My Husband Hurts My Feelings

My Husband Hurts My Feelings

How I Traded in the Jabs for Compliments
Sonya, Laura Doyle Certified Coach

“The problem with you is…”

Ouch. I hate hearing words like that.

Is it bait, an insult, or a bad joke?

For years, I wallowed in hurt that felt so fresh I could tear up practically on demand thinking about how unloved and unappreciated I felt.

What do you do when a lot of the communication toward you feels negative?

I had no idea until

I tried lots of things to do away with the hurt.

Self-care built up my baseline happiness so the stings didn’t penetrate as deeply.

Becoming more respectful diffused a lot of tense situations. I finally recognized that always aiming to “win” arguments just put us on opposite teams.

Looking for the good and sharing my gratitude built up his baseline satisfaction with us and changed my perspective.

But I still tended to interpret his comments toward me with a negative slant. Even with all these tools, I kept feeling insulted, martyred, and teary.

Then I started adapting the Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP) in response to the jabs. Basically, I tell myself that he loves me and doesn’t want to hurt me.

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I experimented with turning around a complaint into its positive reflection or even into a compliment. I’ve found that swapping an insult for a compliment is an uncanny way to upend an argument.

I reinforce the reality I’d like to see, whether or not it feels perfectly true immediately. When he told me he joked to his coworkers that he could work a holiday to avoid his in-laws, I said, “I know you love being with my family.”

When he wasn’t sure if he’d make a dad event at school, I said, “I know that you love being a dad.”

When he said he had to go to work since my hobby business wouldn’t pay the bills, I said, “I know you value my contribution to the family.”

Recently I was relaying my concerns about the safety of an outdoor platform that was getting rickety and had steep drop-offs on three sides. The conversation was starting to degrade into an argument—which isn’t familiar any more for us now that I’ve adopted the 6 Intimacy Skills™.

I finally just said, “I know you care about our safety” and left it at that. I didn’t have the carpentry skills to reinforce the platform and couldn’t force him to change it, so I had to trust him on that.

I look for the positive heart message and encourage that.

I recently tried to ask him a question, but he couldn’t hear me in the next room. When I came closer to repeat my question, he went on a diatribe about how I need to stop talking when no one can hear me and stop expecting them to know what I’ve said. The lecturing tone of his words was saddening me, so I pulled in closer for a hug and said that I was glad he wants to know what I am saying.

At the airport he reached out his hand and said he wished I’d walk faster and keep up with him. I said, “Oh, you want to walk close to me and be near me?” He responded that he did.

I seek to see his comments in the best possible light and respond from that perspective. When I told him I’d gone on an amazing walk in a beautiful park I rarely visit and how the friend I was with goes there daily, he said, “You should take a walk there every day too.”

I can’t deny it, my first —and familiar—thought was that he just wanted me away from him. In the past, I probably would have come back with “You just don’t want me around.” But this time, in looking at this in the best possible light, I said, “I’m so glad you care about my self-care.”

Another day I said, “I think I might take a shower.” He responded, “You should take a shower.” On a low self-care day, my old self would’ve gotten teary to hear this affirmation/insult. But instead I said, “I’m glad you care about my cleanliness.”

My husband still looks at me a little funny when I give him a hopeful compliment in response to his remarks, but he always seems a bit prouder that I’m thinking well of him too.

Instead of getting defensive or debating, I acknowledge the positive side of his comment. When he complained about my lack of tidiness, I said, “I’m so glad you are watching me so closely.” Past retorts about all I do around the house, how overwhelmed I felt, and how other people have housekeepers had all fallen flat.

When he gave a disapproving glance at my vintage outfit, I smiled playfully and said, “I’m glad you notice what I wear.”

I’ve also used humor to reframe. Returning home from a weekend trip, I was greeted by a funky smell in the kitchen. I went around trying to sniff out the source while talking about the problem. My husband said, “I didn’t notice a smell until you got home.” I could have taken it personally, but I replied, “That’s amazing that your senses are heightened in my presence.”

Then there was the time I backed over the mailbox. It was a big oops. I felt I needed to confess quickly, so I started texting him some gratitude through an SFP: “I am thankful that you are understanding and have a good sense of humor. The good news is that the car seems fine, the bad news is the mailbox not so much.”

He DID respond with humor and fixed it that day!

Amusingly, he recently started giving me some self-fulfilling prophecies of his own. When he was in a grumpy mood and I remarked that this wasn’t like him, he told me, “But I’m always nice.” I began repeating that when his behavior wasn’t reinforcing his own mantra for himself. I said, “I don’t understand how this is happening because you’re always nice.”

Another time he told me that he always loves me and wants to spend time with me. I used to tell myself this as an SFP, and now he’s saying it back to me!

By deflecting jabs into admiring compliments and smiles, the happiness threshold in my life has risen.

In the process, the occurrence of such harsh words has diminished. Has the bait stopped since he isn’t getting a rise from me any longer? Or has he turned positive? Or am I just in a happier place where I am focusing on what serves me?

Regardless of the reason why, our communication has reordered in a good way.

I’ve discovered that it doesn’t serve me to dwell on my disappointment and nurture my hurts. He really is a good guy and so often I’d been looking for the ugly evidence, not for the good. I’m a lot happier when I give him the benefit of the doubt and try to rebound.

And in response to “the problem with you is…,” I can now state positively that I’m so glad he gets me and loves me in spite of my shortcomings.

How could you find the hidden compliment behind the comment while trusting your partner’s love and commitment? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

 


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