He becomes a different person when we argue

We chat at 1 p.m.

I have been with my husband for about five years now, and we have a child together that just turned one. To provide a little background, we knew each other for a couple of years before dating. We moved in quickly, got engaged, married, and had our first child all within the last five years. He is smart, considerate, generous, and loving. I can't imagine my life without him and would be lost if I had to.

When we argue, though, he becomes a completely different person to me. He has very strong opinions and often doesn't try to look at things from others' perspectives. He makes me feel like my responses to his comments are way out of line and immature. When he starts to make comments or suggestions, I can hear the agitation in his voice, and sometimes I stay quiet so I can calm myself down before it leads to a full-on argument. He tends to continue pushing his points until I eventually snap and defend myself. That leads to hurtful words and far-fetched assumptions about our future. He has this way of making me feel incompetent and like I don't contribute to our relationship.

All of our fights generally stem from something very trivial, but they escalate into something much bigger. We've talked about some extreme things – including separation. Of course, this is not something I want, but I also want to feel that the relationship is something that he values. Generally, he's the one who has suggested separation, but in one particular instance, I'd just about had it. If he thought he did everything in our relationship and that I couldn't do anything right, then I didn't see the point in continuing. I did realize what I said in a moment of rage, and tried to apologize and take it back after I knew I triggered a nerve in him. I tried everything from reasoning, explaining my side, acknowledging that I understood his points, and apologizing, but it hasn't helped. Couple's counseling is also not an option. I have brought it up in several instances during our previous arguments and he refuses to go. He doesn't seem to think we need it. I've tried to talk to someone on my own a couple of times through virtual therapy sessions, but I'm not sure I understand enough about what is actually going through his head to be able to articulate it and get the help we need.

I completely acknowledge that I shouldn't have suggested separation because I know it's not what I want, but now that the damage has been done, how do I reverse it and break through this wall? Are his hurtful words justifiable? How can I prevent these explosions and better understand what's going through his head?

– Hurt and confused

It sounds like you guys are bad at fighting. Arguments can be helpful and lead to positive change, but you guys disagree and things get worse. I'm not sure why this is the case or who's at fault for sure, but I do know that change is difficult, and you guys are co-parenting a 1-year-old, probably without much sleep and time for yourselves.

You need to go back to therapy, not to guess what's in your husband's head, but to talk about what's happening in yours. You're confused about how these fights escalate and why you leave these arguments feeling so defeated. You're not sure what your husband wants from you, and you believe he sees you as a flawed partner. That's no good.

Yes, it would be better if you could go to therapy together, but going alone will be a huge help, too. A therapist can help dissect these fights and ask the right questions about how they get so bad. You need to figure out whether your husband's "suggestions" are appropriate, and how you're supposed to respond to them.

After some time with a therapist (in person, please), you can invite your husband to join you for one of your sessions. He might be more open to that kind of visit. If not, you might already have your answers.

– Meredith

Readers? Is this what happens with a 1-year-old? How did you learn how to fight in a relationship?