When Your Spouse Gets Their Way

October 9, 2014

There has been a flood of clients recently who have presented with similar situations: one spouse has taken control of the relationship from the other spouse. For each couple, the methods are different but the results are usually the same.  The spouse who relinquished control is angry, exhausted and wants out of the marriage.

Not one of the controlling spouses meant any harm.  They admit to strong persuasion tactics but they simply wanted something and used their good negotiating skills to get it.  Their spouses however felt very differently in the marriage.  They felt harangued.  Beaten down.  Powerless.  They learned a long time ago their spouse would not quit until they “won” arguments or got their way, so they stopped fighting for their own opinion or desires. They learned to “give up to get along” and they lived quietly resentful for years.  Their spouses never even knew the damage they had inflicted because none of them spoke up. They just grew more withdrawn and resentful each year.  Until the day they decided they didn’t want to live this way anymore.  So they told their spouse they were finished and wanted a divorce.

Here is one story:

Mark and Susan (names changed) came to see me because Mark wanted a divorce. Susan was devastated.  She kept breaking down in tears as she explained she knew for a long time the marriage wasn’t “great” but she didn’t think things were this bad until Mark told her he was done.  She couldn’t believe he was walking out without a fight.  She wanted one more chance to fix things and she believed I could help her because she had read my articles and felt there was hope.  Mark sat there quietly and showed very little emotion.  I could tell he was nervous.  I asked Susan to wait outside and I talked to Mark alone.  He told me he appreciated my desire to help but he really was done.  He said he had lived in a miserable hell for years and couldn’t take it anymore.  He said Susan was a wonderful mother and he didn’t hate her but he didn’t love her either.  Mark described his life with Susan in detail.  Susan was outgoing and had a strong personality.  She was opinionated and very determined. If she wanted something, she didn’t quit until she figured out a way to make it happen. These qualities initially attracted Mark.  He could see how those traits came in handy many times throughout their marriage but eventually, Mark felt he was losing his own power to make decisions.  If he and Susan disagreed about something with the kids or the household, Susan always got her way.  Disagreeing with her meant hours of conversation until Mark got tired of the struggle and gave in.  When he told her she was spending too much money, Susan started hiding the purchases and then minimizing the damage when Mark would express his feelings of anger or concern.  If Mark tried to discipline the kids, Susan would override him and tell him he was being too hard on them. Finally, Mark stopped trying to have an opinion.  He just kept giving in to what Susan wanted because he was sick of fighting and he was tired of talking about it.  After a while, he felt very disconnected from Susan and the kids.  They complained because he didn’t participate in certain activities with the family any more.  Mark answered these complaints with more avoidance.  He started working more hours and being less available.  Eventually, the family unit learned how to operate under this new normal and years passed.  Mark came to resent Susan.  He felt completely powerless in his own life.  He told me he needed to get away from Susan and was ready to start a new life.

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I asked Mark how he contributed to the marriage being in its current state.  He wasn’t sure what I meant.  I mentioned Susan’s control and how he felt he needed to divorce before he could be free to make his own choices.  I knew this would be difficult for Mark to hear.  He wanted to put all the blame on Susan for the way their marriage had been going.  But Susan was only part of the problem.  I explained to Mark that he gave her all his power.  He never learned how to set boundaries with Susan.  He said he couldn’t make Susan do anything…he had tried for years!  I explained to him that boundaries aren’t something he puts on Susan.  Boundaries are limits he puts on himself.  He can’t control Susan’s behavior, but he can control how much he lets it affect him. He can control how much access he allows.

I could tell this was new information for Mark.  I knew Susan could be a handful but I also knew Mark was conflict avoidant.  Setting limits with Susan raised his anxiety and made him very uncomfortable.  It was much easier to give in than to hold his ground.  But giving in every time wasn’t good for the marriage.

Getting Mark to understand he didn’t need to divorce to get back his freedom was an interesting proposition.  He and Susan have a long road ahead of them as he learns how to set boundaries and enforce them, but Susan finds the progress interesting.  She has come to realize Mark with boundaries is a good thing.  It is way more sexy to her to have a man with an opinion who will give a little push back than one who just goes along with everything.  Together they are finding more passion than they have had in years.

I think Mark and Susan will work things out, but it doesn’t always end this way.  Sometimes the conflict avoidant partner finds solace in another person and begins an affair.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Whether you are the one who feels powerless in your marriage or the one who has taken all the power, let us show you how to re-balance with healthy boundaries.  Do something before one of you wants to call it quits.

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  1. Dear kim,

    the article feels incomplete. could you tell us how mark put boundaries on susan? because i’m going through a similar situation with my husband. he always gets his way, he manipulates me when i dont give in to what he wants. i feel unhappy in my married life. i have a lot of resentment towards him now. i have tried talking to him but he does not understand me. we just go around in circles. what should i do?

    • Aalia…I’m so sorry you are feeling unhappy in your marriage. It isn’t surprising if your husband always gets things his way. Setting boundaries is such a healthy way to protect the marriage but the first step for you is learning to be ok when he is not ok. He can’t manipulate you into giving in unless you let him. And setting boundaries will never work if you don’t risk feeling uncomfortable when he is unhappy. We would love to work with you on this process. Contact us at support@themarriageplace.com. We can get you set up with a counselor or coach who can learn more about your situation and create a custom plan for you! Hang in there!!

      • Is there any kind of coaching since I don’t live near you and need help with putting boundaries in place without being nasty.

        • Hi Diana, YES! My coaches work with clients by phone and video chat so your location is not an issue. Boundary setting is such a critical component in any relationship and knowing how to appropriately set them is something my coach can help you with. Please call my office 972-441-4432 or email to office@themarriageplace.com and either Becca or Taralea can help you get set up for a free consultation to start the process. You can do this!! Kim

      • I feel the same way at times. I feel like my husband always have his way. Sometimes I am guilty of letting him. We fight mostly about my kids. I want him to treat them good and I want him to be involved in discipline but sometimes I think he goes overboard. I just want to find a healthy median.

        • Tiffany, Relationships require compromise from both parties. If you are doing all the bending and compromise, then it’s probably time to learn how to use healthy boundaries to make some adjustments. Otherwise, your resentment will build to the point where staying in the relationshp will either seem miserable or impossible. Negotiating change and compromise is something we can help you do – either together or with you individually. Please give us a call and my admins will arrange for a free consultation with one of my coaches who specialize in situtions like this. You can do this! Kim

    • What if your husband just does what he wants anyhow and doesn’t ask or tell you.

      • Aalia, Thanks for taking the time to ask your question. My short answer for you is – boundaries. Every healthy relationship has them. Healthy boundaries are respectful and they are for you, not against someone else. Set limits on what you will or will not accept and if he crosses that line, then be prepared to respond. An example – if my husband constantly screamed at me over dinner, I would ask him to stop and I would tell him that if he doesn’t I won’t be eating dinner with him. And then I wouldn’t. I’ve got an older blog post on ultimatums and boundaries that I think you might find relevant. I’d also suggest you consider partnering with a coach who can work with you (or with you both) on how to set boundaries. Feel free to call my office and we can get a free consultation set up for you! Wishing you the best, Kim.

    • I also feel what your going through , I feel alone. Everything I do is wrong or he knows a better way . He can not celebrate my success , I am the wrong one for wanting to get my Masters . I feel helpless , alone and a failure through all my success .

      • Jenna, You don’t have to feel hopeless anymore. We can help you. I have a coach on my team who would be an excellent resource for you and can help teach you how to stand up for what you need and want in the relationship…and do it in way that is still respectful. If you are interested in learning more via a free consultation, I hope you’ll call. Regards, Kim

        • I have been married to my second husband for a year and half. I am not sure we will make it to two years. My husband is very strong willed. I feel like he doesn’t hear me. Examples….I hurt my foot. It was swollen and hard to walk on. We were to meet someone at my then boyfriend’s land. My boyfriend did not want to drive down his long lane because it was very rough that day. I told him I could not walk it because of my foot. He never said a word and just proceeded to walk ahead of me with the gentlemen he wanted to show something to at end of lane. Another instance we were driving to see his mother. My boyfriend choose the fastest route because he thought we was going to be late. He drove fast around the twisting winding road. I asked him to slow down because I thought I was going to get sick. I had to keep asking. After almost begging he finally slowed down. It continues up to yesterday. I have health issues and can’t handle long days away from home. He decided to make four appointments and procedures with his doctor in one day even though I told him many times in the past I could not do long days. I had been feeling hopeless and not heard for so long that I lost it and got very angry( not the first time) his response I did not say what I wanted assertive enough. I don’t agree. He says he loves me, but I don’t feel loved because shouldn’t my health and well-being be very important to him. He admits he is strong willed and wants things his way. He truly seems clueless to why I feel so hurt and unloved. Please help. I am getting more depressed every day.

          • Pam, my encouragement to you is to find your voice and use it in a productive healthy way. “Losing it” and getting angry may realease the pressure you feel building up when things are not going as you desire, but it won’t get you what you want in the long term which is evident by your husband’s continued ways. A relationship is a dance and your moves affect his and vice versa. If he isn’t willing, work with a coach or counselor individually who can help you learn how to do this. If you you’d like to work with a coach here, please call us! 972-441-4432. Kim

  2. Dear Kim,

    My issue is identical to Aalia’s, talking to my wife is nearly impossible. It always ends with her being confused and we go around backwards in circles while she goes into tangents until finally I give in if for no other reason than to prevent the loss of my own sanity. Its absolutely impossible to set boundaries with someone if you cannot have a coherent conversation with said person, is it? I can easily make boundaries for myself, I do by limiting myself to the point that she always gets what she wants right? But that is utterly useless if my spouse can’t set boundaries for herself which at this point I am convinced she cannot. Its even more frustrating that any time we do have a conversation the instant I raise my voice, any time i show any real emotion in my voice, I’m yelling. And suddenly whether what I said was right or wrong, I am wrong simply for yelling. I am overridden on every decision. I cant discipline my own son without being told what i’m doing is wrong. Even in the article with Mark, it is said that he first put up a fight, tried and failed to get Susan to see his way. How do “boundaries” do anything? Won’t Susan still be controlling; still do everything she can to get her way in the end? Did he even end up staying? Honestly, I am at my wits end.

    • I forgot to mention that every time I do fight back she turns it into self pity and says stuff like my son and I would be better off without her. This is such counter productive behavior that it literally sickens me.

    • My wife always throws me out if she can’t get her way. We stated three businesses together and she claims she’s the boss, and I’m just an employee……. Need I say more. I can’t ever do it fast enough or good enough, and she always gets another mans opinion before she’ll accept mine….. How do you fix that? I don’t understand her at all anymore?

      • Ken, the answer is BOUNDARIES! Stand up for yourself and find that backbone! If she can manipulate you she will never respect you and you will continue to resent the control she has. Set your boundaries and stick to them and it can change her perspective of you as well. If you want some help working through a plan to do this, please call us. Regards.

        • Boundaries, yes, that sounds great, but when resistance means being screamed at, berated by my wife with every insult in the world (in front of the kids no less), physically attacked (slapped, shoved, which I never return, as I don’t hit women), and ultimately thrown out of the house for the night, it often seems there are few (or no) options for a civil conversation to attempt to set such boundaries. Of course I could resist; after all I’m physically stronger than my wife, but there is a good chance I would then end up spending a night in much less comfortable (but free) accommodation than a hotel.

          • Will, I’d love to have a sit down conversation with you on boundaries. Your wife acts out this way because it works. It keeps you quiet or complacent or both! You don’t set boundaries by trying to control her behavior. You set boundaries by controlling YOURS. You don’t allow yourself to be treated this way. I’m not talking about physically overcoming her. You set limits with kindness but firmness. You may indeed be sleeping in a hotel…because you chose to leave the abusive argument. Also, allowing yourself to be treated this way in front of your kids is emotionally abusive to them! I hope you will learn how to stop this abuse. Even if it means you have to leave.

        • You’re missing Ken’s point – his wife does not listen to what he is saying. She takes him round and round in their discussions. My wife does the same thing. She defends everything she does and says. She defended her actions/words when our pastor called her out. She defended her words and actions when our marriage counselor called her out for slapping me twice. Boundaries in her world are meant for her to set, not to respect other’s boundaries. She wanted to know everything I said to my counselor in the two appointments I had with him. I did not remember everything he and I talked about. She said that meant I was keeping secrets from her. My counselor said his and my sessions were confidential unless I wanted to tell her and that if I did not want to tell her and if she objected then that meant SHE had boundary issues (respecting the boundaries of others).

          I pretty much go along with everything just to keep from having to deal with her single-perspective view and unreasonableness when I try to present my perspective.

  3. My husband is the same way. Everything is always his way or he shuts down. He wants total peace to lay around and watch television but we have a two year old and she loves him dearly. She wants his sttention but he only gives in when he wants to spend time with her. We both work but everything is leftvfor me to do; housework, child rearing, cooking etc. He wants to work..which is very little effort though highly paid, and do whatever he wants. Everything’s an argument …saving money, giving his time to me or her and basically anything outside of what he wants to do.

  4. My fiancé has to have everything his own way. His parents haven’t helped as they agree with everything he says even if its him that’s in the wrong he has to be right all the time. We are trying to plan our wedding but he keeps pushing me to bring the date forward but cant give me an explanation why. Now it seems like his whole family who are really lovely are trying to rush me into marriage and I’m confused with what to do. He just has to have the final say in everything and if I try and tell him he is wrong he wont accept it. I really love him and he loves me but we cant go on like this I want to feel like we have made joint compromises like at Christmas he will not stay away from his parents I have said to him that we could alternate every year so xmas eve at my parents xmas day at his and boxing day at mine and rotate every year but he is having none of it. I’m really starting to worry that my parents are starting to dislike him too. A typical mummy’s boy HELP!

    • If you’re uncomfortable, hold strong. There’s absolutely no reason someone should be pressured into marriage when they’re not ready. And you sound like, on some level, you’re not. You’re preparing for a potential lifetime with this guy and, from the sounds of it, very strong influence from his family. This situation likely provides a strong indication of life ahead. Allow yourself time. Tune in to what your body tells you (stress indicators) and any issues that seem troubling/questionable to you… they’re likely giving you important messages about what you should do. In the early “in love” stages, we tend to overlook those cues, looking back later to realize the signs were always there. I wish you the best.

    • I’m imesprsed. You’ve really raised the bar with that.

  5. Hi, My situation is very similar I married my wife took on her two daughters both under 18 months. We have a Son between us and I have brought them up the same. However our son’s hobbies have demanded more of my time and more money. My wife has since my children have got older and the girls left home become controlling, accusing me of favortisim to our son when all decisions are joint and our intimate life is non-existant because I will not beg for it. I now would rather be work than at home with my wife’s sulks for no apparent reason, when asks “I’m OK, but giving me the cold shoulder.

  6. I am in exactly the same type of situation as “Mark” is or was in. My fiancé is a headstrong, determined, and ambitious individual. At first it is what attracted me to her. Now, as we grow closer to getting married, I’m seeing signs that I could be getting into something over my head if I don’t do something fast. I too need to set some boundaries. But how? I can surely use the same kind of help.

    • KJ, Being able to set appropriate boundaries is critical to any successful relationship. If it is a struggle now, it will be even more so later. One of our coaches can partner with you and teach you how to do this. I would encourage you to call us so we can help. Wishing you the best, Kim

  7. I’m conflict avoidant, and in the same situation. Love my wife, but starting to feel like I have no life of my own, and no say in any of the joint decisions. I’m slipping into depression. I try to have civil conversations, to express my grievances, and get shouted into submission. I’m tired of apologizing for expressing my hurt feelings. I feel myself checking out mentally. She nit picks and disagrees with everything. She has to have everything her way in the house, yet doesn’t do much housework. I work and she stays at home. I don’t feel it’s fair. I need to learn how to set boundaries or I can’t continue the relationship. Tired of feeling like a doormat.

    • Casey, I’m so sorry your relationship has gotten to this point, but I’m so glad that you recognize that you need to set boundaries. That’s a great start to making things better. When someone who has never been good at setting boundaries decides it’s time to do just that, it can be a scary time, indeed. If you’d like some guidance to help you know what boundaries to set, how to set them, and how to enforce them, consider giving my office a call. Depending on where you’re located, my counselors or coaches can help empower you and walk you through this. Warmly, Kim

  8. Hi Kim
    I’m in the same situation as Casey.
    Everything that we discuss ends up her way. I submit to everything she says just not to have an argument. I feel like she’s the master and I’m the slave. Always do what I say or pack your bags according to her. There is a day she told me “I’m used to making my own decisions” but I told her we married now we should make them together. Seems like it didn’t stick. We are in our second year of marriage living in her moms house and I’m from another country. So far she has packed my bags three times. I feel like I’m on the Virge of collapse. How do I set boundaries in this situation. I love my wife but I can’t be a man in this relationship otherwise I’m on the first flight back to my country

    • Leslie, you need to learn the most powerful skill for being in any relationship. BOUNDARIES! You need to learn how and when to set limits. Call us at 972-441-4432. We can teach you all of this in just a handful of sessions. It will transform your life if you use them!

  9. I almost forgot to say she has my x girlfriends photos in her phone. I’m not allowed to socialise with female colleages at so k she even calls all my cousins to make sure they are my cousins and not affairs. We don’t have a social life. Not even allowed to go to a pub and watch a soccer game. So sad

  10. my husband of 18 years trys to control me in everyway possible and when I don’t submit he gets an attitude and then reverses the situation on me saying that its always my way and I can’t get him to realize that what he is saying is the exact opposite. I work full time and attend classes two days a week, he calls me to bed every night when I am studying for an exam or just trying to regroup my thoughts and if don’t come to bed on the first request, he will call my name in an abusive tone within 10 minutes of the initial call, when I say that I have to study or I am not ready for bed he becomes hostile. this has been going on for years, yet he does not put as much attention into our children they fall asleep with electronics on lights on and not once does he go to check on them yet her always harassing me about what I am doing, he will ask me to call out from work for no real reason and when I say I can’t he will begin saying things like all I care about is that bleaking job and I am not a young woman I have to maintain employment because he does not make enough money to take care of me solely. How do I speak to him to understand what matters to me. this is just one of the many behaviors

  11. I am Sagittarius, she is Scorpio. It took incredible amount of work for us to finally understand each other and set boundaries. But even with this, every time we have a disagreement, it feels like heaven is coming down and it is her way or no way.

    Major life changing decision is yet to occur in our life so this can be scary if we don’t agree. She is a revenge type of spouse, if she does not get her way, I have to brace myself for some kind of pay back of some sort so she can satisfy her inner self. The whole idea of of learning to be okay when she is not okay with back fire heavily… She is very strong willed and very opinionated individual.

  12. My husband insists that he should be able to do whatever he wants. He often spends the entire weekend drinking at his sister’s house even to the point when he does not come home until the next morning. Our children have anxiety because of this even to the point where they hate weekends. I have expressed my dismay in every way possible. He refuses to acknowledge his wrong and states that he would rather stay there than get a DUI. I think his alcohol intake is the issue. He thinks I am trying to control him and refuses to compromise. I just cannot deal with that type of behavior for a man who claims to love me.

    • Nicky, it sounds like it’s time to start setting some healthy boundaries for yourself. This can be hard to do when it hasn’t been a part of your life before. If you’d like some help knowing how to set and enforce boundaries in a healthy way, we can help you with that. Just give us a call.
      TL for Kim

  13. Oh, I am sucked in. This silly advice that YOU set YOUR boundaries when a spouse is abusing you is hilarious. Now I get it a bit. Say your spouse tries to force you to cave in to his/her way through full on abuse (yell, scream, cry, throw you out, they walk out, etc). You can ‘ignore it’, ‘set your boundary’, ‘dont let it affect you’. OK, I get it.

    But once you have set your boundary it does not stop the full on abuse. I know. Maybe you can be happy and confident and not caving in with another person abusing you day in and day out. Great for you. But why oh why would a human decide to remain in such a crazy environment (I ask myself 🙂 )

    For the OP here to say ‘when you can boundary yourself, it will make the other person stop abusing you…..’. Well, that is just silly nonsense. The OP here has never come across real ‘nitpickers’ and ‘control freaks’ and ‘abusers’. And to blame the victim for ’empowering’ the abuser. What a load of crock.

    • Hi Daniel,

      I’m not sure I completely follow your line of thinking. Setting a boundary does not guarantee your spouse will change. Setting a boundary is to protect you. When abuse is involved, the boundary (or ultimatum) may very well be to leave the situation or relationship. Abuse is never okay and in the example I wrote about (or any example), Mark is not responsible for Susan’s behavior. He is responsible for HIS behavior. And when Mark took back the control he’d unintentionally given Susan, it empowered him and in turn influenced Susan’s behavior for the better. Now it doesn’t always work like this. Sometimes the boundary setting forces the boundary setter to make some tough choices about the future of the relationship. But without healthy boundaries, there will never be a healthy relationship. Regards, Kim

  14. Hi, I feel like my husband thinks I am trying to take control of him because of his porn watching habits. I told him that I could not be with a man who can not remove porn from his life for his family, he rather believe it’s something that is a part of him. I was close to leaving him when he told me that and I will if he keeps giving me stupid reasons why he can not stop watching porn. He knows it hurts me and there is a base reason why I do not want to be with a man who watches porn. A lot was affected by his habit in our relationship there is so much I rather not talk about it but I feel like he is lying all the time about it I just can not bring myself to trust him, I keep hearing him say just let me watch porn and our problems will be over with…..someday’s I wish porn did not exist and maybe then he would be different but I just feel he is too selfish….it affects our sex life, it affects the way I feel about him, it affects the way he see’s woman as objects, it affects how I see him and so much more I am just waiting nervously now wishing so much that we lived in a better world.

    • Anj, I’m so sorry you are going through this. There is help we can offer, but rather than replying here, I’m going to send you an email with next steps.
      Warmly, Kim.

  15. My fiancee is a woman with many wonderful qualities: beautiful, smart, driven, hardworking. These are attributes which attracted me to her but some of the traits are creating barriers between us.

    It reached a head when she started trying to make demands of me as though I’m a child. She manipulates matters to work in her favor whilst not being completely honest of her intentions, yet she expects honesty from me. We were set to marry in Feb. 2018, but too many red flags caused me to put on the brakes. I felt a huge relief of pressure by not marrying her then, despite her strong opposition and the fact I had to explain four days in a row to her the reasons. I did say to her that I feel like I’m talking to a wall when dealing with her and we would address the issues before going to the altar. She and her mother rushed the save the dates, and though I felt bad, knew that I could not marry her with the severity of the issues. No new date has been determined, and in a way, I am shy about rescheduling our indefinitely postponed marriage.

    I told her it would be the end of 2018 before I even thought about marrying her, and she keeps trying to push a May 2018 date. She finally realized I will not marry her in May, thus forcing her to work on herself and the issues causing us to postpone in the first place. If she can’t get it together enough to realize that selfishness will not work in a marriage and with her desiring motherhoods, I have an inclination to force her to call things off by setting a date of July 2019.

  16. And what if you are faced with the same thing, but you are not conflict avoidant? …. I used to have a way of thinking – if my partner wanted something more than I didn’t want it (or vice versa) then as a pair – the balance is on her end and so i will compromise – problem with that as a philosophy is that unless both partners approach decisions in the exact same way, and do it honestly, it can easily be abused by feigning how much you actually want / need something so your always get your way…… Well in my experience, what will happen is that you will pick up on the tactic and then stop being so balanced in the way you make your decisions, it will force you to hold your own and argue, and argue often over the colour of the cushions and throws, over real grass vs astroturf…. you get the idea…. then eventually you will get tired of the arguing, your partner has more stamina than you and you only hold and fight for your position when it really means something to you. Things like the colour of the floor no longer matter, why bother arguing, but when it comes to how to raise your kids? The stakes are raised and there is a need to fight for what you genuinely believe is the right way forward. But most of the time you will probably get no-where. As time goes on you will then start to escalate how aggressively you argue for the things that really matter to you, for instance threatening to leave the marriage unless things change, threaten to disengage from the whole thing, move into the spare room, tell her she can parent on her own and I’ll just go to the gym…. things may improve when you find a degree of leverage that gets your spouse to reconsider their actions (leaving the marriage- nothing else, the cynic in me wonders if it is because she will miss me or just be so inconvenienced by a divorce), so she actually makes an effort – for a month, maybe two, but as time passes, the behaviours return and the arguments continue, the threats return, she makes an effort for a month this time, then it happens again, resentment builds, 3 years of this cycle and thats where my experience ends. Hopefully things will get better, or maybe my wife will realise I can’t live without my kids and so know theres no way I’d ever leave the marriage, realise I have no levererage and make a conscious decision to keep getting whatever she wants, because she is willing to tear us apart to get it. (She probably justifies the whole thing in her head by telling herself the decisions are right for the family….. her way of handling the kids is the only way…… etc etc….. not the case if it tears apart the relationship that brought the children into the world in the first place)

    • Chris, I wish I could tell you that something is going to change, but my experience has been that if you keep doing the same things, you get the same results. And what I read here is that you both continue to do the same things over and over again. I refer to this as the “dance”. I see couples dancing every day and as their therapist, it’s my responsibility to help them recognize the dance/patterns and show them how to stop it in its tracks – thereby creating an opportunity for lasting change. Otherwise, the cycle will continue another 3 years and beyond. If you want some help in recognizing your dance and learning how to change it, please consider reaching out for a free consult. Kim

  17. Dear Kim,
    This reminds me of how my marriage is with my wife. I must give in to what she wants or the arguing and fighting begins again. We talk, but when we have different opinions it’s either she gets to do what ever she wants or we won’t talk for that day. It used to be the other way around where I would want to talk about things and if it didn’t go my way I would get upset. Ever since then it was either I sucked it up and let her do what ever she wants even if I don’t think it’s right or have to argue and potentially lose her in the process. A part of my is starting to give up on her because she hasn’t been appreciative since we first met.

    • Mario, it sounds like you’ve lost yourself in this relationship. In a healthy relationship there are two equal parts. If you are always squelching your needs, wants, and desires to avoid her reaction to them, that is not a healthy scenario and your resentment will continue to build until you can’t take it anymore. You have to find your voice (respectul) in the relationship and use your boundaries. A coach can help you do this. If you’d like to call, you can start with a free consultation. Wishing you the best, Kim

  18. I’ve been finding myself in this position for a while. I never get to go out for a cup of coffee on my own without getting retaliation. If I invite her to come with for anything it’s always an issue. Yet I’ve been called boring multiple times. Then again when we do things she wants to do everything is ok. I’ve lost myself in this relationship. I’ve tried on a constant reaching out to her explaining how I feel and she just flips the script on me. I really don’t know what to do. I can’t talk to anyone because she has a problem with it, by everyone i mean parents, siblings, child hood friends. I just can’t without getting it rubbed in my face. I’ve tried setting boundaries but it seems like she’s not into my set boundaries only hers. At this point I’m just ranting on but I really don’t know how to handle my marriage anymore I’m lost between my own feelings and emotions and arguments I try to dismiss them. Not because I want to only because well my opinion nor my feelings matter at this point

    • My phone re corrected certain sentences-_-

    • Jason, Boundaries can be tricky. Setting them is one thing. You also have to be ready to enforce them even when that causes your wife to respond reactively. It’s easy to want to back off the boundary when it produces an uncomfortable reaction but that just reinforces to her to keep doing what she’s doing. To change the dynamic will take time and practice and it’s something you guys can work on together if she’s willing. If not however, we can teach you how to change some things that can reap positive benefits for you and the relationship and ultimately, her as well. Kim.

  19. I have boundaries and he repeatedly crosses them. I have a major problem with his drinking and I’ve asked him not to. If he was a normal drinker it wouldn’t be a problem but he’s not. Just last week he was out in his shop drinking. At 4 am I woke up in a panic because I smelled something burning and I thought the house was on fire. I jumped out of bed and ran in the kitchen to find the microwave damaged from him pushing too many zeros on the timer when he was heating a bagel. He passed out and it cooked for an hour. My whole house smelled of burned food for a week and the microwave was destroyed. I was angry with him and instead of apologizing, he took my debit card from me and cut off my access to all the money. He does this every time I get upset with him. I truly have no power or control in this marriage or even my own life. I don’t want a divorce but I don’t see any other option. We’ve been married for 10 years and I’m always the one who pays the price for his mistakes, always. I wish it were as simple as setting boundaries and taking back my power/control but it isn’t. I search for helpful articles and advice but every one I come across has advice presented like it’s something I don’t already know and haven’t already tried, a thousand times.

  20. I have been married for almost 10 years. My wife and I have a bit of an age difference between us. 16 yrs. I’m oldest but I don’t think that’s the problem. I thought I’d throw that in there to be completely open.
    I just don’t know what to think anymore. Any suggestion or idea I may have, she Will get so defensive or throw in my face that I always don’t like anything she does. I can’t be critical at all, but it’s perfectly ok for me to take criticism from her. If I say I wanna watch something on tv, she’ll say, oh but I’ve been wanting to see this… I can’t tell you how many times that has happened. And I never get to see what I want to see. SMH…
    She recently re decorated her parents house for them while they were on a retreat. Her and her sister did a really good job. Painted decorated the works. They put in a new chandelier and all I said was I thought it looked a little too high. You would have thought I just pissed in her Cheerios. She gets so defensive. It goes from 0-60 in 1.2 seconds. Most of the time I try to keep my moth shut. But I should be able to make a critique right? Or should I just say looks good! And keep my opinion to myself? I should be able to speak shouldn’t I? Idk.
    It’s like nothing I do or any suggestion I make is good enough. It always has to be something different. Or something she wants to do. It’s driving me crazy and has driven a wedge into our relationship. Netiher one of us are happy.
    There is only happiness in this house if I keep my mouth shut!
    I just can’t live like this.
    I don’t want a divorce. I love her. And I love my son. I just don’t know what to do…

  21. I think this is helpful. Will know for sure very soon when my girlfriend wakes up. Just emailed my girlfriend the following:

    Questions: So how do I deal with that? We are going to have ten million scenarios where we want different things but we have to choose only one of those things and so how do I deal with her getting her way? Are there boundaries I can set up that make sure that my opinion is as valid as hers, where I am getting my way sometimes too? Are there techniques or things to remember that will help guide us through a discussion to figure out who’s way are we going to take this time? Am I doing something that hurts her, where she feels justified to get her way on things?
    Biggest Fear: I’d say this is my biggest concern with marriage. Always has been. It’s the biggest thing that turned me off to the idea of marriage, looking at how my mom wore the pants when I was growing up. It just seems to be the way of the world, that the woman always gets her way and the guy just has to keep his mouth shut and suck it up to avoid conflict and keep the wife happy, because happy wife happy life. SERIOUSLY, why doesn’t the happiness of the husband matter?
    The Indicator: So this fear, I recognized it very early in the relationship with Christena, that it was going to be an issue. Because I noticed that she seems to have this thing in her where it is easy for her to tell me no. It’s like she’s my mom and she’s telling me no. It’s like I’m not her equal partner, I’m her child asking for permission. That’s what I feel like when she just tells me no on something. That’s just what I feel. It hurts.
    Developed Questions: Ok, it boils down to this: what do we need to do so that I’m not being treated like a child and I have a valid opinion and I sometimes get my way on things? And then, when I don’t get my way, what do I need to remember / do so that I can deal with that appropriately without getting all upset and hurt?
    Scenarios: So far, I can remember a handful of times where I have felt these feelings and gone through all of these questions in my head. When we were deciding where we would live after we got married. Idk, we’ve talked about so much and I’m still not over how that went down! I’m still not over it! Then there are smaller things, a number of them. Like she won’t let me install a dog door to the house, or let me get a robot mower, or she wouldn’t let me store my chips in my glove box in my car, or she gave me the ultimatum that we will not store clean clothes in laundry baskets.
    What is this thing about women?: Like there is just an ever-increasing list of things that she won’t let me do. I don’t know of ANYTHING that makes me say “no, you will not do that as long as you date me.” And yet she has a list of ultimatums like that, which apparently never stops growing. And it just seems like that is the way of the world: the women by instinct treat their husbands like children.
    Solution 1?: So how do I answer these questions? What are things I can do to make this better? I think it helps a heap-load if I COMMUNICATE to her when I feel hurt and unheard and whatever. She listens very well when I express a concern like that. She is very tender when I open up to her about my feelings! I always feel so much better when I know that she knows that I felt hurt by something!
    Solution 2?: Is there some kind of way that she can express her concern or opinion without telling me no? I don’t need a yes or no from her. I just want her opinion on something and I want her to trust me that I will value her opinion enough to not steam-roll over it and do what I want to do anyway! Like, maybe if she could try to avoid telling me no, or avoid dictating how something is going to be and just instead offer her concerns and opinions on things, then I’d feel so much better about all of it! Even if a “no” is in a light-hearted conversation, it is such a powerful word to me that it doesn’t belong! Like, in the same way we choose to not use cusswords (no matter how light-hearted the conversation gets), could we also choose to never tell each other no, as long as the thing we’re saying no to isn’t morally wrong?
    Example for Solution 2: So for this whole dog-door thing, I express to her that I want to install a dog-door, and I give her my reasons why. Then she expresses that she doesn’t want a dog-door and gives her reasons why. Then she never tells me no, but just leaves it at that. Like, there’s just something offensive about her dictating to me a definite “no.” It’s as if I don’t have control, she has the control. Where is the mutual respect in that?!? If she could just avoid telling me no, and just continue to reiterate her opinions and wants to me…
    Solution 2 is very reasonable: I mean, flip it around. How would she feel if instead of asking, I dictate to her how it’s gonna be, just like she does to me. I say “we’re going to have a dog-door in our house and that’s the end.” Like, she does this to me already by saying “we’re not going to have a dog-door” sorry but not sorry. How would you feel if I just dictated things to you? We’re not going to live in your house, we’re going to find a house in West Lafayette. You dictated to me that we’re not going to keep our clean laundry in baskets and I responded “or else what?” Do you remember that conversation? I asked “or else what” because of a knee-jerk response in my heart to what you just dictated to me. It seems so wrong to me to dictate a no to my partner and yet you do it to me all the time.
    It’s only fair: I don’t ever dictate to her how something is going to be! If I feel very strongly about something, I’m just naturally going to reiterate my opinion to her and plead my case to her. I’m going to do it in a way that tells her she is respected and her opinion is just as valid as mine. I’m not going to dictate a “no” to her. I just want to be treated how I treat her.
    It’s all so silly: I’m sorry for how much of a deal I make all of this… But it matters… I guess men really do want respect from their wives, in every big and small way. And this is a small way, and yet sometimes it just feels so big… Reading online, this does ruin marriages. This does become a huge problem over the years and I want to deal with it now, while it’s still early.
    Being Told No: No one ever likes being told no. I don’t like it when my boss tells me no. But he’s my boss, and I don’t like it but I obey him whole-heartedly because I believe in following orders. Like there are relationships where it is good and perfectly acceptable to tell the other person no. And there are relationships where it is NOT Ok to tell the person no. Yet, even in THOSE relationships, there are certain situations where it is acceptable and good to say no. Like, if my boss asked me to do something unethical, it is good for me to say no to him.
    Being Told No By A Spouse: So it is good to say no to a spouse if the spouse is asking something of you that you feel is unethical, like using sex toys. That is perfectly acceptable, even though it sucks to hear a “no,” its good and acceptable because it is going against the other’s moral principles. The spouse who wants the sex toys shouldn’t feel offended that he got a “no” for an answer, just bummed out. But then there’s the 17 billion things that aren’t unethical. I don’t think a mutual spouse relationship is the place for “no” responses to things that are not unethical.
    Summary: Going forward I am wanting 2 things to happen. 1) I continue to communicate when I feel hurt by you. 2) we both decide to never tell each other no (even in light-hearted conversation), except for morally-conflicting circumstances. Instead of telling each other “no,” we will offer our opinion and perspective, trusting that we value each other’s opinions and perspectives and knowing that we would not do something unless the other is on board with it.

    THOUGHTS?!? love you, Nick

  22. Needs? Wants? Desires? What are those? I didn’t realize I was allowed to have those. Conflict avoidant? I guess I am…the last time I tried to set boundaries it was hell on earth and I don’t want to go through that again nor do I want to put my children through that. We ended up homeless for almost a year. That was two years ago and ever since if I just let everything be his way we live okay. We’ve been together 11 years and married 7. Our children are well taken care of, we have a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs, for the most part. I shouldn’t complain. If you’re an outsider looking in, you wouldn’t think there were any problems. We don’t fight, we don’t argue or yell, we work very well as a team, as parents, as business partners. Then what’s the problem right? Well the only way this all works is if everything is his way and I mean EVERYTHING, I can’t even buy shampoo until he decides it’s time to go buy it. I’ve tried to say something a few times and he gets upset and defensive and he’ll say he doesn’t understand where any of this is coming from that I can do whatever I want whenever I want…yet when I ask, it’s mostly always, “Not now.” He has full control of the money coming in and he’s pretty bad at handling it but I can’t say anything about that either and I can’t use the car because well I never have any money so what the heck am I going to go do without it and two young children. I also work 24/7…literally. It’s almost like he has to find something for me to do if I’m not working. He’s the salesman and I’m the creative. We’re both good at what we do, we are able to live off it. That’s a whole other story however. My opinion doesn’t matter, well actually my opinions upset him so I make sure not to have any. I have no say in anything (other than with parenting). He says I do but when it comes down to it if it’s not his way he gets upset, so I just drop it and let it be his way. He also always has to be right…same as everything else if I try to say something he gets upset and defensive so I just back off. He doesn’t think there’s a problem. If you ask him it’s all in my head. I live off the bare necessities, so that I don’t have to need anything before he decides it’s time. I don’t do anything or go anywhere or talk to anyone besides him and my children (5 and 1). And with him it’s mostly shop talk. I’m not planning or considering divorce, I do love him, I’m just afraid of becoming an empty shell and of him leaving me because of it.

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