Ask #staymarried: He says I complain too much, and I think he’s rude. Please help!

Ask #staymarried - advice on marriage, love, and relationshipsGood Evening,

I am a newlywed, just over 7 months of marriage. I had always heard the first year of marriage was the hardest, but knowing the relationship my husband and I had, I didn’t think it would apply to us. We were friends for over a year before we started dating, and dated for 5 years before taking the plunge. I thought we knew each other pretty well, now I’m not so sure.

He is constantly picking at me, and makes me feel bad about myself. I don’t think he tries to do it on purpose, but it’s always something I’m doing wrong or something I said that’s wrong. Sometimes I’m not even sure what things I should say out loud. I always end up being the one to say sorry just because I don’t like the awkward feeling in the house. But a lot of times I’m not sorry because I don’t feel I did something wrong.

Most recently, I told my husband I was annoyed that UPS was taking so long to deliver packages I have been waiting for, that they keep on delaying. Just expressing my frustration and he basically responded with a get over it, that’s life type thing. It was in a very rude manner and it made me really upset. Now I can’t even vent to the only person I see every single day? He said that I’m always complaining about things. This type of thing happens more often in different ways, and I keep reminding myself that most days it probably just isn’t worth saying anything at all.

But can I really live the rest of my life not saying when something is bothering me? I don’t know what to do anymore, and I think because of it I don’t love my husband as much as I once did.

Please help me.

Tired Wife

Dear Tired,

First, I’m so sorry things are tough right now, but I do think we can help.

It sounds like your husband may be a fixer. I imagine he’s a problem solver, a solutions guy. Am I right? He enjoys looking at an issue, finding a way to fix it, getting straight to the fixing, and moving on with life. He’s great to have around in a crisis, like when you get a flat tire on the freeway, because he’s unruffled by the stress of blocking traffic and crying kids in the back seat. He’s just going to change the flat and get you all back on the road again. He may not be cheerful while he’s doing it, but he’ll get the job done. Phew! Problem solved.

The issue I see is that, when you are venting a frustration or complaining, he may hear that as you coming to him with a problem to be solved. Since, in the case of the late UPS delivery, he isn’t very well going to hurry the UPS guy along, the solution seems to be to help you “get over it.”

"Behind every complaint is a deep personal longing." - Dr. John Gottman on #staymarriedThe reality is that, when we complain, it’s more often because we are looking for connection than solutions. It’s tricky, because until we feel rejected, like you did when he sort of said “that’s life,” we may not even realize that it was connection we were hoping for in the first place. Your response of shutting down and deciding to hold back your feelings sounds exactly like something I would do. I always feel like expressing my feelings is a risk, whether it’s with my husband or with a friend, so I tend to be a little gun-shy. Then, if I think my feelings or opinions have bothered someone or haven’t been received well, I shut down.

When we feel rejection, it is a sign that the person who rejected us is not safe and we need to do the work of protecting ourselves, of protecting our wounded heart. I think that’s what’s underneath your questions about what is worth bringing up with him and what isn’t. Will it make him mad or irritated? Then, it’s not worth it. Is he going to get mad or irritated anyway? Then, what’s the point?

I’m thankful to hear you are not satisfied to simply retreat. Your frustration tells me you want more from your marriage than to simply avoid making each other mad. I’m going to go ahead and assume your husband loves you. I’m going to assume that his response to you comes from a place of wanting to take care of you, take care of things, and solve problems. I’m even going to assume he feels a certain amount of pressure to keep your marriage safe and secure, whether it’s from you or from the way he was raised or from something else entirely. With his love for you in mind, I do think there is another way you can approach him or respond when he seems so negative and critical.

Let’s play out the late UPS delivery for instance… You’ll be “Tired,” he’ll be “Cranky”…

Tired: “I cannot believe they have delayed my delivery again. I am so frustrated! How can they do this? They promised it would be here by now.”

Cranky: “Whatever. What you need to do is just get over it. It’s not going to get here any faster with you complaining. Just get over it.”

Tired: “Wow, honey. That stings. I wasn’t looking for a solution in this situation. I’m just mad. But, I’m not mad at you. I love you and I just want to be able to talk to you when I’m upset about something. I also want you to be able to talk to me when something is bothering you. I’d like for us to be that safe place for each other. Is that ok?”

Maybe you don’t need to use my script, but I think if you could tell him that it hurts when he responds so abruptly, he might consider a different approach. If you can stay calm and loving, avoid blaming, and imagine that he isn’t sure what’s behind your complaint, you may be able to verbalize in a kind way that what you really want is to connect with him. What you really want is to share life with your husband, the good stuff and the hard stuff, the fun stuff and the lame stuff. If he knew that he was making you feel small, I bet he might slow down and think of things differently.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, while he may be able to work on responding to you less aggressively, he may never give you the perfect response you are looking for. I know you are feeling wronged, but give him some patience and some grace in this area. If he is accustomed to fixing and solving, then showing empathy is not going to come easily to him. If he seems frustrated or confused about what you want, that you want to connect, come right out and tell him, “Honey, what I wish you would say is, ‘I’m sorry, babe. That’s lame.'” It’s possible that it’s as simple as giving him the words to use so that he understands what you really need.

The advice you’ve been given about the first year being the toughest is the same advice we were given. Like you, we didn’t marry quickly, and still there was a lot to learn about living with another person in a fully committed way. Clear communication is the absolute toughest thing you both will learn in this first year. But, you can do it. You can be clearer about what you mean and what you need, and he can learn to be less abrupt. You are both in a great place to figure out how to understand one another, how to communicate with love, how to respond less defensively, and how to #staymarried.

We are rooting for you guys,

Michelle

Have a question you think we could help with? We would love to hear from you! Chances are, if something is on your mind or bothering you, it’s probably bothering hundreds of other people, too. Head over to Ask #staymarried and use the form there so we can connect.

The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

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We are not therapists, doctors, lawyers, or any other type of trained experts so what we write is not to be taken as fact or prescription. We always recommend you seek professional help when it is needed. The opinions shared here are our own and do not reflect any business or organization unless explicitly stated. We will not be held liable for any negative outcomes that arise from taking our advice since we are, well, just a blog. Use your own wisdom and discretion and feel free to completely disagree with us. We won’t be offended.

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarried

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like some of these from our archives:
Ask #staymarried: My future MIL hates me. What should I do?
Two Steps to a Better Fight
♥ Sometimes My Wife Complains…

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Thanks for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

 

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7 thoughts on “Ask #staymarried: He says I complain too much, and I think he’s rude. Please help!

  1. This is really good advice for mature adults who are both willing & able to grow. I might as well be the wife who wrote in… except the situation described has been playing out in my marriage for 8 years. In my PERSONAL experience, even the most watered down, graceful statements (such as the scenario in the response script), are not met with loving discussion but rather defensive, harsh reactions that almost always lead to arguments if I choose to participate or cause me to bottle up (if I’m not up for YET ANOTHER fight).

    After many years of pain, frustration, feeling unloved, etc I stumbled on materials about personality disorders and found the information to be incredibly helpful. My suspicions about my husband have since been confirmed by a licensed counselor. The difficult thing about a situation like this is that the “fixer” often positions themselves as being superior or more knowledgeable than you. They think they have better memories. They often use gas-lighting techniques to make you feel crazy.

    I DO NOT think that every “fixer” has a disorder HOWEVER if this sweet wife (who deserves love & understanding), find herself in the same place next year and the year after I would urge her to seek help in this area. I would also urge her to NOT have children until she sees some progress in this area of their marriage and to definitely seek counseling to learn about setting boundaries, prevent co-dependency, etc.

    One problem that amplifies the disconnect between my husband and myself is that my love language is words of affirmation. Since he practically follows me around the house criticizing me you can imagine the damage that has been done to our relationship and my heart (when I let it).

    In my situation, I have chosen to stay despite the pain and lack of change… for now. I have gathered materials that have allowed me to find joy and meaning in healthy relationships and activities outside of my marriage. I also have our dear children to consider.

    I hope this husband and wife are able to grow in this area. I feel for the pain & frustration she is feeling.

    1. Great post. I just tweeted this. I too used to get that response from my husband that I complained alot. I love the response option you gave her. Changing my response to my husband totally helped me as well…great stuff.

    1. These kinds of conversations can be too delicate for social media… there aren’t many ways to contribute to the conversation without implicating your spouse 😉

  2. My husband and I have had to work through similar issues, and it has really helped both of us to break down the problem. I keep in my mind the pink and blue analogy from Love and Respect and learn to translate to manspeak. For a while when the above spat would take place, I learned to step back and say, “Hey, I can see how it sounds like the problem is UPS, and you’re right, I can’t change that they’re late by complaining. But the real issue here actually is that I feel frustrated, and I am asking you in girlspeak if it is okay that I am frustrated. When you say “Get over it,” I hear you say that my feelings are not okay, and that hurts. Would you please say, “Ugh, you’re right, babe; that’s so annoying” instead? That would be so helpful to me because I feel like you care about what frustrates me. And I promise to do better explaining to you what the real issue is. Next time I will end with something like, “That’s so annoying; don’t you think?” And whenever you aren’t sure what to say, you can never go wrong with these two golden phrases: “It will be okay” and/or “We will figure this out together.”

    Mostly we don’t have to dissect these anymore, he just knows “the script,” lol. And we have an agreement that when I actually want his advice, I explicitly state that in the beginning of a convo. There’s a learning curve but things are much better!

  3. I just had one of these conversations this morning. I have been walking on eggshells since the downstairs neighbours have come up twice to complain of our making noise (two daughters). It has seriously affected my quality of life and my enjoyment of our new city/apartment. I feel like I have to tiptoe around. Inevitably, someone in our house drops something on the floor or makes noise somehow and I get really upset about it. I’m afraid of making my youngest, especially, feel bad. My husband keeps responding to my concerns with “that’s life.” I suggested putting down more rugs and he responded that it wouldn’t make a difference. This morning my youngest dropped her glass water bottle on the floor. I said to my husband, “Every morning someone drops something on the floor (some days it’s coins falling out of pants, yesterday it was wooden stamps my youngest dropped, etc.).” “That’s life,” says my husband. I exploded. “I know it’s life. It’s life! I know that. Why do I even open my mouth?” Etc. His response is that he’s not saying it aggressively or shutting me down. So I should be fine. If I gave hime the words to says instead he would just say that he can’t change how he is or I shouldn’t tell him what to say or I shouldn’t want him to say it differently even. because the problem is with me not him. If I have a problem it stems from not him (according to all his Buddhist/Tolle/Byron Katie literature). And that’s the main problem right there. Nothing is really a problem because nothing *is* in the first place.

  4. Wow…where was this statement when I needed it? “Behind Every Complaint is Deep Personal Longing”. That is so spot on. I’ve learned now through the school of hard knocks that when my wife complains about something… she’s truly looking for some type of attention related to a different matter. Interestingly, since I’ve started to give her attention daily… I can’t remember the last time she complained about something. Great article and spot on for sure. Especially the quote you quoted above!

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