How can I have kind feelings for my husband when he will not change what I feel is a negative behavior and a poor example to our children? I want to work on my attitude and be happy and loving despite his actions. He has a good income and enjoys spending money. He doesn’t want to save for our future so we have nothing for retirement. He says he will just keep working. We are still renting after 29 years of marriage because he hasn’t had the discipline to save for a house. He pays our taxes and those of his business but he is 2-3 years behind in filing because he doesn’t like to deal with it. I have begged him to let me help with the taxes but he won’t let me because they are messed up and too complicated and I think he is embarrassed.
I don’t want a big house. I just want us to be financially stable and not have to move every few years because of rent issues. I want us to be responsible with our money and talking about it over the years has changed his spending habits.
When we got married, I liked to shop and spend money but I have changed and now I am frugal. I try to be understanding and I don’t get mad at him anymore to his face, but it’s difficult at times to control my negative thoughts towards him. I work on trying to be grateful for what I have and I focus on trying to be a better person and not have resentment towards my husband. Since I can’t change him, I want to change myself.
I agree you can’t change your husband, but you can keep working to have him hear and understand what this has been like for you over the years. Focusing on being kinder isn’t going to fix the healthy need you have to know your husband cares about how you feel. Your resentment and unkind feelings aren’t surfacing because he’s financially irresponsible; they’re springing from the longing you have to know he sees and cares about your fears and pain.
Instead of challenging him on his financial decisions or even offering to help him fix things so you can feel better, ask him if he’s willing to hear what it has been like for you to live with so much uncertainty. I’m guessing you’ve tried to do this already with your begging and pleading over the years, but I encourage you to stay with it and not go silent. Just because he doesn’t know what to do with your fears doesn’t mean you should stop sharing them.
You can also shift the conversation from encouraging him to be more financially responsible to trying to better understand where he’s coming from with his financial decisions. The fact that he’s been stuck in this pattern of financial chaos for all these years makes sense to him at some level. The more you can both understand where he’s coming from with his financial choices, the better you can respond to each other. You may hear things that help you better understand his perspective and struggle, which will soften your experience with him. You may also better learn how to share with him why this is so scary for you. He needs to hear this from you and allow it to influence him.
When couples are stuck in patterns like this, it’s usually a good time to work with a marriage counselor who can not only help him hear you in a way that touches his heart but also help you hear why he struggles so much to respond to your fears. There are reasons he struggles to hear what you’re trying to say to him. I also suspect he’s trying to say something to you that’s difficult for you to hear.
Let him know you aren’t going to badger him to do things your way anymore, but you only want to know that he really hears and understands what this is like for you so you can have the experience of being seen and understood. He also needs the same experience with you. As you both work to open this up with each other, you will be more likely to create some flexibility and responsiveness to each other’s needs.
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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.
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