By: Leslie Cane: I sometimes hear from people who are almost feeling blackmailed within their own marriage. That’s because their spouse has made it very clear that he intends to leave them if they don’t act in the way that wants. Often, there is a conflict that keeps coming up over and over again. But, other than working through the issue, one spouse decides to attempt to bully the other and makes it clear that if the conflict isn’t solved through one spouse “giving in” or doing what the other spouse wants, then the dissatisfied spouse is just going to solve the conflict by walking out on their marriage.
To demonstrate this, I might hear a comment like: “my husband wants several things from me because he isn’t happy in our marriage. He wants me to lose weight. He wants for me to be more attentive to him. He wants for me to do more around the house because he thinks that I am too lazy. He has been harping on these things for months. But apparently, I haven’t been moving at the speed that he had hoped because yesterday he told me that he’s still very unhappy and that he is going to have no choice but to leave me unless I accomplish these tasks that he has laid out. He says that I look like I have gained weight rather than lost any. He says that the house has never looked worse. It makes me feel just awful when he says these things. It makes me feel like I am lazy and unmotivated. And honestly, when he is this mean to me, I feel like it is less likely that I am going to comply with his requests although I know that I must. I don’t want to feel so angry at my husband. I feel like he is blackmailing me. What can I do? Other than just do what he wants?”
It Can Help To Understand This Thinking: I have to agree with the wife in this case. This is almost the equivalent of emotional blackmail. It’s not a nice way to treat your spouse and it’s not a nice tactic to take. With that said, I hear from a lot of husbands in this sort of scenario on my blog and they will likely tell you that they stooped to this level because nothing else has worked. Often in their mind, they have asked their spouse nicely to make these changes and she took no action whatsoever. So his thinking is that he has to do something drastic in order to get her attention. He thinks that he has to make a veiled threat in order to get the changes that he wants because otherwise, his marriage is going to remain the same and he is going to remain unhappy. So although his methods are questionable and a bit cruel, in his own mind, he is simply trying to get results.
It’s optimal if you can show him or allow him to see that by making these threats, he is actually making it less likely to get what he wants. It’s optimal to show him that the better strategy is to treat you with kindness in order to inspire you to want to change. But first, you may went to take some inventory.
Look At Which Requests Are Valid: Before you approach your husband about this, it can help to take an honest inventory. Ask yourself which of his requests are fair and actually valid. In this scenario, the wife admitted that she could stand to lose some weight and she admitted that the house could use some improvement. But she resented being asked to be more attentive to her husband when he himself was not all that attentive to her. So, she didn’t have a problem with two of the requests, but she resented how the requests were being presented to her.
The Next Step: I felt that the next step was to have a direct conversation about this. The next time the husband brought this up, she might say something like: “I’m well aware that you feel this way because you have brought it up multiple times. I have thought a lot about this. I don’t think that a few of your requests are unreasonable. I admit that I need to lose some weight and keep the house a little neater. But, I don’t need for you to threaten me in the way that you are. It hurts my feelings and it makes me not want to do anything because of the way that you have presented it to me. It makes me feel belittled and bullied. I know that isn’t your intention. I know that you don’t want to hurt me. I know that you just want to see some changes in our marriage. But how would you like it if I told you that I was going to abandon you if you didn’t do something arbitrary like bring home more money for the household? How would that make you feel? I wouldn’t do that to you. So I’m asking you to change the way you approach this. I think that I would be more motivated if you would ask me nicely and would treat me with dignity and respect. I’d love for you to go to the gym with me. I think that would motivate me much more. But no matter how we accomplish this, I’m asking you to not make threats but instead to make requests and then to support me. Are you willing to do this?”
Hopefully, this conversation will be all that is needed. If he continues on, you will likely have to keep drawing his attention to this and asking him to do better. When he does do better, then that is when you want to start doing what he’s asked of you. In this way, you are literally showing him that he is going to get the results that he wants when he makes the request in a pleasant way.
My husband wanted many changes from me before he would come home from a trial separation. I resented this and it only made our situation worse. But I chose to approach it from another angle and this helped greatly. If it helps your situation, you are more than welcome to read more on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com
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