Whenever we receive a question that touches on a broad issue, it’s a great chance to not only help one couple tackle a problem, but also to share the information with a wider audience – in case you or someone you know might be experiencing something similar.
We recently received a question about a pretty big problem: disrespect.
It can affect couples of any age, and both men and women are just as likely to be the perpetrator. Read through question below, and think closely about how you communicate with your spouse.
Angie reached out to ask:
“My husband has no filter when it comes to saying things that hurt. We’ve been married 5 years, and his mouth – and the lack of control he has when it comes to thinking before speaking – has caused endless problems in our marriage. I’ve had enough of this. He complains about our intimacy not being what it should, but fails to understand that I can’t work on intimacy if I feel disrespected and hurt as often as I do. If he doesn’t change, I’m afraid I will have to call it quits. Please tell me what I can do about this issue…”
Communication is one of the most important parts of a marriage (and really, any relationship). Many people, however, struggle to communicate effectively because they simply don’t think the personal biases, quirks, and shortcomings that go along with it.
We all have our own manner of speaking, and when we’re listening, we filter everything we hear through our personal biases and experiences – whether or not we’re aware of it.
This makes communication tricky to begin with, and in situations like Angie’s, it can make positive communication seem impossible. When people behave like this disrespectful husband, there are almost always reasons buried below the surface (like lack of self-esteem, misplaced anger, or other unspoken issues) that cause the person to lash out and speak so hurtfully.
It’s also worth considering that our personal interpretation of the way people speak to us is influenced by our own emotional states. In other words, it’s easy to take things too personally, or at the very least, hear them in a way the speaker didn’t intend.
Now, with these things in mind, how should a struggling spouse handle this problem?
First, if you’re feeling disrespected by your spouse, if they’re talking down to you, etc., it’s important to let them know exactly how it makes you feel.
Using “I” statements (as opposed to “you” statements) make it about the way their words affect YOU – instead of assigning blame. This helps prevent them from going on the defensive, and will also help them empathize with how it feels to be on the receiving end of that kind of talk.
If you can engage in a calm discussion about the way it makes you feel, you can potentially transition into the more difficult part of the topic: why they behave that way in the first place. Make sure you’re speaking from a place of love and trust, and gently probe for reasons behind their hurtful statements.
Is it an issue with them? Does your spouse have some problem they feel defensive about, so they shift the conversation away from anything that could potentially make them feel at fault?
Is there some unspoken problem in the marriage that they’ve been afraid to bring up? Are they looking for other ways to voice their discontent?
They could be projecting their own insecurities onto you, or simply taking out frustrations from another aspect of their life. To get to the bottom of the problem, you’ll need to ask these tough questions… Just remember to keep the blame out of it.
The final bit of advice here is to also give your spouse the benefit of the doubt (and along with it, keep your own sensitivity in check). This is not to say that you should sit by idly while your spouse is disrespectful, but rather, try to be aware of all of the other factors that may influence the way they behave.
Is this disrespectful behavior unique to communication between the two of you, or does your spouse behave this way in other situations too?
Instead of just being offended, let your spouse know how much they are hurting your feelings (and likely the feelings of others), and explain that you want to help them get to the root of the problem, and ultimately overcome the habit.
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com