No one likes to be threatened. And when one’s marriage is on the line and your husband is telling you that he might leave, you will naturally feel like your back is against the wall.
First of all, let me say that I am not into relationships that operate under the threat of you having to do something or not do something, just to satisfy the wishes of your husband.
There are some guys out there that will get hung up on something and will use intimidation tactics to get what they want.
I had one client whose husband was so horrible about his intimidation tactics that I had to almost plead for my client to save herself…
Far too often, when a husband is threatening to leave you, the marriage is in a bad place to begin with.
Perhaps he thinks his threat of leaving you will give him the courage of following through.
Maybe he is just a mean spirited husband.
Maybe it is not that at all. Perhaps your husband has fallen into a rut, at your expense, of moaning and groaning about all the things he does not like about the marriage.
Either way, this type of behavior, in which a husband holds his wife emotionally hostage, is poisonous to the marriage.
And if you are going through an ordeal of a threat to leave or he is actually leaving you, prepare yourself for some rough waters. But know there is a silver lining. You can read about how to navigate such troubled waters in the article I wrote below.
Why Do Husbands Threaten That They Might Leave?
If your husband is the type that lays down a breakup ultimatum, you need to understand is it probably due to a confluence of negative marital events that have been building up.
Perhaps in his mind, the problems the two of you may be experiencing may have reached a saturation point.
Maybe he is fed up, so this threat to separate from you or start divorce proceedings is reflecting a larger problem that he has been unable to get out in the open.
Or, the husband could be a real piece of work. He may be narcissistic and is making noises about ending things only to pursue his own selfish desires.
It is possible that the problems the two of you are experiencing as a couple are well embedded in his mind and so he feels there is no other recourse than to hint at what he secretly thinks he might do.
Maybe the marriage has turned into a sort of pressure cooker and your husband feels he has nowhere to turn to accomplish what he wants.
Distressed marriages can create a lot of emotional chaos for a couple and even the best of husbands or wives will succumb to the temptation of using language of a threatening nature to achieve a desired outcome.
I have seen a lot cases where the husband got so fed up with his wife, that he figured the best way to reach her was to turn to shock and awe.
But the fact is most people don’t respond well to being pushed around and backed into a corner.
When that happens within a marriage, the party being subjected to a bombardment of threats, will usually fight their way out of the position they are in.
Consequently, the marriage will take a turn for the worse.
And invariably, the couple will struggle, recover, then struggle again since the core issues have not been resolved.
Is Your Husband a Bully at Heart?
Let’s talk about another kind of threat that your husband may cast your way.
Some guys like to throw around threats and abusive type of language as a result of their personality makeup. To them, they are blowing off steam. To the recipient of their verbal fire, they are being obnoxious and self centered.
Your marriage may have withstood many occasions in which your husband’s threatening ways never played out.
It’s like he talks a good game, but when it comes to actually doing something about it, he falls short.
Still, living with a husband who behaves that way and carelessly tosses around possibilities of ending the marriage is unacceptable.
I realize that is easier said that done. People form routines and become accustomed to what their spouses say. They can usually tell when the threat is something to take seriously.
Nevertheless, a relationship tends to deteriorate if either party to it are insecure about its future.
Far to often I have heard disturbing stories of husbands that decided that being a bully was their way of exerting control in the relationship.
If your husband likes to play the role of bully or control freak, then it would not surprise me if he sought to make you feel insecure about the future of the marriage.
Does Your Husband Turn to Cruel Tactics
It is a cruel for any husband to seek to intimidate their wife.
I actually think that when husbands turn to threats to get their way, they are actually showing just how small and meek they really are.
I mean really, what kind of husband is so insecure that he has to throw his weight around to get you to do something or agree with a certain course of action.
For just a moment, conjure up a picture a big guy who is fit and muscled up, towering over his wife insisting that if she does not do this or that, he will end the relationship.
Yet, unfortunately, it happens far too frequently.
Personal power within the marriage should be evenly split between the husband and wife. When that balance is out of alignment, then usually the marriage will also fall out of alignment.
When a husband employs cheap tactics like brow beating or using his physical presence to intimidate, he is flexing his personal power in all the wrong ways.
I think of such guys as cowardly.
And if this is the kind of behavior your husband frequently turns to, then know he is showing his true colors….the colors of a guy who is deeply insecure and has some control issue or other hangups.
With some guys that is what it is all about. They may think their trump card is to utilize threatening tones about them walking out of the marriage.
And if you find yourself in such a relationship, I have some advice for you as well.
Let’s hear first from one of my actual clients.
“My husband and I have been married for 3 years. When he can’t get his way, he tries to intimidate me and gets verbally abusive. It makes me feel small and threatened. What should I do? When I stand up for myself and try to put my husband in his place, he just get’s angry and ups the ante. I have learned that to avoid constant bickering and his wrath, it is best I conform with what he is saying. I know it’s wrong and marriages are not supposed to work that way. I know my life is completely wrapped around his. But I don’t want to lose him and he is constantly reminding him that there are plenty of other women out there for him.”
My heart bleeds when I hear from clients whose husbands are domineering to such an extent that they force their wife into a submissive posture.
Such relationships are seldom happy in the long run because he balance of personal power is out of whack.
You see, in a healthy marriage , two people are connected and bonded in a way that is beautiful. They become a union. They also have an equal say in things that are important to the relationship.
But at the same time, the two loving individuals should have their own life and individual pursuits. It is perfectly reasonable for the husband or wife to do things they enjoy, even without the other party being involved.
But when you have a situation in which the husband resents and becomes angry with their wife because she is exercising some self freedom, individual thought, or pursuit of personal interests, you have the makings of a one-dimensional, self-serving marriage (i.e. self serving for the husband in this example).
What To Do If Your Husband Threatens to Make Good on Your Worse Fear?
It is said that “fear” is the mother of all of our anxiety.
We can become paralyzed with indecision when we feel threatened. We can also fall prey to what I call the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”.
In a way, if you are in a relationship in which your husband often feels it is permissible for him to threaten and push you into agreeing with him or doing things you would rather not, you are a prisoner in marriage.
Like I said earlier, there may be instances where you husband just “loses it” and starts in on you with, “you better do this…” or “if you ever do that…
But let’s say that kind of language and behavior from your husband is the exception. If such is the case, I would NOT characterize your relationship as one in which either of your hold their love as a prisoner.
We all screw up and say stupid things and impulsively insist on something that we later realize comes off as pushy and obnoxious.
But let’s say the beast has risen up out of your husband, yet again. And let’s say that this is not the first time he has sought to intimidate you with one of those either/or statements.
How should you handle it?
Well, first off, if your husband is a repeat offender in terms of trying to bully you into submission, then let’s be honest.
The problem is greater than just this once instance. He is probably used to getting his way and his threat to you could be just him reverting back to what has worked for him in the past.
Now, I am not saying your husband is on the verge of terrorizing you with his threatening ways. But when a spouse turns to manipulative behavior to achieve their desired outcome, then we what I consider a meaningful dysfunction in the marriage.
This kind of relationship dynamic (i.e. husband frequently making threats to his wife) is not sustainable, particularly if he is holding the marriage up for hostage.
Case Study of the Horny and Vindictive Husband
Let’s hear from a few other clients that had this very thing happen to them:
“My husband just freaked out because I was not in the mood. It’s not the first time he has behaved badly. I am tired of being browbeat to death. What do you do when withholds his affection as punishment. I feel victimized and pressured. I know he sometimes will shoot off his mouth and deep inside he doesn’t mean it. Sometimes he comes back and apologizes. But not this time. He is not this way all the time, but should I be worried that our marriage is hanging in the balance if I don’t want to have sex with him when he wants it?
My advice to her was to allow her husband to calm down. From what she told me, her husband did not “lose it”. It appears part of the problem is the husband’s perception of being sexually rejected by his wife. The other problem revolves around his misbehavior in the aftermath.
So it doesn’t sound like her husband is a monster or a cruel kind of guy.
Based on the other things she told me, they enjoy a relatively healthy sex life. Their frequency of intimacy is well within the normal range.
So I suggested that when he calms down she should explain to her husband, without emotion or any hint of being angry, that when he speaks to her in that way, it hurts her deeply inside. She needs to personalize the consequences and impact of his behavior.
Then I told her to reinforce that she deeply wants to have an even better sex life and that they should actively work on that together.
I told her to keep it at that. Sometimes the less you say the better. Allow the husband an opportunity to digest what has been said.
I explained that she should not expect the perfect response from her husband.
He may still grumble. There could be some after quakes.
Then I told her the next time the moment is right for both of them, she should try to introduce something new and erotic into their next sexual encounter.
Men are usually much more amenable to talking about things they hole up inside after intimacy.
Her husband would likely be more receptive to listening to her fears and insecurities about what he said in the past or how he has behaved.
Her husband, like most men, want to feel like they are protecting their wife. Particularly, their beautiful sexy, wife in which they just shared an incredible intimate moment with. Men are primal in that way.
It is important to keep the discussion positive and very brief as you don’t want it to take over the shining moment you created with your husband. Think of it as you are just planting a little seed. The power of suggestion should never be underestimated.
Case Study of the Selfish, Irresponsible Husband
Sometimes a client will have an even more serious situation in which she feels like the marriage could be on the blocks. For example:
My husband of two years is on the rampage. He keeps saying he is tired of it all and wants out. That he wants his freedom again. He won’t come out and say it exactly, but I know he is referring to our marriage. A few months ago he agreed that we should start a family, but it took months to get him to that place. I am afraid his threatening tones with me is a harbinger of worse things that will happen. Could he be resentful of me just because I want to have his baby? He just won’t open up and talk specifics. He keeps muttering things about how he is tired of feeling stressed and tied down and that I could do better. I think my husband is having a crisis of sorts, but I am not sure what to do.”
At first glance, it seems like my client’s husband is acting like a real ass.
We men can do that. It is sort of wired into our nature. We can get into our selfish uncommunicative mode and retire to our man cave. Meanwhile our wife is out there trying to figure out what is wrong with us and what to do.
Efforts to talk with us can be met with silence or pleas to just leave us alone.
I told my client that there comes a time when you draw the line and she was nearing that place. It is not sustainable to allow your husband to resort to constantly threatening to possibly dump you.
Sometimes you give a guy time to work things out.
You can gently steer him back to the right path. But once his harangue becomes a routine, that is when things are out of control.
So I suggested to her a two-step plan.
Step 1: When he starts back into his dialogue of “woe is me” and starts complaining about stress. Agree with everything he says. Tell him he does look stressed and confused and that he obviously needs time to work it out.
Then turn it around and tell your husband that you too are also feeling a lot of stress and confusion because your husband keeps running down the marriage and hinting around at leaving.
Speak of him in the 3rd person (e.g. My husband seems lost).
Then explain to him, in an unemotional, calm way, that you are going to be leaving the house for a day or two so you can work through some of the feelings of rejection you are experiencing.
Tell him he will have the entire house to himself to work through his issues.
State that eventually the two of them will need to sit down and have an honest and open discussion because you no longer want to live this way (i.e. with the threat of something foreboding hanging over you).
Step 2: At this stage, there is usually one of two things that will happen. Your husband will try to stop you from leaving and want to sit down and really talk about what is going on.
Essentially, you have given him a taste of what the repercussions are of his behavior. You have set down a marker as to what you will tolerate and he has folded his cards.
Of course, it does not mean that all your troubles are solved. But it is a step in the right direction.
My client had been understanding and had tolerated several instances in which her husband made veiled references about leaving her. But now she should convey that she will no longer be a willing party of that kind dialogue.
Furthermore, by taking this kind of approach, you are essentially saying that the marriage is off the tracks and an intervention of some kind is needed.
It could be a type of martial intervention where both husband and wife can work it out by sitting down and talking to get to the heart of the problem.
Or if need be, the intervention could be seeking marriage counseling from an outside party.
Your Husband Acts Like He Doesn’t Care
The other way this could turn is the husband halfheartedly or even angrily says,”go ahead and leave”
In which case, you should do exactly what you said you would do.
You are not storming out with outrage and bitterness.
Rather you are calmly getting your overnight bag (which you would have packed ahead of time) and walking away.
As an added touch, consider telling your husband you love him as you leave and genuinely tell him you hope he can chase away the “demons” he is wrestling with in his mind.
Step 3: During your 1-2 nights away, try not to over process things. Call a girlfriend to spend time with you if you think you need some moral support.
Essentially what you are doing is giving both yourself and your husband time to decompress. The idea is you want your husband to eventually recognize that he is behaving badly, otherwise you would not be instituting this cooling off period. You want him to realize that he set these events into motion with the things he has said.
So if he is upset with where all this has ended and that you are gone, then he should be upset with himself. Sometimes it takes awhile for a guy to get to that place where he can accept that his irresponsible comments has mushroomed to a bigger problem.
If your husband has been tossing out threats of leaving like such a thing is normal, it should give him cause to reconsider his behavior.
Sometimes reality has a way of crashing down on you when you see that your selfish and inconsiderate words or behaviors can have repercussions.
These situations in which you are feeling like you are being held hostage by your husband’s use of words can vary greatly depending on all circumstances.
There is not any one step solution that works for everyone.
But I do know what does not work.
A marriage will not be successful if either the husband or wife are living on the edge of their seat afraid that the relationship could come to an end.
That is dysfunction and is not sustainable. This type of situation will cause you both more harm as time goes by. And as result, you should have very little tolerance for such an environment.