Sent: Sunday, July 11, 1999 4:13
Dear Dr. Irene,
I am deaf and just got married a few months ago to a deaf guy that
I have been going out for the last three and half years. Sometimes I
think that he is too blunt for me, especially when we argue. He always
tells me what is on his mind (that I am not doing enough for him)
when I tell him that I do not
feel comfortable doing what he wants me to do for him. What
does he want you to do? Sometimes he makes me feel bad or guilty
by saying that he would do things for me that I didn't feel comfortable
doing for him. Nobody can "make" you
feel anything. You feel guilty or bad because you choose to take
responsibility for him.
It is NEVER OK
to do anything you are not comfortable doing! If your husband wants to
do things that he is uncomfortable doing for you, that is his prerogative.
I would suggest to both of you that you only do things you each feel OK
I have been seeing a therapist because I was really confused about getting
married so quickly. Good. (Three
and a half years is quickly?)
But I am finally getting used to the
idea of being married. It takes time to adjust,
even under the best of circumstances! I still feel guilty or bad
when he tells me to be "nice" or "that he is just trying
to help." I
am sure he is trying to be helpful... when
I don't want his advice or opinion on how I do things. Do
you feel badly because of the way you've treated him or because you did
not follow his advice?...Does he understand that his advice or opinion
must either be solicited by you, or just mentioned once or twice by him?
(More than that and it borders on control, where he is trying to direct
your life since he thinks he can do a better job than you can. Not OK.)
It is your responsibility to get him to understand that when you want to
hear it, you will ask for it.
For example, when I was driving on
the freeway, and got stuck behind a few cars that got on the freeway
from the exit. My husband told me to move in the next lane. I refused
because I felt pressured to move at the last minute. OK.
I just remained in the lane, slowing down behind the cars. I then
told him to let me drive and not give me advice because it only made me
feel pressured or nervous. Good. Your husband's
behavior is where we get the term "backseat driver" from -
He just told me to "be
nice" to him since he was just trying to help. Yes.
What you said could be expressed politely and respectfully.
Thank him for
the help, and be "nice," i.e., respectful in your body
language, tone of "voice" and choice of words, but explain to
him that his advice is only helpful when he respects your option to
I felt bad because I was
trying to tell him for the thousandth time that
I did not like advice or his opinion on how to do things his way. Especially
when you are in a tense situation while driving!
Still, it sounds as
though you may need to clean up your act a bit. He IS trying to help -
from his perspective, even if you experience it as control. Try to
understand that. There is no reason to act angrily (You can be
angry without expressing it angrily.) If indeed all he is doing
is trying to help, hear him out...but there is also no reason to listen
to his input if you are not comfortable with the content, delivery, or
timing of his suggestions. If he gets mad when you don't take his
advice, make it crystal clear that while you appreciate his
"thoughtfulness," ultimately, he must accept whatever you
choose to do with his advice - or not.
I can go on and on but that is one
of the examples of how he behaves towards me when I tell him that I
would not deal with it or let him talk to me like that. Talk
to you like what? Is his communication disrespectful?
I am not sure if it is verbal abuse but I sure do feel bad or guilty
when I tell him that he is too blunt with me. I'm
not sure it is abuse either. Nor am I sure I know you mean by "too
blunt." Nor can I tell if he is upset with your attitude towards
him or with your unwillingness to listen to him. This is an important
It would be
disrespectful and controlling if your husband assumed that you have an
obligation to do it his way and gets angry when you do not. You probably
are being disrespectful since you've had it with his "help."
(You know, some of what he suggests may really be helpful - and you may
be so angry with his "helpfulness" that you won't even
consider what he has said.) Also, the world is not always clear cut.
There may be many things going on: he is trying to be helpful; you
do anger him by your defiant reaction because you challenge his ego; you
hurt him with your defiance and he gets angry; he is being
controlling and overly critical and cannot accept that you run your life
and he runs his. Many, many possibilities and too little
information to narrow it down more.
Sometimes I feel that I am destined
to accept the way he is because the therapist I talked to said that it
was just a personality difference between me and him. Why
would that be so bad?
He is the way he is.
You do have to accept it. That is not so bad, unless he is playing
control games. In a good marriage, the partners respect their
differences. Your job is to control yourself so that your anger
doesn't eat you up. Sounds like you may have a bit of an issue with
people telling you what to do. If so, clear this one up. If your husband
is not a controller, things should improve dramatically.
I have told him some of the things
that he said but the therapist said it is just his personality. I'm
not sure I understand what "his personality" means. Has your
therapist met your husband? Is your husband saying that you have to
accept that he knows better? Is he saying that you should do what he
wants you to do? Is he saying that he can't help being helpful? Is
he critical because he cannot control you, or is he critical because he
What is not OK is
for you to snap at him because you have being controlled issues. What is
not OK is if he is unwilling to accept that you are your own person and
will do what you will do.
I still feel a bit afraid of his
temper How bad is his temper? because when
we fight (we do not fight often) but when we do, he says its because of
me not being happy or him trying to reason with me. I feel its my fault STOP!
It takes two to tango... If you have not brought him to your therapist
yet, do so now. and I tell him I just want someone to listen to
me. Not to criticize me. Of course. That's what we
all want and deserve.. He says nothing and then says sorry, but
he still is blunt with his feelings as he always has been.
There is nothing
wrong with being honest and even blunt with feelings. You may need to
accept that is his style. What about his "bluntness" bothers
you? Why not respect him enough to allow him to express what he feels,
as long as his expression is respectful? What does he do when you do not
comply? If he gets upset, is he upset because you did not comply or
because you are being oppositional and angry towards him?
Print this out and bring it with you to therapy. See what you can do
Good luck to you
Paloma. Dr. Irene
Thanks for your helpful feedback. I will talk to my therapist next week
about that car incident. My therapist told me that it was because I am
the kind of person who does not like to confront other people because it
is hard for me to be direct with them on what they have done to me. Lack
of assertive skills. You can cultivate these.
On the other hand, my husband confronts me when I have done him wrong in
an somewhat angry or impatient way. Good assertion skills assume that
whatever is communicated respectfully. He
may be direct, but he is not skillful in expressing himself. Sometimes
he even sulks when I tell him that I can't do things for him, like
telling him that I can't pick him up when he wants me to do because I
need a break from driving and do not have enough money to pay for the
gas. It makes me a little upset that he has to behave that way, but I
ignore it. He
doesn't have to behave that way. He can learn not to.
But I show my anger only when he makes a face or shows impatience, just
like my father did with me. I guess it is because my father treated me
the same way (but he called me stupid and came to long rambling explanations
of what I did wrong) when I was a child, and he would get angry at me
when I did not do things right. So seeing my husband's reaction was like
seeing my father at times. It
is good that you see your baggage - reacting to present events as
though they were painful past events. I
have told my husband that, and to show more patience with me when I do
not do things right. He knows that, but sometimes he admits to me it is
in his nature to be blunt to teach others a lesson or to avoid conflict.
Huh? How do
you teach others a lesson in order to avoid conflict? But,
I have noticed some improvement in him since we started going out three
and half years ago because he had learned how to be more sensitive from
me and his older sister. Good!
So, you are right about me not liking being told what to do. I believe
in letting other people do what they like because they have that right.
I know that my husband is trying to be helpful, but he reacts in an
impatient way that it makes me feel defensive.
But how does your husband react if you do not take his advice?
I will continue to see my therapist and talk to him more about how my
husband reminds me of my father at times. I have told him about it a bit
the last time so he wants to talk with me about it the next time. Good.
I just wanted to get some feedback to learn more about what verbal abuse
is like since I was sometimes put down or criticized by my father. Verbal
abuse is primarily about control. That's why I keep asking how he reacts
if you do not take his advice.
I have forgiven him, but occasionally its a bit hard. I do keep in touch
with my father and we have a much better relationship than before.
He has even admitted to me that he was not a good father to me and my
sister, and I told him not to worry about it. Before
you forgive him, did you allow yourself the luxury of being angry with
him? I just
sometimes don't know why I get defensive when my husband tries to help
me, but I think its just because his attitude reminds me of my father's.
I am sure with some more therapy, I will find out some answers about
myself and my husband. Thank you for your advice and feedback! Good