Have you ever been in the midst of conflict with your spouse and thought “I love him, but I sure don’t like him!”? I hear this from a lot of wives. Certain qualities of their husbands generate feelings of warmth and appreciation, but other qualities drive them into resentment and contempt.
What we love
In my talks with these wives, appreciation for their spouses usually comes from a glimpse into their husbands’ softer sides. When we share a memory that makes us both laugh, or receive a “thank you” for something we did, or get a spur-of-the-moment backrub (my favorite), we naturally feel drawn toward our partner. We smile when we look at them and look forward to spending time together.
What we hate
Unfortunately, for many wives, glimpses into their partner’s soft side are few and far between. Over time, the patient, kind words and thoughtful gestures have dwindled, replaced by harsh words and criticism, to the point that the last thing we want to do is look lovingly into his eyes.
In my experience, this is usually the result of “hard side” behavior from the husband. (For those wondering, yes the roles can be reversed. Sometimes it’s the wife exhibiting these behaviors. But for now, I’m addressing what I see most often.) Typical behaviors include:
- Excessive criticism
- Difficulty to please
- Verbal, emotional and sometimes physical abuse
It’s tough to live with someone like this. They maintain control by intimidation, or by playing the victim. And these husbands have a special way of turning the tables:''“When we see our partners’ soft side, we’re naturally drawn toward them''. Click To Tweet
When their wife expresses hurt, the husband can find a way to make the situation about himself, rather than about hearing her pain.
Why this happens
When someone is using hostility and intimidation, they’re trying to regain a sense of control in the relationship. Your husband is hearing something from you – or maybe from someone else – that makes him feel “less than.” He’s afraid he’s not measuring up in the workplace, or at church, or compared to his friends, or maybe even in the bedroom.
These husbands need to hear the truth, but frankly they’re too fragile to handle it. Many know this. But knowing doesn’t always translate into behaving differently.
For us as wives, responding to this insecurity often means hiding our true feelings. We can’t express what we really want or need, because it kicks off another cycle of hostile behavior from our partner. That’s when our resentment kicks in. And it breeds contempt for our spouses, and for ourselves, since we know we’re living a lie. We act like everything is okay, when in reality our lives are crumbling.
What you can do about it
You’re reading this blog because you’re not willing to live this way any longer. Here’s your action plan:
1. Realize this is about differentiation. Your husband is having a hard time differentiating what’s going on in his world from his sense of worth as a person. When you give him information that’s painful, he’s likely feeling shame, and he lashes out to bury that pain.
2. Listen, but don’t surrender. You can acknowledge his feelings without agreeing with him. Hold on to your core truths. You know what makes you special.''“Hold on to your core truths. You know what makes you special.''. Click To Tweet
3. Tell him you love him, but not this behavior. You must be honest about your feelings. Hiding them won’t work. They’ll come out another way, usually through seething resentment, which is a ticking time bomb for the relationship.
This isn’t a magic formula that will heal all hurts. But it can give you a firm place to stand for more conversations.
Most people find it helpful to have an experienced person coaching them through a process like this. If you’d like to explore this, give us a call or schedule an appointment online. We can help you like your husband again, in addition to loving him.