My husband is often under a lot of pressure between his job and trying to meet his responsibilities at home. He has good social skills when interacting with people outside of our home.
However, when he is with his family he easily gets upset and treats us with passive aggressive behavior such as the silent treatment or just being overall impatient. His behavior interacting with his family often leaves a wake of heavy hearts.
When I try to talk to him about it, he says it’s because he is stretched so thin, and he can’t be expected to be perfect in all areas of his life.
I don’t expect perfection, but I would like to see our family treated with the same courtesies that he extends to everyone else outside of our home. How can we encourage him to be more emotionally positive when he is with his family?
This is a difficult situation. You can see his strengths in treating others with respect and consideration. You see him giving others his best self. However, when he gets home, you and the children get his leftovers. It’s unfortunate he can’t see the discrepancy and repair it.
I’m glad you’re trying to talk with him about it. I recognize there are only so many of these difficult conversations you can tolerate. I encourage you to continue visiting with him about it as long as the conversations don’t leave you feeling more diminished. If he becomes verbally abusive or aggressive with you, then talking about it further clearly won’t help.
If he’s simply saying that he doesn’t know what to do, then perhaps he might be open to your influence. While I certainly understand that you want him to be nice and positive with your family, when people are overwhelmed, they generally can’t start with positivity.
It’s natural to want to pull away from someone until they can be polite. And, I recognize that ultimately may be your only option. But if he’s willing to stay in conversation with you, there might be more you can do.
Sometimes when we focus on the outcome we want, such as emotional positivity, the person struggling – in this case your husband – may believe you don’t care about his struggles. It’s human nature to want someone to accept us where we are before we are willing to go somewhere new with him or her.
Instead of focusing on achieving the outcome of emotionally positivity, see if you can spend more time working to understand his experience. He’s performing for the rest of the world, but he’s showing you the truth about how stuck and helpless he feels.
This is a great opportunity to invite him to share all of the ways he’s feeling stretched thin. Listen carefully and avoid giving advice or pushing him to see the bright side of things.
I recently heard someone say that “love is making room for someone else.” You may be so desperate for him to be nice to his family that it makes it hard for you to care about his struggles.
I’m certain he already feels overwhelmed with letting his family down. He sees the look in your eyes and knows that he isn’t his best self. You might be surprised at how much of an influence your interest in his struggles has on him, softening him toward you and his family. If you have the emotional resources to offer this to him, this is where I encourage you to begin.
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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