Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

R Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin
Wait Your Turn!


Have you ever experienced this type of argument? Let's say the wife has complained about something that her husband has done. His reaction might be like this: "I'm just a terrible person. I never do anything right. I should have never married."

Then there is the display of pouting accompanied with the silent treatment. The wife may respond, "I'm not saying you are a bad husband. You do a lot of good things." Now it is no longer about her or the issue but him. The focus now becomes how she has wounded him and how he is the victim of her sharing the problem.

It is almost like he is saying, "Look what you did to me. Don't you feel bad?" We call this maneuver "merging."


Merging is when one partner moves the focus to himself/herself by playing the victim. He has stopped her from talking about something that was important to her because now she is dealing with his feelings and his "damaged self-image."

I have also noticed that we as men have an odd way of dealing with our spouse's anger. Often instead of validating or reflecting back, we beat ourselves up. We are like wounded puppies. We sit there with our head bowed down displaying a very sad look. For many of us, we do not know what to do with a woman's anger. It seems that no matter what we say, it makes her angrier. Sometimes, we get so frustrated with that, that we close down or explode with anger. Frequently, the anger is more about us than about our partner. We are angry with ourselves for not being good enough; for not making our wives happy. I like the episode on "King of Queens" when Doug Hefferman's buddy comes over and wants to watch a big football game on television. Doug tells him that he has upset his wife so he thinks it is not a good idea to turn on the television. After his friend looks at him inquisitively, Doug explains, "I haven't been sad long enough."

It is a fact that beating ourselves up and being the victim or wounded party does not allow for change of behavior. When what we do or say has an impact on our partner, it is important to remind ourselves that he/she has a right to his/her feelings and a right to express them appropriately. We care about how we impact our spouse so we want to give him/her a receptive and attentive audience so he/she can express his/her feelings. So let's wait our turn and not take it away from her/him by merging.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700