My husband and I have been married seventeen years. We’ve got an issue that keeps bothering me and I’m not sure I can tolerate it any longer. When my husband gets frustrated or angry, he takes it out on me. He speaks to me disrespectfully and, to my way of thinking, abusively. He yells at me and speaks to me as if I were a complete idiot or a child. He does this regardless of where we may be at the time. He treats me as if I were less than and I find it demeaning. He diminishes my love for him every time he does this. I’ve repeatedly asked him not to speak to me that way and not to treat me that way, especially not in front of others who then look at me with pity in their eyes but he continues to do it. He always says, “I’m sorry” later, but to me, his apologies are worthless and empty because he keeps on doing it. If he were really sorry for it, he’d stop doing it. I am tired of being ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated in public, by his poor treatment and behavior and I’m tired of being pitied for enduring it. I can’t take it any longer and I don’t want to either. I do love him but I have had enough. How do I get him to see that he is destroying our marriage with his behavior?
Getting a loved one to see the impact they’re having on us isn’t always easy. As you painfully described, it’s often the case that our loved ones have no clue how certain interactions cause damage to the relationship. It’s a good thing you want to do something about this. I can’t see this changing without some direct action.
In an article called “The Invisible Heartbreaker”, Ensign assistant editor Judy C. Olsen outlined important steps individuals can take when facing emotional abuse in their marriages. One of those steps involves seeking truth so you can better navigate the emotionally confusing terrain of living with an abusive spouse.[i]
As you begin setting boundaries with your husband, it’s important to get support so you’re not alone as you try and change these deep patterns in your marriage. You can start by reading “Love Without Hurt” by Dr. Steven Stosny, an expert on helping couples in emotionally abusive relationships. Getting this type of education and clarity will help you decide what direction is best for you and your relationship.
Since your pleas to have him stop treating you this way both publically and privately aren’t effecting any change, I recommend you try going the other direction and creating more distance from him. It’s normal for us to move away from loved ones when our attempts to have them see us don’t work. This is not a game of hiding so he sees you. This is about protecting yourself from damaging interactions. While divorcing your entire marriage shouldn’t be your first option, divorcing yourself from that particular pattern of complete disrespect is a good idea.
You might start with deciding that you won’t spend time with him in public. If he wonders why you want to create distance, you can explain how you aren’t going to tolerate him humiliating you in front of others. If you’re not around, he can’t humiliate you. While this might bring on more criticism and insults from your husband, it will provide you with more clarity about whether or not he’s willing to take your concerns seriously.
Imagine how long you would hang around if you were in a dating relationship with him. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, shared the following counsel with students:
“I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor. Life is tough enough without having the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this person’s care you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.”[ii]
If this type of behavior warrants immediately ending a dating relationship, it certainly makes sense to create some space in a marital relationship. Your dignity as a human being is at stake and you have to teach him how to treat you. If you have children, you certainly don’t want them to believe this is how intimate relationships should operate.
It’s time to stop pleading and to take action so you can have emotional safety. You are giving him a chance to see the interaction differently so he can turn things around and treat you with respect. He may not understand what you’re doing, but it will create a new interaction that might produce a much-needed change in your marriage.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected].
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at <a href="https://www.
<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ /><hr class=’system-pagebreak’ /><hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />marriage-recovery.com/”>www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves on the high council of the St. George, Utah young single adult second stake. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
You can connect with him at:
ConfessaAugust 18, 2016
Excellent article. I've undergone 8 years of this behavior from my husband. My confidence was destroyed & the love I have for him is no longer there. I always wondered if my putting distance between him & myself was right or wrong. I knew I had to do something & the only thing I could do was put distance between us for my emotional sanity. A little over a year ago, I moved into the guest bedroom & have been sleeping there since. To share a bed with a selfish, uncaring, insulting man, was more than I was willing to tolerate any longer. Of course, he's blaming me for all his problems. It was hard at first, but now I enjoy my sleeping alone. I have the entire bed all to myself & I don't have to lay next to a man hoping he will hold me or talk with me. I have removed that from my life. I also stopped going anywhere with him publicly. I know this sounds rash, but I am sick & tired of being humiliated in our small, gossipy community. I am better off without the humiliation. I have realized I want to stay in this relationship as I am older & do not want to move out of a 'secure' home even though the environment is distasteful. I no longer worry about whether he is cheating on me or not because the fear of love lost is almost gone. This may sound harsh or hard, but this has been 8 years in the making & I became sick & tired of talking myself blue in the face, crying, never ever receiving any comfort whatsoever & believe it or not, after a while, the love is gone. I have found things to do. I no longer associate with the community because everyone thinks I am to blame. It has made me disrespect a lot of people that I grew up with here. My alienating myself from him & the community is still in the works, though it has been over a year. If he can treat me like I am not there & treat other women like he would rather be with them than with me, then fine. I started out telling myself I don't love him. I would say it over & over again. Finally, I am at this point. He can have the other women & he can bad mouth me to boot! I just don't care anymore. He 'acts' as though it bothers him & will mention it occasionally, but I no longer believe him & fall for his antics. I am doing what he does to me - not care! If he doesn't care, then neither will I. In the meantime, I am working on myself, getting close to God, & making an alternate plans for my life such as building friendships outside of this community, going to church, finding something I can do, & possibly traveling places I always wanted to go & visit even though I have to get over my fear of going places alone when the world is so violent. I don't have to work, so I am basically free to do as I please. I recently have told him I want to be buried in my father & mother's family plot out of state. I didn't say it to hurt him. I said it because I have had to put up with his abuse in this life, & even though I will be dead & gone, I just can't stand the thought of being buried next to someone who despises me. I no longer cater to his needs which sounds selfish but not once has he cooked for me or helped me when I was really sick. He doesn't want a marriage, he wants someone to kick around & make fun of. It is not me anymore. I refuse to put myself in a position where he can bully me & I refuse to think about how awful a predicament I am in. I am living with it & getting over it. A man who cannot love is not worth dying for.