Do you ever roll over in bed wondering how you ended up with a husband that is lazy and selfish?
The other day a woman named Leslie reached out to me. Her story was about a marriage that was breaking apart at the most basic of levels.
It is more than reasonable to expect that the person you are married to will meet the minimum threshold of treating you with kindness and courtesy.
This is what we all come to expect before we even get married. Treat me lovingly. Talk to me like I am your equal. Show me your respect and offer kindness at every opportunity.
These are the pillars in which marriages are erected. If those things are not happening with great frequency, why get married?
But what if after some years of being married you are left asking, “why is my husband so selfish and inconsiderate“? What if you are left wondering if your husband’s insensitivity to your feelings is a reflection of more bad times to come?
If this is what is going down between you and your husband (or wife) then it is a bad place to be marriage wise.
Leslie share her story with me and it was heart breaking.
I hate it when I hear these stories about spouses mistreating each other such that one or both of them revert to their uglier selves.
I know we are all capable of being “our ugly self”, but when it happens with great repetition in a relationship, it is almost always a harbinger of a looming breakup.
Chris, I am so glad you are out there to help us ladies who are stuck with men who show little interest in behaving themselves. When things go wrong in my marriage, I am left fending off unfair accusations and other assertions meant to intimidate me. My husband can revert to his worse instincts when troubles arise. With very little provocation, my husband can be thoughtless and selfish, unwilling to show the respect and honor I deserve.
She listed out a number of things that she was unhappy about.
My husband does not respect my boundaries or my privacy. It has only gotten worse through the years. If he hates me that much, why stay around? When he is wrong about something, he will get right into my face and try to shout me down. It is a sickening display of my husband trying to be a brute.
Leslie is currently taking care of her small child. Though she is a very capable woman, whose career has blossomed, she decided to take some time off to care for and raise up her child.
Her brute of a husband, as she described him, was OK with all of that in the beginning. But he seems to have little appreciation for how hard it to do all of the things it takes to care for an infant. In reality, we all know it can be exhausting on so many levels.
But according to her husband, she had it easy.
He would just throw it out there in the form of a cheap shot if he was unhappy with something, insisting her life was stress free. He would pick arguments in order to debate his points.
“You just sit on your ass all day and meanwhile I am not seeing any progress with the kid. When are they suppose to start walking. Can’t you do more. What are you doing wrong all the time with his nap. He never goes down.”
That is how she described the callous way her husband spoke to her.
Really cruel (and stupid) assertions about such things became a common complaint.
Such hurtful words, particularly when they are repeated over and over gain, can take a toll on one’s self-esteem.
I reassured her that it is just downright wrong and mean for anyone to disrespect a young wife who temporarily has sacrificed her career to focus on her child.
“My husband does not respect me as a stay at home mom”, Leslie explained to me. “And he is all too eager to talk down to me like what I do is so easy. He has no clue and refuses to help when he gets home from work. All it get is complains. Just a big mouth guy. I call him Mr. Petty, because that is what he is. A mean, petty guy.”
“I don’t even know where to start. I think he regrets having our child and has anger issues. It has changed our lifestyle for sure. But I see my baby as a blessing. He wasn’t this bad in the beginning. I am really weary,” she said.
“He has me thinking I am not doing a good enough job or that what I say is hard and exhausting, shouldn’t really be that difficult. One part of me understands that being a Mom at home is big time job. But my husband’s tone can be so demeaning and his insistence that I am just awful at what I do really hurts and has me second guessing”.
Of course, since I have some experience with this as a father who works from home, I know how incredibly taxing it is to care for a youngster. It is a huge adjustment for any parent to make.
So I assured her that her husband was behaving in a very insensitive way. I told her that if his selfish and inconsiderate behavior should persist, it did not bode well for the future. But there were options.
Before we get into how to handle a self-absorbed and disrespectful husband, I want to discuss what a lack of respect might look like in different relationships.
What is amazing to me is that I often get questions from women who explain what is happening in their marriage.
Some of the stuff I hear is awful. Sadly, these women are pushed around so much that their confidence and self-image suffers in a big way.
After hearing what they have to say – some of which are very sad tales – it would be fair to say this problem is not rare.
I have strong feelings about this topic because it one of the most destructive patterns that can take hold of a marriage.
I think of these patterns as Marriage Busters.
Let me give you some examples of how selfishness manifests itself in marriage.
What Does a Bad Marriage Look Like?
You are probably wondering what you should do when respect, courtesy, and plain old good manners has abandoned the marriage?
This is the question I posed to Leslie.
You might be wondering how to change your selfish husband, right?
It is not enough to tell me or your close friends that “my husband doesn’t show me respect anymore”.
It might feel good to get that out, I explained, but what is most important is how will you change his behavior, such that you are no longer being victimized by him being a bad boy?
We are not talking about him straightening up his act for a few days. What is needed is an approach that jars your husband to a new reality.
You might say to yourself, “my husband seldom respects me or my feelings.”
You might stay up nights fretting how to deal with being married to such an inconsiderate man.
But until he knows that he can’t keep behaving this way – that you are now adopting a zero tolerance policy – he will just keep misbehaving, without any fear of consequence.
Disrespect and lack of consideration, these are the vices of selfish men.
If you are like Leslie, who came to me and explained how her husband made her feel small and insignificant, then I want you to know that you have options.
“My husband disrespect me in public and refuses to change”, she elaborated.
“He gets his kicks out of belittling me“, she explained.
I told her what she had described was not just a marriage that was coming off its tracks, but even more concerning to me was that her man was exhibiting all the characteristics of a selfish, abusive husband.
There should be little room for selfishness in a marriage, particularly if you are rearing a little one.
Realizing that my outrage was coming across in a very visible way, she tried to defend her husband, explaining that he was under a lot of pressure and that perhaps she was exaggerating his outbursts to some degree.
“He is not bad all the time.”
Of course, the cat was already out of the bag. She had spent a few hours telling me about her husband and his selfish and contentious ways. So I led her down a little Q & A marriage reality test.
Did he tell you that you were worthless, I asked?
She said yes.
Did your husband publicly humiliate you at a party because you were worried about the baby?
Again, she said yes.
Does your guy get his kicks by making fun of you? How you look? Your weight gain? Your cooking? You lack of experience in caring for your child? Doesn’t he constantly pick at you?
In this case, I struck a nerve with Leslie.
It was the wake up call I was looking for because I have seen far too many times, some really lovely and amazing women feel ashamed and therefore downplay just how abusive their husbands can be.
She told me that the biggest negative fallout from her marriage was her husband’s insistence that he was always right and if you argued his points, he would resort to belittling you. She explained that sometimes he would get right into your physical space.
I know the selfish husband signs when I see them, I explained to her.
And I also know that two of the top marriage busters are when men or women mistreat each other, expressing little kindness and showing little consideration of the other’s needs.
She asked me what was the other marriage buster.
I explained that it is when a couple is unable to honestly talk to each other about their problems in a spirit of truly fixing it.
To me, choosing not to respect your wife’s (or husband’s) perspective is the purest form of selfishness.
We are not born to be disrespectful. We choose to be.
So how will a couple ever improve, if they can’t have a real conversation without it breaking down into intimidation tactics, shouting, and counter accusations?
I emphasized that if an honest communication bridge cannot be erected and crossed, then the two parties in the marriage become emotionally separated. In effect, they are trapped in a loveless marriage.
They become stuck in a relationship environment that leads them to more fights and more disappointment.
And it is that cycle that ends up busting the marriage wide open.
Tell Your Husband Your Story
So Leslie wanted to know what she could do to save her marriage.
I was honest with her and told her she first needed to focus on learning to love herself again. I wanted her to cast away all those ugly assertions she remembers her husband making. Throw them in the garbage as that is where they belong.
I explained to her a paradigm shift in her marriage needed to take place.
I told her she shouldn’t ask for respect and consideration, rather she should make it understood that mutual respect in the relationship should be a condition for the marriage to go forward.
She asked, “You mean I should threaten to walk out on him or kick him out if he doesn’t treat me right?”
I told her that is not quite the approach I want you to take.
“But mind you“, I explained, “if your husband continues to repeatedly turn to belittlement and sarcasm to knock you down, it will take something major to get his attention.”
Otherwise, why stay together because by doing so you are enabling his behavior and making yourself miserable.
For Leslie, this was a hard ask.
She and her husband had long ago fallen into this routine where he too often disrespected her and was getting away with it. It seemed to happen in waves. Not always, but if certain conditions were present, her husband retreated into his negative self.
I know he is selfish and I have told him to straighten up his act. But after a few good days, something usually goes haywire and I end up having to deal with his outbursts. I have almost just given up trying to change him and have resigned myself to this is the way he is.
I told her that it is not usually enough to ask someone to change, particularly selfish people, unless they realize it benefits them to do so.
None of us are perfect angels in how we conduct ourselves in our marriage life.
It is far too easy for any of us to succumb to our worse selves and allow our bad moods to just simmer over.
Not that this happens all the time. It usually doesn’t.
But in some marriage couplings, this lack of being a good man to your wife (or a loving wife to your husband) can afflict the marriage far to often.
It can become a routine that a wife grudgingly just accepts as something they have to put up with, while hoping their husband’s mood will brighten in due time.
So I suggested that she write down, very clearly, examples of when her husband shows disrespect and behaves in a manner that is inconsiderate.
Call it “My Zero Tolerance List“.
Write it down like a story of statements that you have about your husband’s undesirable and selfish behaviors. Pose them as questions.
You are going to read it to him. You will also leave it with him to read on his own. Of course, this approach may very well provoke a reaction. And it’s not just words that you will be reciting. Words, however powerful they may sound, can get swept away unless they can be enforced or unless there is something that stands behind their meaning.
So what leverage do you have to encourage your husband to open up his heart and recommit to better policing himself to behave better, treating you with the utmost respect and consideration you deserve?
It is simple. But it could be hard.
And for some couples, it is the best choice.
Either your husband gets on aboard and commits wholeheartedly to the things you are asking him to do, are you will step out of the marriage for a few weeks to consider your options.
You can use those words – “step out of the marriage” – to underscore how serious and important this matter is to you.
Now this approach is not for everyone.
My recommended action is for a wife (or husband) who is suffering tremendously from the things we have been talking about. If such is the case, then I do think a major intervention, such as this, could be beneficial.
Also, when you are writing all this down, I want you to talk about your husband in a past tense.
Think of it as having a conversation with yourself. Psychologically, it will do you well to remove yourself from what you are saying as you are documenting it. This will allow you to truly capture what has been going on.
Get it all down, however upsetting it may be to recount some of the examples.
Later when you read it out loud, you will have greater perspective as to where you and your husband stand right now. It will give you greater pause to think about why this has been going on so long and why it is critical it comes to an end.
In effect, you are going to document the ugly words and actions that your husband sometimes undertakes and that you find upsetting, belittling, even revolting.
At the end of your story, you are going to make a simple and reasonable proposal. You are looking for him to commit that he will cease behaving in this manner.
Your story, about whatever abusive or mean-spirited behavior you have been subjected to by your husband, should be told by way of declarative statements.
Think of it as an open diary.
The idea is that as your story is read, he will visibly see the pain his words and behavior can cause. In a way, it is an effort to help him empathize which is often a problem in these situations.
Use a tone that is objective and reinforces you love your husband very much, but don’t pull punches as to the negative behaviors he has exhibited in the past.
Remember, this document is something you want to be able to read to him and it is intended to make a big emotional splash such that your husband realizes you are deadly serious and keenly motivated to change the status quo in the marriage.
It could start off something like this. You can even give it a title for effect:
Return My Loving Husband To Me
1. What possesses my husband of all these years to shout obscenities at me when things are going wrong? It injures me and our marriage. I love him so. But I know his behavior must end.
2. Why does my sweet love speak to me with mean and accusatory tones?
3. What am I to do if my husband continues to question my suitability as his wife? I too often feel inadequate and underappreciated because of the way he talks to me.
4. What happened to the man who never took me for granted and spoke to me as his dearest, most respected companion?
5. What is my husband thinking inside when he makes so many belittling and negative comments about me and my capabilities?
I will stop there with my example. But be sure to end it with a declaration that you want your marriage to be better.
You get the hang of it.
Your story could consist of 20 declarative statements or however many it takes to paint the picture of what is going on inside the marriage.
Consider this communication tactic only if all of your past efforts to get through to him has failed. Perhaps this approach will be his wake up call, helping you both to move the marriage away from failure.