Relationship Connection: My husband humiliates me in public

Question

My husband and I have been married seventeen years. We’ve got an issue that keeps bothering me and I’m not sure I can tolerate it any longer. When my husband gets frustrated or angry, he takes it out on me. He speaks to me disrespectfully and, to my way of thinking, abusively. He yells at me and speaks to me as if I were a complete idiot or a child. He does this regardless of where we may be at the time.

He treats me as if I were less-than and I find it demeaning. He diminishes my love for him every time he does this. I’ve repeatedly asked him not to speak to me that way and not to treat me that way, especially not in front of others who then look at me with pity in their eyes but he continues to do it. He always says, “I’m sorry,” later, but to me, his apologies are worthless and empty because he keeps on doing it. If he were really sorry for it, he’d stop doing it.

I am tired of being ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated in public by his poor treatment and behavior and I’m tired of being pitied for enduring it. I can’t take it any longer and I don’t want to either.

I do love him but I have had enough. How do I get him to see that he is destroying our marriage with his behavior?

Answer

Getting a loved one to see the impact they’re having on us isn’t always easy. As you painfully described, it’s often the case that our loved ones have no clue how certain interactions cause damage to the relationship. It’s a good thing you want to do something about this. I can’t see this changing without some direct action.

Before you begin setting boundaries with your husband, it’s important to get support so you’re not alone as you try and change these deep patterns in your marriage. You can start by reading “Love Without Hurt” by Dr. Steven Stosny, an expert on helping couples in emotionally abusive relationships. Getting this type of education and clarity will help you decide what direction is best for you and your relationship.

Since your pleas to have him stop treating you this way both publicly and privately aren’t effecting any change, I recommend you try going the other direction and creating more distance from him. It’s normal for us to move away from loved ones when our attempts to have them see us don’t work. This is not a game of hiding so he sees you. This is about protecting yourself from damaging interactions. While divorcing your entire marriage shouldn’t be your first option, divorcing yourself from that particular pattern of complete disrespect is a good idea.

You might start with deciding that you won’t spend time with him in public. If he wonders why you want to create distance, you can explain how you aren’t going to tolerate him humiliating you in front of others. If you’re not around, he can’t humiliate you. While this might bring on more criticism and insults from your husband, it will provide you with more clarity about whether or not he’s willing to take your concerns seriously.

Imagine how long you would hang around if you were in a dating relationship with him. Former president of Brigham Young University, Jeffrey R. Holland, counseled students that when dating others, “I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor. Life is tough enough without having the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this person’s care you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.”

If this type of behavior warrants immediately ending a dating relationship, it certainly makes sense to create some space in a marital relationship. Your dignity as a human being is at stake and you have to teach him how to treat you. If you have children, you certainly don’t want them to believe this is how intimate relationships should operate.

It’s time to stop pleading and to take action so you can have emotional safety. He may not understand what you’re doing, but it will create a new interaction that might produce a much-needed change in your marriage.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

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22 Comments

  • koolaid August 27, 2014 at 7:11 am

    After 17 years with your Dixie guy you still haven’t learned your place in the kitchen and to do as you are told to be worthy? And if you quit acting, dressing and talking like your kids, maybe he wouldn’t treat you like you are one of them.

    • Rachel August 27, 2014 at 11:36 am

      LOL! Right… I will give you the dressing/talking like the kids, but doing what you’re told? Buddy, I’m one of the most bull-headed people you’ll meet. I don’t do ANYTHING that I haven’t decided to do. I am a member because I want to be, not because someone has told me I have to be. I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you do a bit more research about the LDS church before commenting further.

      • Koolaid August 27, 2014 at 6:03 pm

        Huh? Zzzzzzzz…. Don’t you have a group public nursing event to attend?

  • How could you August 27, 2014 at 7:34 am

    I am so surprised by this response. As a man who struggles with handling my frustrations I can honestly say, this advise, in my case, would only make things worse. So many times men are humiliated in a barrage of different ways by our spouses (for me it’s affection) and then when we can’t suppress our feelings any longer we raise our voice or some other action we regret. It does not mean we don’t love our wives. I love mine deeply!
    I certainly hope you have more background than is shared in the article…. I sure am tired of blame, and consequences automatically being placed on the man. There are two sides to every story. I hope they can work things out.

    • bonita August 27, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      I don’t think Geoff was saying that this happens in all relationships or that it’s always the mans fault. He was telling her, in this case, that she needs to stop letting her husband mistreat her. She shouldn’t have to put up with verbal abuse, and unless she changes the situation it’s gonna continue to happen. And BTW – if you do love your spouse deeply, work on learning how to treat her well. We all do things we regret, this woman sounds like it has been a habitual problem for 17 years! It’s a good thing to try to make things better, even when couples already know they love each other.

  • herd August 27, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Like many others of the herd, did she get married right out of high school? Get married as a child, be treated like a child.

    • Rachel August 27, 2014 at 11:39 am

      There are plenty of marriages that have happened straight out of high school that have been successful. Your comment is ignorant and misleading. Off the top of my head I would say, Bono, Bon Jovi, and Ron Howard are good examples…

      • DNA August 27, 2014 at 6:05 pm

        He should test the kids’ DNA.

  • Dana August 27, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Tell him to back off or you’re leaving. Why would you put up with his behavior?

  • bob August 27, 2014 at 10:24 am

    All I can’t think of right now are costco muffins.

    • Usually August 27, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Bob, I was thinking the same thing. Blueberry?

  • bobber August 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    She needs to learn to obey his priesthood authority. The next time she disrespects she’s likely to get smacked around rather than just a talkin’ to. And she’ll have deserved it…

  • Tom August 27, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I dont think saying that she is going to leave him is the right thing to do. That is exactly the behaviour that ruins relationships. They both need to find a new way of communicating. And also try not to take everything so personally. She cant talk to him with an attitude or just start talking to him and immediately go to this problem. He might feel like she is humiliating him in the same way she thinks he is humiliating her Being in any kind of relationship is not each person doing 50% and waiting for the other to do their half. It is both people putting in 100% and should be thinking “what can I give in this relationship” instead of “how can I get what I want out of this relationship”.

  • ladybugavenger August 27, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Divorce him or suck it up cupcake…you aren’t gonna change him, but you are letting him change you. I say, enough. That ain’t love.

    • ladybugavenger August 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Someone that treats you like crap, that ain’t love.

  • Tamara August 27, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I was becoming reacquainted with a distant cousin. She was telling me how her kids turned out which was great but they didn’t want much to do with her and treated her disrespectfully. She said she tried as a mother but didn’t know why her children treated her the way they did. I felt sorry for her and then I spent some time with her and her husband. He belittled and humiliated her over the smallest things several times in just the hour that I was with both of them. Her children were trained to disrespect her by their father. This woman needs to expect and even demand better treatment all the time. Not being in public is a good idea but does he put her down in front of their children? The most important thing you can do for you children is love and respect your spouse.

  • Hatalii August 27, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    You have been putting up with this for far too long. If he does this to you in public, does he do even worse when you are alone? If not, that is very surprising.
    Dump the bum and get on with your life!

  • Boys will be boys August 27, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    These statistics describe how Utah boys will be boys
    http://www.health.utah.gov/vipp/domesticViolence/overview.html

  • Koolaid August 27, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Have a bunch of babies by the jerk and then look for someone else to pay for them.

  • Burton August 27, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Tell him to go pound sand! your cute, call me!? (it is the women in the picture who wrote this right!!!???)

  • Bobber+aids=Koolaid August 27, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Why does Bobber and Koolaid not use their real names when an article is written about them. I guess it’s the same in human lives or troll lives. Which one of you two trolls pitches and which one catches. I guess it doesn’t matter as long as your both playing ball. Trolls do like playing ball?

  • The Rest Of The Story August 27, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Divorce him, move on and find someone who appreciates you.

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