A simple example. I went upstairs last night and found one of my shirts flung onto my side of the bed. It's a shirt that gets hung up in the closet, which is on the other side of the room where I left it. I asked H why my shirt was where it was. I wasn't mad, just wondering. He said he didn't know. So, I asked how it got there. After a few rounds, he finally told me that he put it there. Ok, so why not say that when I first asked. "Why is my shirt over there?" "I put it there because it's yours and I didn't know where it went."
I have to ask Coco, was your husband yelled at a lot as a child? Or did his family use corporal punishment? I ask because this type of deflection around a seemingly simple question is usually, at least IME, someone's attempt to tip toe around a topic in hopes that the real issue doesn't get addressed. And IME, people who do this were often victims of verbal or physical abuse as children. It is conflict avoidant to the extreme. Also, your need to stipulate "I wasn't mad, just wondering." means to me that he has interpreted your questioning as anger before, and if you're not coming from an angry place, FOO issues would be a good explanation as to why he interprets your questions that way.
I saw it in my XH a LOT. It was maddening. He was constantly trying to avoid "mad mommy" aka me, to the point where he wouldn't answer completely innocuous questions such as the one you asked about the shirt. No matter how many times we talked our way around, under and through this topic, he couldn't grasp that every question was not an inquisition, it was just a question. How did the shirt get from point A to point B? To us it is just a how question - trying to understand why something in our environment is different than it should be. To them it is a blaming question - "why on earth would my shirt be here, you are a worthless piece of shit for not knowing where this shirt goes." It's not logical, but I can't tell you how many times my XH interpreted a simple question to be a judgment of his character. And yes, he would say it out loud that "You obviously think I'm a piece of shit." Wait, what??
"Why is my shirt over there?" "I put it there because it's yours and I didn't know where it went." -- So why can't the exchange go exactly like this? That would be the super simple way to handle this. IME, the reason it doesn't go this way is because they are anticipating the next step in that conversation, where you might say, "Well, next time if you're not sure where it goes, just ask me and I'll tell you." Again, a perfectly reasonable response. But to someone with low self esteem, that reads as "Ok idiot, I can't believe you don't know where it goes. Next time just ask me so I can tell you what to do because I'm obviously smarter than you." They don't like the feeling they get when their rationale or motives are questioned, so they will do anything they can to avoid it.
Now, is that rational? No. If they just answered the question directly in the first place, you would have no need to continue this roundabout conversation. And, like I told my XH many times, his avoidance of the initial question is the thing that bothers me, and even potentially gets me angry at him - his honest answer would not. So his avoidance of the question is actually putting him in the very position he was trying to avoid in the first place
This pattern has become more and more evident to me as I see my step DDs and how they avoid conflict in their day to day lives. I knew it was a problem back then, sure, and I worked on it with them then, too. But I wasn't fully aware of the deep seated emotional abuse and covert incest issues that were going on behind my back, so I had no idea the depth of it. It's very clear to me now that they will avoid answering a question so that in the short term they feel "safe" from whatever response their answer might induce, and it has drawn my X's behavior into stark perspective.
I also wonder if your fch's military background has anything to do with this? Though that might be a chicken or the egg conversation - is he conflict avoidant because he is in the military and any kind of slip up would get him severely punished, or did he join the military because he was already conflict avoidant and this type of punish-first-ask-questions-later type of set up was what he felt comfortable in?
And yes, that tit-for-tat shit is obnoxious.
His response was to say how he doesn't really like my music (rock), but didn't complain.
When I begged him to please figure out a way to clean up after himself when he would have his masturbatory escapades, I was told "I don't complain that you have clutter all over your desk and your side of the bed?!" Um, ok dude, but we're talking about the fact that there is margarine all over the door knob to our bedroom, Not MY clutter on MY desk. The tit for tat crap is a defensive tactic designed to get you to stop talking about the issue that YOU want to talk about. I find that when people get defensive like that, it is because they KNOW they are in the wrong, but don't want to own up to it.
The reason I wonder if it could be me is that I have run into this problem with other people. Am I missing something? Am asking the wrong question.
I would say that no, you are not the problem here, at least not in your communication style. Your only problem might be that you seem to attract conflict avoidant people, and as someone who is the opposite, you will naturally butt heads with those types of people. Conflict avoidant people tend to seek out assertive people. They need someone to make decisions for them, as they don't know how to do it for themselves. Who else are you running in to that presents these same issues? Coworkers? Friends? Family members? I have a LOT of conflict avoidant coworkers and it drives me up a wall. But I've also learned to make it work for me. I'm the one person who is incredibly blunt and tells it like it is at work, to the point where people, especially newbies to our field, often ask me how I "get away with that." But I think that being the one truly honest person has benefitted me, in that my boss can trust that I won't sugar coat anything to kiss her ass. Could you explain the types of interactions you've had with others that feel similar to the ones with your husband? It might help us to draw out the communication issues you feel you're having.
Also, this might be totally off base, but I will give you an anecdote based off my own experience that might relate to yours. Background, I am a pretty intuitive person. I pick up on body language, tone of voice, the slightest change in facial expression, and I can predict what people are thinking, or what they are about to say, with an uncanny accuracy. Many, many people have commented on this, from coworkers, bosses, friends, my step Ds, even acquaintances. I attribute this to my mom being my primary care giver, and her being a pretty quiet, closed off person. A lot more was left unsaid, so I had to learn to interpret things like body language etc. to fill in the blanks. Now, when I hitched my wagon to my X, I signed up for life with a person who was conflict avoidant in every way, and my intuition, by necessity, kicked into overdrive. I mistakenly viewed this as a symbiotic relationship - my strengths are your weaknesses and all that. But my natural skill set allowed me to pick up on his issues, large and small, even sometimes microscopic, without him ever having to say a word, and instead of being a symbiotic relationship, it quickly became a parasitic one. So often, I "just knew". As he would put it, I was a mind-reader. Now I could then sit and go through every teeny tiny little thing that led me to whatever conclusion I had come to - the twitch in his lip, the way his eyes drifted off to the left, the change in his verbiage (he avoids contractions when he is lying) - in my attempt to show him that this wasn't some magic trick, that it was just finely tuned pattern recognition. But that would freak him out even more, and he would say "How do you know me so well??!!" I will add that this was a positively reinforced dynamic because while I learned later that he secretly resented me for this, he always said things like "How do you know me so well??!!" with a huge smile on his face accompanied by a hug and a kiss, so I only saw this as a positive give-and-take of our relationship. Barf, I know.
I wish more than anything that people would just say what they mean and mean what they say. It is how I operate, and I don't understand why everyone doesn't do the same. Unfortunately, I don't think *most* other people are like that, so developing a keen sense of intuition is a necessary survival tactic IMO. Now I had made it very, very clear to him hat I HATE having to read people's minds. I desperately wanted him to communicate with me openly and honestly. While I was/am intuitive, I of course didn't want to put words in his mouth, and I needed him to speak his own truth and be direct, so I would ask the question anyway, and he would force me to go through the rigamarole of asking all of these inane questions to get to an answer that I already knew, but he just for some reason did not want to voice. When all he had to do was be honest from the get go. This would often shut him down even more, and in my case, my intuition was something I did not, and still do not, know how to turn off. So while I craved direct communication, it was something that often didn't even need to happen because I knew the answer before I even asked the question, and his inability to open up meant that my mind just used my built in skill set as a bypass, thus creating the perfect storm.
Is it possible you have similar capabilities? When you asked the question, "Why is this shirt here?" did you not already probably have a couple scenarios in your head of how it got there? And is his answer of "I don't know" bothering you not just because it is an indirect answer to a very simple, direct question, but in fact because it is lying by omission? Something I'm assuming he did a lot of during the blame-shifting extravaganza of his A? And I would guess that knowing that he is lying about something so stupid makes you think, if you can lie about this, what other things are you lying about? At least that's where my mind goes.
I can tell you a time something similar happened to us, and I skipped straight on past the initial question of "Why is this shirt here?" to "Oh, did you not know where this goes in my closet? It's a button-up, so it goes in the hall closet, not the walk-in." Because just by walking in and seeing it on the bed, I ALREADY KNEW that this is exactly what had happened... he had picked it up from the dry cleaner, walked into my walk-in, saw that there were no other shirts like it in that closet, knew it didn't go there but didn't know where to put it, so he put it on my side of the bed. And he was shocked that I had just gotten home and walked into our room, and I already knew that this was the trajectory he had taken, to the point where he got paranoid and asked if I had installed a camera in our room.
All this to say, that my ability to read him so well, left him feeling very vulnerable. And instead of seeing that vulnerability as a good thing, as one of the many building blocks of a good, strong relationship, he saw that as a weakness, and pushed even harder to protect against it. Especially because he did not share my ability - I would say his intuition was wrong 90% of the time. And me being really good at something that he was almost laughably bad at really struck at his ego. Is it possible your husband is feeling weak/vulnerable due to your expectations of full transparency? That instead of seeing this vulnerability as positive, he sees it as a lack of privacy/punishment from you, or even a weakness in himself? Not that this is logical, but unhealthy people tend to see the laying-your-soul-bare kind of transparency that healthy people want in a relationship as something to avoid at all costs. He has been forced to really lay himself bare, and that is an incredibly uncomfortable feeling for most people. Change, even good change, feels incredibly uncomfortable, because it's unfamiliar. I forget, is he going to IC? Might be something he needs to explore - why honesty and transparency are such foreign concepts to him.
I know I've said this before but I'll say it again, over time I developed a response to "I don't know" that I felt was the only way I could possibly respond anymore: "I know that you know. You know, that I know, that you know. I know, that you know, that I know, that you know. So let's stop insulting my intelligence and just get to the point please!" That followed up with an assertive, knowing stare, usually got him to "fess up" without me having to ask a ton more questions.