I gotta admit I’m probably not the ideal husband – at least that’s the message I get from my wife of 10 years. I’m trying to break some bad habits and she is more than happy to help me do it. The thing is, her help doesn’t help me – it just makes me feel like I’ll never get it right. I’m really not helpless but the more she steps in and tells me what to do, or does things for me, the more I don’t care. I need to lose about 20 pounds, I don’t need her to embarrass me in front of people swapping out food on my plate with a pile of broccoli. I have slipped and had a few sodas when we were at a party, but when I hear her making excuses for me it just makes me want to grab the nearest coke and guzzle it in front of her. OK, there are other things – we were at a thing last week and my boss was there; I’ve been kinda pissed off at my boss riding me all the time. What does the wife do? She goes into a big old story about how I need to be reminded to help around the house, to call my mother, and that the key to getting me to do things is to push me. Yeah, that makes me want to bring her to the next company picnic. Am I wrong to want to tell her to get the heck off my back? P.S. I was single for a good 5 years before we got married, I thought I did OK managing my life then, I thought she thought so too or why would she have married me?
It’s time to talk to your wife instead of passively complaining about her micromanagement of your life. You’re not a victim and complaining about it silently or to anyone else other than her won’t do a thing for your situation.
I’m sure it’s not going to be an easy conversation. According to your explanation, she really believes she’s helping you by pointing out the things you need to change. It’s likely she’ll feel defensive about your irritation with her efforts to reform you.
You’ve probably spent the past ten years trying to prove to her that she can’t change you and, likewise, she’s spent the past ten years proving you’ve got problems. If you want to break out of this cycle, you might acknowledge to her that you understand she has legitimate concerns about your health, family patterns, and lack of initiative. You can explain to her that you want to get out of this unhealthy pattern of her picking on you and you feeling like a victim.
I recommend you own the fact that you often dismiss her concerns to the point where she doesn’t feel understood. You can also explain that when she brings things up this way, it’s very difficult for you to take her concerns seriously.
Most couples get stuck in a self-reinforcing pattern that creates more distance between them, even though their intention is to create peace. She comes toward you with her complaints to make things smoother in her life, and you ignore her to make her go away so you can have peace.
She needs to know that you take her concerns and you need to know she’ll respect you. I’m a big fan of Sue Johnson’s book “Hold Me Tight,” which includes some excellent exercises to help couples break these negative self-reinforcing patterns that keep them stuck.
You can do something about this annoying pattern between you guys. Pick up a copy of Dr. Johnson’s book and show yourself and your wife that you’re serious about making this relationship better instead of just passively complaining about it.
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.
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