“After years of being nice and patient, I’m not sure I want to tell him what to work on.”
What do you do if you’re the wife and have tried for many years to convince him to pay a little attention to you, help you feel important, desired…instead of treating her like she’s your mother or a great roommate?
After years of being nice and patient, and usually just “getting over it”, I’m to the point where I’m not sure I want to tell him what to work on. I’m deeply hurt that he doesn’t have motivation to show interest in his own accord.
I can almost hear a chorus of readers shouting at you to just leave that man!!!
Before you listen to them or to me, know that at the end of the day, only you are going to know what’s best for you and for your situation. I do have some advice here but I know it won’t work for everybody.
I read very clearly in your question that you are tired of feeling sick and tired. It’s exhausting and draining to ask over and over again for your needs to be met, only to be left still waiting and wanting more.
It’s a painful cycle that repeats over and over again in far too many relationships.
The only thing in this pattern between the two of you that you have any control over is you. You can control what you say or do. When you change what you say or do in this pattern, everything changes.
I imagine it going something like this: After some time of moments where you don’t feel seen, heard, or appreciated, resentment starts to build. Maybe in a fit of frustration you tell him how he’s hurting you, how you’re lonely, and how you want more from you relationship.
If he ignores you completely, you probably decide not to bother or just give in to complacency. It hurts less.
If he responds positively, that must feel really good. You asked and got your needs met…for a short time, until things fall back to normal and he’s silent and withdrawing again and you go back to ignoring him. Soon, even if he is present, you no longer trust it or him because you know it’s only a matter of time before he goes away again.
And so it continues…
Until you change your message and how it’s delivered.
I heard you loud and clear with the roommate and mother comment that you’re tired of having to tell him what to do; you’re tired of giving him directions and reminders and being on top of him all the time. Being friends is nice but you want to so more than share space with him. You want to share a life.
I get that and know what that means but only because I have sat with countless men and women who have described that exact pain to me.
Most people, though, when they hear a mother or roommate comment, they only hear snark. They hear bitterness and resentment and their defensive walls quickly get mounted and they stop listening.
Check in with yourself first and be specific.
Before you consider starting the conversation again, get really clear with yourself about what you’re missing and what you want more of. Think about ways of describing it in specific and observable ways.
What does appreciation look like for you? More thank yous? How would time together feel less like roommates and more like a couple? Less TV? Leave the house? Would you be less lonely if he initiated more conversations? What are you asking to be different?
Be aware of your feelings.
After years of resentments pile up, people can sometimes tend to talk with only one feeling—anger. Anger is just is like the casing of a bullet. It’s hard and strong and protects the vulnerable feelings that lie beneath. Those feelings of sadness, disappointment, regret, etc. are the gunpowder that lie beneath your shield of your anger. Those are the feelings that you want to be able communicate when you’re ready.
How would you describe what it feels like to not have your needs met? What are the kinds of things you think and feel as a result? How do you describe your marriage to people in your inner circle?
What do you imagine it would be like if those needs were met? What would your mood be like? How would your outlook change? What would be better? What’s missing now that you think the two of you would have more of if things were to change?
Your feelings are your descriptors. They illustrate for your husband what’s been going on for you. Your feelings can also be his motivators. Some people don’t change easily, willingly, or with initiative but if they understand what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling these things, and see what they can do to make it better, that can sometimes create the shift and movement necessary for relationships to improve.
What are you going to do differently if your needs aren’t met and things don’t improve?
This is the biggie and the most important part but you can’t get here without getting your thinking more organized first.
Earlier, I said that this pattern doesn’t change until you change how you’re moving in it. Now that you’re clear in what you need and how you have been feeling, consider what you will start doing differently if your needs are not met.
Are you at a deal breaker moment?
Do you really think you’ll leave if nothing changes? If yes, than he needs to know that but you have to be honest with yourself. If you’re not prepared to leave, don’t say that you are.
We teach people how to treat us based on what we tolerate and part of this pattern is that you ask, he doesn’t show up, and you go back to being quiet and putting up with things.
That’s what he’s used to and he hasn’t been motivated to change.
So, what is a natural consequence when you ask for a need to be met and it isn’t? Will you ask him to go to therapy with you? Will you tell him that you’re really upset and disappointed by his lack of response and tell him that you’re going to get help, yourself, so you can decide what you’re going to do? Would you leave the big bed? Would you take some time away for yourself for a couple of days to get a break?
If he doesn’t change and doesn’t communicate a desire to change, how are you going to change? What’s going to shift with you?
Don’t set a limit or a boundary that you know you’re not going to follow through with but start to get really clear with yourself on what you will do differently if your needs aren’t met. Until you know what your limits and boundaries will be, there’s no point to having the conversation.
When you’re ready, change the pattern and have a different conversation.
This is where you put it all together. You find a time when you both can talk and be undistracted and share with him what you’ve been thinking, how you’ve been feeling, and what you need and ask him if he is willing to be more present in the ways that you need. If he says no, well, then, I’m afraid you have your answer.
If he says yes, you can breathe a moment of relief but be really clear that it’s different this time. If your needs aren’t met, things will change, and then follow through.
When you change the pattern, you change yourself, and everything changes from there.
You’ve got this.