Sometimes it’s not you, it’s her:
Your sweet wonderful bride brought some baggage into your marriage. How much varies from woman to woman but they all have it, and it’s ugly, smelly, hurtful stuff. When you bump her stuff, it hurts her. She reacts to “you hurting her” by saying or doing something rude. Bumping her stuff can be as simple as using a certain word, a facial expression, or expressing an idea. A “normal person” would not react, but due to some injury, it sets her off.
When you have “triggered” her, there’s no magic technique for making things better. She goes into self-protection mode and withdraws or strikes out. In that moment it’s unlikely you can undo what has been done. Look for ways to diffuse the situation, or just give her space.
Long term you want her to figure out why things trigger her and get past them. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. The first problem is getting her to accept it’s her issue. She felt hurt by something you said or did, so she blames you. An excellent method to help her move beyond this is to model a better way. When you’re hurt by something she says or does because she hit a sore spot in you, don’t put it on her. Work on the painful place in yourself and be honest with her about the situation. “I’m sorry I got upset, it was about me, not you” is exceptionally difficult to say, but if you say it often enough it will help her do the same.
In the past, I’ve suggested you learn what triggers her and avoid it. This is a good way to avoid blow-ups, but it is not always possible. Additionally, it’s not always the most loving thing. Protecting her from her baggage means she’ll never grow up, which is bad for both of you, your marriage, your kids, and everyone else to whom she relates. The trick here is nudging her at the right time, and not too much at once. If things are falling apart all around her, walking on eggshells may be an appropriately loving sacrifice. If you find yourself doing that all the time, something needs to change.
Dealing with our baggage is a lifelong process, but it will get better. Be sure to thank and compliment your wife for the places where she has dealt with her stuff. It will make her feel loved and appreciated, and it will encourage her to keep working on her stuff.
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