What I’d really like to have advice on is how can I tell my husband when something bothers me and not have him feel like I’m attacking him. For example, this morning he directed me several times to follow up on a minor detail. At noon I called and told him what I’d found out, and then added that it bothered me when he kept telling me to do the chore this morning, that I would prefer not to be reminded several times about something that I’m planning to take care of. I noticed that his voice changed, so I asked if what I said felt critical to him. Yes, it did, so I asked him how he would prefer I handled situations like that in the future. His response was since I tend to put off dealing with financial matters (he’s still peeved that I didn’t remember to cash in some savings bonds on the date they matured), I should tell him that I will make a call by 10am or some other time. I tried to gently tell him, I don’t really feel comfortable having to give him an exact date or time I’m going to deal with a problem, and that I’d appreciate him letting me deal with a problem in my own way.
I’m trying to use “I” statements, convey how I react to certain behaviors, and what would help me in the future. But he’s always seems to have a reason why what he did was appropriate and seems to miss the fact that his behavior is been bothering me. He told me the other night, that he considers it important to let me know when I’m doing something wrong (that time it was not watering the new landscaping plants correctly). I tried to convey to him, that it was far better to let me make mistakes and have to live with the consequences than to be told how to do everything. I’ve nursed new plants through hot summers before and every reason to suspect that I’d do the same this summer too.
All I want is to be treated as an adult-I don’t need him checking on how or when I’m going to deal with a problem that’s mine and mine alone. And that unless I ask for his help, I find his advice-giving, doubting whether I’ll take care of something in a timely fashion (according to his timetable) very insulting! I’m quite competent and capable. Signed, Feeling Controlled.
Dear Feeling Controlled: Thank you for your email. You were very thorough in explaining what’s happening in your communication with your husband. I understand why you would find his advice giving and doubting whether you’ll take care of something in a timely fashion very insulting.
You are on the right track with using “I” statements. In addition you could also own your feelings and allow him to own his. In other words no one can make us feel anything. We are 100 percent in control of our feelings. You cannot make your husband feel criticized. He is in charge and in control of his feelings. You are trying to express yourself without blaming him but he has free will to respond however he sees fit.
Here are some suggestions you could try.
1. Arrange once a week family meetings that will allow time for you to express your concerns with each other’s behaviors and the relationship. These meetings should last no longer than 30 minutes and if necessary set a timer. Give your husband an option of times to meet. For example “Honey
I’d like to talk about how I’m feeling like a child in this relationship. Is tonight at 7 good for you or would tomorrow morning be better?” Family meeting allows you to keep the rest of the time in the relationship safe from issues knowing you will have a family meeting to discuss the hot topics.
2. Come up with a secret code word that you and your husband agree on that can be used if either one of you is feeling criticized or judged. This saves allot of wasted words and will allow you to clue your mate if there is something being said that might offend or hurt. For example our code word was “bingo”. The minute one of us heard that word we would know to change the subject or rephrase what we were saying in a more positive way.
3. If the following is true try to say something like this at your first meeting. Ask your husband to just listen to you and not to respond until you have completed your statement. Say the following. “Honey I’ve been feeling like a child in our relationship. I feel you are more like a boss or parent to me rather than a team mate. I understand you think you are helping me. I, however don’t feel helped I feel hurt, angry and insulted. We obviously have different styles in how we handle situations and I would like to handle my issues in my way. Neither style is right or wrong they are just different. What I need from you from now on is more validation and acceptance to let me be me. I need to handle things in my own time and in my own way so I can learn and grow.”
We feel the number one destroyer of an intimate relationship is criticism. All criticism has one thing in common … It is all unwelcome. Please check out our book Talk to Me for more advice on how to communicate in a positive way.
Ann if you haven’t already please check out the articles on our web site titled “Get Off the Merry Go Round” “Change and Grow” and “NAME Statement.” There is information in these articles that I feel you will find useful.
Also if you and your husband haven’t taken a personality inventory like the Myers/Briggs there is a great book called “Please Understand Me” by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates that has a personality profile questionnaire that I feel you and your husband will find very enlightening. My husband and I took it and we give it to many of our clients. It allows for more self-evaluation and understanding. It will make you aware of the different styles you and your husband have and how you can communicate with these styles.
Please understand you have free will. This advice is given only in the realm of personal growth and self-help. This is not to be considered a substitute for therapy or professional counseling. We wish you well.