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My husband sometimes snaps at me in front of his mom. We have talked about it a few times and both apologized for whatever caused it and promised it wouldn’t happen again. But, it keeps happening and it makes me feel little, unimportant, and embarrassed. It makes me want to disappear. I don’t think he realizes how much this is affecting me, even though I’ve told him. It’s breaking my heart. I love him and I don’t know what to do, but I do know I don’t want this to continue. To make matters more complicated, we share a house with his mom. I feel that he makes decisions more based on his mom’s needs. I can understand, to an extent, but I want my husband back. Any suggestion I make gets pushed aside if his mother speaks up. It feels like my ideas aren’t valued anymore. Please help me fix my relationship.
Sometimes it takes a tremendous amount of patience to help our partners hear and understand our needs. It sounds like your situation is more hopeful than you might realize. First, your husband apologizes and feels bad for how he treats you. The fact that he cares about the impact of his behavior is no small thing. Also, I like that you’re actually telling him what you need. It’s common to expect your partner to know what you need without having to tell them.
These attempts to repair your relationship are a step in the right direction. I don’t want to minimize the pain you’re experiencing in this interaction, but I do want you to see the strengths that will help you both rise above this frustration. Here are a few suggestions you can use to build on your efforts.
First, don’t give up bringing this to your husband’s attention. He clearly isn’t hearing you enough to do something different. Even though it’s tempting to give up out of exasperation, keep finding ways to help your husband hear you. He clearly has a dynamic with his mother that prevents him from hearing you.
Tell him how important he is to you and what it does for you when you know he hears your input. Share with him how important it is for you to “be one flesh”[i] and be united in all of your decisions. He may interpret your frustration as criticism and miss the softer part of you that wants to be close to him. If he can really hear what it’s like for you to have him close to you, it may begin to change his approach with his mother. Criticizing his mom will only make it more difficult for him to hear how important he is to you.
If nothing is getting through to him, it might require you to have courage to speak up in the moment it happens. Instead of pulling him aside after he shuts you down, consider pulling him aside in the moment it happens to let him know what just happened and how it affected you. My guess is that he doesn’t see it and is trained to automatically defer to his mother. You don’t need to be confrontational and make a scene. This is a man who appears to care about your feelings, so give him the benefit and pull him aside to visit privately.
It’s better to bring these needs up regularly in small ways than wait for it to blow up. Elder Robert D. Hales described what successful couples do when they communicate about problems:
They converse with each other, thereby never letting little things become big things. They talk early about the “little hurts” with little fear of offending. In this way, when the pressure in the kettle builds and the whistle goes off, there is no explosion of bitter feelings. It is so much better to let off a little steam before the top blows off the pressure cooker.[ii]
Remember that anytime you’re living with family or friends, it’s a good idea to spend time as a couple talking about boundaries between families. You don’t want to lose the connection between the two of you now that there is a new dynamic with having a parent in the home. Sometimes we slip back into our family roles without realizing it. The more conscientious you can be about these roles and relationships, the better the outcome.
I agree that your husband most likely doesn’t understand how these dynamics affect you. You’re hurting and you need him to hear you. Stay with it and expect your husband to hear your voice. Your influence matters in this marriage. As you share your feelings with “persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and by love unfeigned,”[iii] you will increase your chances of being heard.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 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 as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
[i] Genesis 2:24
[iii] D&C 121:41