So, my husband and I have been together for 12 and a half years, married for almost eight of them. I have enabled him throughout our entire relationship and I never really saw it as a problem when it was just us. It was up to me to decide whether or not I was willing to deal with his “crap”, as it were. Now that we have children, that are almost a year old, many of the things that he has done over the years is now appearing to be very selfish, and often manipulative. Even though I know in my heart that he isn’t truly intending to be manipulative, it still ends up with the same results. I give in because it’s always been his way or the highway.
At this stage in the game, how do I learn to not be such an enabler without causing him to feel beaten down or just want to leave his family altogether?
Those, of course, are the worst possible cases, but I feel like anytime I bring something up that we NEED to discuss, it always turns into a fight and has more than once resulted in him mentioning divorce as an option… Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bad man. In fact, he’s a very kind and generous man, we have just let some things get a little out of control over the past almost-13 years…
First of all, thank you for reaching out, I know it can be hard to admit you’re aware of these problems to yourself, let alone a complete stranger! I will start by saying that in order to have and maintain a solid relationship, there is a lot of compromising that needs to happen. It isn’t fair for him to play the “my way or the highway” card, ultimately this will only cause more friction and lead to your, and probably his, unhappiness.
Manipulation in relationships can be extremely damaging. Often times you’re not even aware you’re being manipulated until you realize how unhappy you are and you end up asking yourself “How did I end up here?”. It can damage your self-esteem and your confidence in your ability to make decisions, I’ve experienced what years of manipulation can do. It’s never okay, even if you think it isn’t intentional, it needs to be addressed before it snowballs into an even bigger issue.
My husband and I agreed a few months ago that we would go to couples therapy. Not because we have a terrible relationship or because we were considering divorce, we actually have a very good relationship, but we had some issues that needed to be fixed before they turned into something unfixable. That being said, we were both willing to work on the problem and fix it together. It isn’t a one-way street where you or he does all the work, people say marriage is hard for a reason and that’s because it does take work and dedication.
Good communication is the most important thing to have in a relationship. I have an entire blog post dedicated to why good communication is important, which you can find here. To make a long story short, good communication is the foundation of your relationship. You need to be able to tell him how you feel, he needs to listen respectfully and vice-versa. From what I’ve learned about men, they need things spelled out in a very specific manner. We might be upset at them about something and think that we’ve explained ourselves quite clearly (in our own subtle way), when in fact they have no idea how serious the situation actually is. If this is the case, I recommend sitting down and having a very serious discussion with him about how you feel. Calmly tell him why you’re unhappy, why this is important to you, let him know about all the good things he does as a husband so he doesn’t feel like he never does anything right, and basically break it down as clearly as possible (this is how I feel right now, this is why I feel this way, this is what has bothered me in the past, this is what I feel could cause problems, tell me your thoughts, etc).
If he cares about you like he should, he will listen and take what you’ve said to heart. What I always remind my husband is that words don’t mean very much, if you can’t back them up with actions. It doesn’t matter to me if my husband says “I promise I’ll work harder at holding up my end of the chores” if he doesn’t actually hold up his end of the chores! I personally don’t care how much someone says something matters to them, or that they’re going to do something, regardless of who they are, if they don’t “practice what they preach” then maybe it’s not as important to them as it should be.
If you’ve tried communicating with him to the best of your abilities, and he still refuses to listen, then you might want to consider couples counseling. Provided you find the right counselor, they will be able to ask you questions you hadn’t thought to ask yourself. It should, at the very least, help your husband to realize just how serious this problem has become.
To specifically answer your question, you deserve to be treated well. Be strong, stand up for yourself, and treat him like you would like to be treated. There’s nothing wrong with you standing up for your opinions, or making your own decisions, and there’s nothing wrong with you expecting him to hold up his end of the bargain when it comes to your marriage, or raising your children. He is a father and a husband, and that takes patience, understanding, and dedication. Don’t let him hold divorce over your head. That is not ok.
In order to fix this problem, you will have to do some work on your end, but the majority of the work will have to be on his end. He has to want to make a change, he has to want what’s best for you, and your relationship, and your children.
To break it all down..
- Consider couples counseling
- Stand your ground
- Be honest with him
- Be true to yourself
- Your children are the #1 priority, but your happiness is also important
I hope this advice has given you some insight into how to go about resolving this issue you’ve been struggling with! Feel free to email me should you have any more questions, I am happy to help and I truly hope everything works out just the way you want it to. Keep up the good work, Mama!
For those of you with questions about an important issue you’re having in a relationship, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m happy to help! I will have a weekly post featuring relationship Q&A every Thursday so stay posted if you’re interested!