By: Leslie Cane: I sometimes hear from wives who feel like they aren’t an equal partner in their marriage because they don’t have an equal say. Some feel that their husbands care more about his own feelings than theirs.
I heard from a wife who said: “my husband is so self centered. He only thinks about his own feelings and himself. He never things about my feelings or our children’s feelings. My husband is like a spoiled kid who never grew up. Every time he doesn’t like his job, he decides to uproot us and move. If one of his friends or family says they miss him, he just automatically invites them for a long stay without consulting me. If a buddy is between jobs, he thinks nothing of offering him some spare room that we don’t have. He never considers how our family might feel. It never occurs to him that we might be tired of moving or that we might want some more stability. It’s like his feelings are all that matter. He never does anything nice for me or compliments me. When I ask him to consider my feelings, he says that I’m being petty or that I need to go with the flow. I’m so tired of this. I can’t live this way anymore. I’m so close to asking for a divorce. I love my husband and I want my family in tact. But him not caring how I feel gets so old. What do I do?”
Regardless Of Why Your Husband Is Acting This Way, A Marriage Is An Equal Partnership. Everyone’s Feelings Count: Some men were raised in a generation where the man’s desires or feelings counted for about twice as much as the wife’s. And in this same era, women were considered to be overly emotional or too needy. I had no way of knowing if this wife’s husband was raised in such a generation, but that is one perspective.
Another possibility is that some people are raised to believe that they are the only ones who matter. Some parents coddle their son’s so much that those same men grow up to think that their opinions and feelings are the ones that count the most. And while your husband may not have had any control over his upbringing, he most certainly has control of his actions now.
It’s very important that you don’t sit silent and allow him to discount or belittle your feelings. You are not being petty or asking too much to want to have your feelings matter. You are expecting to have an equal voice in your marriage. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, your children are going to grow up with your marriage as the model for their own. No one wants for their daughter to think that her feelings don’t matter and no one wants for her son to think that his feelings are the only ones who do. So I’m completely backing you up here and I support your insisting that your feelings and needs matter just as much as his. You can not expect to have a healthy marriage if they don’t.
How To Handle It When Your Husband Doesn’t Seem To Value Or Care About Your Feelings. (Attack The Behavior And Not The Person:) I believe that the worst thing that you can do is to say or do nothing and hope that this just resolves itself. Also, many wives will try to guilt, shame, or coerce their spouse into doing better. The thing is, negative strategies often do not work. You do not want to use negative reinforcement to bring about positive change. To me, the best strategy is to be very direct and firm with your request and then to heap on the praise once your request is met.
So in real life, this is how that strategy would look. The next time the husband discounted the wife’s feelings, she might respond with something like: “we will need to discuss that. Two people make the decisions in a healthy marriage based on the feelings of both people. But you are the only one making the decisions based on your own feelings. I know that you wouldn’t deliberately hurt me, but when it seems that you don’t care about my feelings, it does hurt me very much. I need to have an equal say and I need to know that how I feel matters to you. I’m your wife. I know that you love me. But I need for your actions and your behaviors to reflect that love. And when you don’t consider my feelings, I’m just not feeling it.”
Notice that you haven’t made nasty accusations or insinuated that your husband is an awful, selfish person for not caring about how you feel. He may act in selfish ways sometimes, but there is a huge difference between acting in uncaring and self centered ways and being a self centered, nasty person. It is very important to understand this distinction. Because when you approach your husband and make it sound as if it is a personal attack, he is going to be defensive. But if you are objecting to the behavior and not the person, then it’s a whole different story.
The next step would be to catch your husband caring about or considering your feelings and then praise him to whoever will listen. Because in order to stop this behavior, his attention must be drawn to it, then he must make a conscious effort to stop it. And when he does, he should be given positive reinforcement so that he wants to continue doing it. People will act in ways that are beneficial to them. If he sees that caring about your feelings makes things better for him, then he will likely want to make that happen.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t speak up when problems began in my marriage. I just hoped that things would improve, but they only got worse. So it’s important to speak up as soon as you possibly can and to be very direct about what you want and need. My husband and I did ultimately save our marriage but because I didn’t speak up early, the process was more difficult. If it helps, you can read about how we saved our marriage on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com
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