Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
My wife is mad at me. I have no freakin’ clue why!?” I asked nicely, “you look perturbed are you mad at me?” She said don’t you know what you did? Now, it is my understanding that open ended questions like these are a bad idea to answer. I truly have no idea what is on her mind but she won’t tell me. Suggestions? Oh and the generic “I am sorry for whatever” is unacceptable- she says it’s insincere.
Yes, those open ended statements like “don’t you know what you did?” are called land mines; they should be avoided, not stepped into. I remember my mom actually saying that very phrase to her dog who had crapped on the floor. It works for people as well as it worked for the dog. “OK I am bad,… but I have no idea why.”
At the moment of strife there is nothing you really can say outside of “I am sorry you’re upset. When you are able, please let me know what you’re mad about because I truly don’t know. I am happy to discuss it with you when you are ready to.”
Then you just have to leave it at that. What you shouldn’t do is make things worse by offering up every potential problem your imagination can come up and confessing to whatever you can think of. Those be bad ideas.
Until your wife talks to you it is really her issue and there is no reason to take it on as yours. Getting angry over the situation doesn’t help either. Sometimes when people are upset they actually can’t put into words why. It might take time. You offered to listen. That’s the best you can do for now.
Oh, yeah, and flowers might be a nice idea. They aren’t really an admission of guilt… but can be peace offerings.
I wish you resolution,
Dr. Brilliant cliché
The Granny Doctor gets totally pissed off at people who get angry and then won’t talk about it. Why? Because a good half of the time, when someone is mad, they are mad about something that exists in their imagination in a form quite different from reality. It is SO easy to misunderstand the intentions of another. It is also very easy to see something because you EXPECT to see it, even if it isn’t really there.
The Granny doctor has this to say to all those silent sulkers- GROW UP! Acting out is for children. An adult knows it’s always better to solve problems than to harbor resentments.
If you are married to a sulker, all I can say is that I feel for you. I’m the kind of person who would rather be hit in the head with a two by four than deal with passive aggression and the silent treatment. Ultimately the most selfish thing you can do in a relationship is to deny your partner at the opportunity to rectify wrongs. And it’s asinine. Who the f__k wins in a situation like that?