire to ease the pain of another person, but the ability to do so. You must practice deep looking in order to gain a good understanding of the nature of the suffering of this person, in order to be able to help him or her to change. Knowledge and understanding are always at the root of the practice. The practice of understanding is the practice of meditation. To meditate is to look deeply into the heart of things.

The third element of true love is joy, mudita. If there is no joy in love, it is not true love. If you are suffering all the time, if you cry all the time, and if you make the person you love cry, this is not really love ―it is even the opposite. If there is no joy in your love, you can be sure that it is not true love.

The fourth element is upeksha, equanimity or freedom. In true love, you attain freedom. When you love, you bring freedom to the person you love. If the opposite is true, it is not true love. You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free, not only outside but also inside. “Dear one, do you have enough space in your heart and all around you?” This is an intelligent question for testing out whether your love is something real.


If you like what Thich Nhat Hanh is saying, although your wife is not a Buddhist, you might want to share this with her to see if she agrees with them, and also as a way to discuss how well these aspects are working in your current situation. Just an idea...
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby anjali » Sat Aug 09, 2014 4:00 am

anjali wrote:...the four paramitas...
:oops: ...the four brahma viharas...
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby Soar » Sat Aug 09, 2014 4:42 am

spincycle99 wrote: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”


Depends on who you are, my advice was specific for you, becasue I can very much relate to how you think about things. While i do not disagree with the 2nd point it is an ideal and gives you no ways to be able to achieve that. Also I think it does not emphasise enough for some of us, that we should do these things for our own benefit, not just to please a woman. Impossible to apply those things to please someone else. I think the author and some readers understand this and take it as obvious, but other readers like you and myself dont. Iron John (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Iron-John-Book- ... 0712610707" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;) was the much better book for me personally about this kind of thing. It has a simlar conclusion but a much different way to get there and different understanding of the causes of the problem. Also the Dalai Lamas talks about wise selfishness are very helpful.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby LastLegend » Sat Aug 09, 2014 7:45 am

I think a variety of opinions can be helpful.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby Mkoll » Sat Aug 09, 2014 8:55 am

You may want to keep in mind Right Speech, especially the aspect I've emphasized in the quote below. Right Speech is one of eight parts of the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism.

SN 45.8 wrote:"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech."

AN 10.176 wrote:Abandoning abusive speech, he abstains from abusive speech. He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing & pleasing to people at large.


You can start to practice this by not raising your voice in anger against your wife, not giving your tone of voice an "edge" that is meant to hurt her, and not insulting her. I'm not saying you do these things because I don't know the details of your situation, but in case you do, that's a good start. Most face-to-face communication is nonverbal (body language and tone of voice) and it is this aspect that tends to take arguments to a more severe level.

I think if you keep those teachings of the Buddha in mind, your wife is less likely to become angry with you. And if she does and you work to maintain your composure, then it will likely mollify her anger.

Be well.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby Jesse » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:41 am

I know someone like this. The only way to snap people like this out of it is:

a. Be so obscenely nice they can't be mad anymore. Sometimes people don't realize they are looking to fight because they are irritable, and just assume it's everyone else's fault.
b. Seriously discuss the anger issues, without losing your cool, tell them it's making you miserable and that you both need to work on it.
c. Get drunk

I would suggest a, and b.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Aug 14, 2014 9:01 am

Dear spincycle99,

Though I can understand that you may want some specifically Buddhist responses to your situation, soliciting advice from complete strangers on an internet forum whose credentials you cannot possibly know is definitely not the right solution.

I would recommend you and your wife go to see an experienced social worker, therapist or psychologist. While I do not doubt that what you are saying is the truth, in most cases (when dealing with relationships) the truth has two sides. Without knowing both sides it is impossible to come up with a solution because a solution (in a relationship) has to be a solution for both players.

Buddhism is not really about relationship counseling per se. The Buddha was a monastic, after all, and the Aryan Sangha is largely monastic too. This is not to say that Buddhism cannot advise you on how you should act (in general), but I don't know if you would be all that keen on some of the solutions that it would propose. You see Buddhism works within the paradigm of permanent solutions to suffering, it doesn't really deal with minor adjustments.

Either way, it would probably be better to find an experienced and qualified teacher to advise you and not a bunch of strangers whose credentials you cannot possibly know.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby spincycle99 » Mon Aug 18, 2014 5:04 pm

Thanks everyone for these thoughtful and varied comments and suggestions. I particularly agree with Sherab Dorje on getting some advice from a trained therapist or psychologist. The problem is that English is not my wife’s first language, and she finds it hard to communicate well in English when it comes to really complex things. This is part of our problem. And we’re not going to find a therapist in our area who speaks her language. I think she would not find the situation to be "equal" because of the language issue. And this kind of "therapy" situation is alien to her culture and ideas, anyway.
In my heart, I think that she can be happier without me. With someone her own culture, language, and similar expectations in life. But I do truly, deeply love her, and I don’t know how to leave her. I never wanted to do her harm, but I think this relationship and marriage has not been good for her, no matter how hard I have tried. She has no family in this country to support her. She has some close friends, but she is resentful towards me because her friends have a better life than she does, as she perceives it, and she thinks it is my fault. Well, she may be right. I keep trying, but failing. I think we are both slightly depressed. I am really worried about how low she might become if we break up.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby spincycle99 » Tue Aug 26, 2014 12:39 pm

I realised that if everything in my life was somehow stable, and I felt healthy, then I could try to be “like a rock” and offer consistency and stability for my wife. But when my side of things outside the relationship are not going smoothly, and when the marriage is not going smoothly, and my wife is regularly stressed, upset, angry --– then, it is impossible to keep trying to be “like a rock.” I’m not an inanimate object. I’m human. Emotions, stress, anxieties, unhappiness, tension, these things do not disappear if I were trying to be “like a rock.” They emerge or manifest in different ways, in different places in my existence, negatively. I cannot supress how I feel. I am beginning to really dislike myself.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby Qing Tian » Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:52 am

Spincycle, I read of your problems and I connect with them to a certain degree. My partner is also a non-native English speaker, and you are quite right that any counselling sessions would need to involve translators, which will no doubt complicate matters. While there is no violence in my relationship, there is at times the venting of anger or frustration. And it has been difficult for me as I am very confrontation-averse. Yet it seemed to me that my partner needed to 'let rip' from time to time as a kind of release valve. In time, and somewhat paradoxically, I have learned how how to employ male yin to her female yang. I understand this is not a Buddhist concept per se, but it is how I think of it - and it probably helps that she is Chinese!

Either way, we have our somewhat one-sided spats and go and sit in separate rooms for a bit. One thing we always do, always, is talk it over once the fire has died down. And I am not perfect. I get angry and argumentative despite the fact that it upsets me when it happens.

There is no quick fix to any of this, though there is a path and there is growth.

Incidentally, I must ask - and I apologise for the impertinence of the question - do you think there may be a cultural element to your quarreling?

Whatever you and she decide to do I will offer a prayer tonight.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby spincycle99 » Fri Aug 29, 2014 4:34 pm

Hi Qing Tian, thanks for your comments and support. Cultural elements? Probably. But we are also both aware that we are both under a lot of pressure individually, and our circumstances together, financial and otherwise. We seem fairly stuck, not knowing how to move our relationship forward or how to get out. Sometimes I think she wants out. But I know also it will devastate her. Her English is good to the point where any kind of counselling or therapy would be possible, but still she would feel disadvantaged in the communication and probably wouldn't understand everything. We have this problem even when she has a doctor appointment and I go with her to help. She doesn't understand a lot of what is said. Even when I try afterwards to recap, it's not easy.
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Re: Relationship problems, anger, violence

Postby Qing Tian » Sun Aug 31, 2014 12:53 am

No, it's never easy. And maintaining constant mindfulness in the face of provocation can be tricky.

I hesitate to suggest this but I feel I must: have you considered a period of mutually agreed separation? Sometimes, people need a little space to be able to see a bit more clearly. Maybe you could go on separate retreats?
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