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
Dear Feeling Controlled:
Thank you for your email. You were very thorough in explaining
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
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
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.