Do you find yourself saying some of the same things over and over to him?
Or making some of the same requests two or three times?
Maybe you’ve shared something important to you and there was a change for a few days or weeks, but now he’s returned back to the old behavior.
It’s maddening and painful.
By the time Tina had come to me, she’d given up on the idea that Tom was ever going to change.
She was convinced that she’d need to give up what’s important to her in order to have peace in her home.
So she held in her anger and her sadness – for the sake of the kids and her marriage. But the problem became worse.
She found herself resenting Tom and snapping at him for little things.
She looked for ways to avoid having sex.
The conversations became shorter and flatter. She discovered that even though she THOUGHT she could compromise her needs and take care of his needs, it didn’t really work – this just wasn’t a long term solution.
And Tina’s friends were no help either.
Many of them had given up on their own marriages a long time ago – vowing to hold it together for the sake of the children – hoping that things would get better if they waited.
Here’s the truth.
If you are ignoring your needs, or letting him bully you so that only his needs get met, it will NEVER get better. And that close, intimate relationship will remain out of reach.
And no amount of demanding, screaming, crying or withholding sex will get you to the loving home-life you long for. While you have every reason to feel frustrated and angry at him, the path to a loving home is not through demanding, screaming, crying or withholding sex.
Tina was at that place and felt she was out of options.
And when she made this tiny shift in her behavior, it shifted everything. Tom began to listen. It was almost like magic.
What did she do?
She made 2 changes actually.
First, she stopped talking about Tom.
Next, she started talking about herself.
It sounds simple, and in a way it is.
Though, I know, it can be hard to make these kinds of changes because your emotions can be very strong. AND, I’m not suggesting you ignore your feelings.
In fact, I’m suggesting that you speak your feelings clearly and cleanly.
In order to make this clearer I’ll be more specific about what Tina did.
She stopped talking to Tom about what he was doing that she wanted him to change – his behavior, his words. And she stopped telling him what he was doing wrong. And she stopped accusing him of things and blaming him for things – even when in her heart she felt she had every right to.
She began expressing her experience of what was happening.
She began expressing her feelings about what was happening – without pointing a finger at him or making a demand of him.
Instead of “Tom, stop yelling at the kids” she said “Tom, I get scared when you yell like that.”
Instead of “Tom, why don’t you kiss me when you get home from work?” she said, “Tom it hurts me when you come home and don’t come in to connect with me.”
Now to be sure, the change didn’t happen overnight.
Tom resisted at first. Defended himself. Tried to turn the conversation around and accuse Tina.
But Tina stuck with it and didn’t take the bait. When Tom would resist, Tina would restate her feeling, without blaming him.
You see, when we blame someone, they feel they have to defend themselves. Its human nature.
But when you express your experience, your feelings, there isn’t this automatic need to defend.
Most of us aren’t used to talking like this. We buy into the myth of “constructive criticism.” I will just tell him in a nice way what needs to be fixed, and he will “fix himself.” And he’ll appreciate the help.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen like that.
We men hear your constructive criticism as “You suck and here’s why.”
So naturally we defend ourselves.
But when you cleanly and clearly state what’s going on with you, there is no criticism – constructive or otherwise.
My suggestion for this week is to attempt to shift your language – talk about yourself, not him.
And I invite you to check out my book, “How To Talk To A Man.” You’ll find many, many more tools, tips and scripts to help you shift your relationship, stop the fighting, and get him to finally listen to you.
Jeffrey Levine is a corporate coach and trained mediator (and Rori Raye’s husband) who works with both men and women to improve their communication, deepen their connection and remove the blocks that keep them from feeling and expressing love. He is the author of “How To Talk To A Man”, which contains invaluable advice, tools and solutions to help you avoid common relationship pitfalls, and clean things up when they go south. “Every moment presents a new choice for you: a decision about what you want – and what you believe you deserve.”