Dysfunctional Communication (Part 1)


Part 1 – Our First Truce

What are you to think when a marriage counsellor says: “Wow, you guys are a really hard couple.”?

Our marriage has been counselled by mentors on two different occasions, as well as by a few different marriage counsellors.  Our last counsellor told us something that was not only hard to hear, but also a surprise.  We were half way through our 2nd session when she said, “Wow, you guys are a really hard couple.”  Of course, my prideful mind silently responded, “Finally, someone understands what I’m up against here!”

By the time we had accumulated 15+ years of marriage with ZERO confliction resolution skills, that’s all we had to show for it?  That was our legacy?  “Wow, you guys are a really hard couple.”  It brought a sense of hopelessness, but as hard as it was to hear, it was also the beginning of a turning point.  It was this feeling of not being able to find anyone to help us that forced the arrival of the Truce Box Talks.

We were in the middle of another cage fight.  It doesn’t really matter what it was about.  Whether it was 99% my fault and 1% his – or vice versa – it still takes two to tango.

Our dance was the same no matter what type of music was played.  Always the same, always the same … A dance of dysfunctional communication.  Over the course of the years, our dance had become much more aggressive towards each other as selfishness squeezed the love and life out of our marriage.

I remember getting more and more tired.  Tired of being emotionally disconnected from Darrell, the man I married.  I missed what we had in the beginning, and I hated what we had become.  This particular ‘bender’ had been going on for a very long time and I was exhausted.  I don’t know if it’s just my Sanguine personality or if all women are like this, but I find that it’s emotionally draining to cut yourself off from someone and hold them at arm’s length as an enemy.

When he came into a room, I would leave, and vice-versa.  We weren’t eating our meals together.  I went to bed early just to be away from him.  And whenever he was home he was in the garage just to be away from me.  We had relegated each other to even less than roommate status.  There were no hellos, goodbyes or any acknowledgement of the other’s existence whatsoever.

After so many years of constant fighting with very few of our conflicts actually being resolved, the emotional turmoil each argument brought just compounded on top of the last unresolved one.  I had no fight left in me.  Nothing.  I felt ‘far away’ from him.  Disconnected.  Together but alone is a tough place to live.  It’s very painful, completely confusing – and perhaps the loneliest of all.

I remember the day as if it was yesterday.  I didn’t really even think about it and I don’t know why I did it.  I was just feeling so utterly alone and empty, and had no one else to call at that time.  I picked up the phone and called Darrell at work.  When he came on the line, words just blurted out of my mouth without me really knowing what I was saying.

  • I’m bottoming-out here.  I don’t really know what direction to go.  The only direction I can see that will make it stop hurting between us, is for me or you to go away.  Is that really where we’ve arrived at?
  • Is that what you want?  I’m not sure if it’s what I want, maybe.  It feels like our marriage is teetering on a tightrope.
  • We’ve gone around this mountain so many times in our marriage.  I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how we can fix this.  We are both convinced we are right and I don’t know if it will ever get better or be resolved, but I can’t do this anymore.
  • I’m not blaming you or blaming me … I just need it to stop.  The emotional hate that’s between us, just for a little while.  Some sane time – a break.
  • Can we agree to disagree – just for now?  And … pretend?  Can we pretend that we still love each other – the way we used to?  Can we pretend that we are a normal mature couple that doesn’t fight like this all the time?

What I had been delineating was a truce … I just didn’t recognize it as such; not at first.

Dictionary.com defines truce as:

  • a suspension of hostilities for a specified period of time by mutual agreement of the warring parties; cease-fire; armistice
  • an agreement or treaty establishing this
  • a temporary respite, as from trouble or pain

It’s important to understand that we had been withdrawing from each other because of these issues for most of our married life.  In the beginning, we had a pretty OK marriage, but if you can’t talk to each other without conflict erupting – well, nothing ever gets resolved and things go downhill rapidly.  We were nearing the bottom of that hill in our marriage.

It was that afternoon that we held our first truce and by evening the idea of Truce Box Talks were born.


In Part 2 – Emotions, The Truce Box holds your emotions for you until you are ready to accept them as your own.

In Part 3 – The Truce Box Talk, Freedom, strength and acceptance are found in the truce.





  1. this is an awesome story Robyn. I love the idea of a marriage truce, This makes me think of my parents marriage, they are always so angry with each other. My husband and I get along great, but we avoid problems which isn’t good either.

    1. Thanks Sis. Yeah avoidance can lead to problems. One of the problems right at the onset was, what do you avoid and what do you seek to actually resolve. It just SEEMED easier to avoid all conflict … in the long run, we found that wasn’t such a great path for us. I’m guessing since we are all different, perhaps in some marriages, avoidance could work … maybe.

  2. When you don’t know which direction to go, stop. Then you can slowly calculate the path back towards one another.

    Good stuff Robyn. And, on a side note, the first thing you learn in marriage counseling is to instill hope. I hope your previous counselor has picked up on that technique since then!

      1. Happy New Year, SR,
        Bonnie is absolutely right. When things aren’t working, hit the 4-wheel disc brakes. That doesn’t mean stop trying, or stop the marriage. It simply means stop what you are doing and do something else that hopefully will work, which is what you did. You were becoming distant and were no longer communicating. The lack of communication, although avoiding uncomfortable “in your face” moments of conflict, was only widening the chasm between the two of you; increasing the emotional distance and decreasing the intimacy and feed the disconnect. (You listening here, Sis? Internet Dad speaking to you.) That was about as bleak a story as I’ve heard. Glory be to God though, it showed how a faithful commitment to the marriage covenant and letting hope have one more chance through a changed heart can make the difference. I know it still took a lot of difficult work after that, but what a fantastic witness to all who have shared your marriage journey with you and Darrell. Thank you for sharing it here with us also.

        1. It’s interesting, now being on the other side of it, I don’t think it could have turned out any other way. Sometimes God crushes us because that’s exactly what we need at the time as He’s growing us. Pride is hard to break in His kids. He knows how much each of us can take.

          It is indeed glory to God because there is no way our marriage could have stood without His intervention; we were just making a mess of things!

    1. Funny you should mention that Bonnie. I felt the some way too reading that comment and I don’t have the training you do. A Counseling 101 moment missed in their education I guess.

  3. Brutal honesty can be quite embarrassing my Love. Your writing takes me back, yes scary times indeed. How could we live without the love we share. Through our marriage we help each other grow, to be blessed so, is unfathomable. Looking forward to parts 2 and 3!

    1. BD- There really is a Darrell? Shoot! I thought this was just a ploy to keep internet suitors at bay. I’m crestfallen. Now I have to go in search of a new blog romance with an older woman. You win lucky guy, and belated happy birthday. Don’t feel lonely. She’ll be turning the corner shortly. A walker is always a nice useful gift…with a basket for her laptop and a bicycle horn on it. Get one with the built in seat so she can sit and catch her breath from you chasing her around in yours. Ahh, the golden years.

      With all those nice things you said, she’s going to have to go back and edit parts 2 and 3 now.

      Seriously, glad to hear from you and your girl is someone special indeed.

      The other BD

      1. Oh YES, there is a real Darrell and he packs enough romance to keep this girl off her feet! That’s part of the reason I quit smoking – he catches me too darn easy!

        “The other BD” – I didn’t get this at first, funny!!!

        1. Good for him. “Off her feet” implies exactly the place we all want to keep our both good and bad girl. 😉 Waiting for mine to get well to romance her off her feet. *fingers anxiously drumming*

          VERY glad to hear your are still not smoking. It’s tough. Stay in prayer. My wife fell under conviction over a long smoking habit when we first met. She even got her smokes for free so money spent was not an incentive. While I was on distant location, she prayed to have the desire taken away and God granted that prayer. She stopped immediately and has never smoked since. God is good.

        2. As she gets well, you have more time to plan !! win/win

          Yes, you’ve mentioned that before and I’m so happy that it was effortless for her!! But not only for quitters of smoking, for many unhealthy habits/addictions though, lots of people aren’t miraculously healed — we have to gut it out. Running every day is the biggest aid for me. (also, the healthy dose of sub-below temperatures outside. who wants to smoke in THAT)

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