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.
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.”
The 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,
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