Negativity in a marriage can take various forms, ranging from excessive criticism and strive for perfectionism to the apparently less significant problem of cynicism and nagging. All of these behaviors can push spouses away from each other and eventually make it difficult to pull along in a marriage. If you are often at the receiving end of your husband’s criticism and find him putting you down, in public or private, here are a few steps you can take to restore your sense of self-worth and integrity.
Don’t take it personally
The sooner you realize that your husband’s habit of putting you down has actually nothing to do with you, the better off you will be. People who are excessively critical in nature will put down others, whether or not the latter deserve to be treated so. Thus your husband can fill an entire day finding fault with your cooking, your sense of style, the way you keep your things and the people you meet. But this is not really a reflection of the rightness or wrongness of your own choices or qualities. This is happening merely because your spouse’s perceptions are different from yours. Like for an emotionally mature person, parking the car at a mere five degree slant might not seem a big thing, but for an overly critical person, the action is not merely unacceptable but actually a reflection of your inability to drive or learn a new skill. And since you cannot fight with a person’s perceptions or tell them that they are wrong to feel that way, it is best to ignore such negative attacks.
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Your responses are within your control
Being constantly put down by the person you love is no doubt difficult to accept. But don’t let your husband’s negative comments ruin your day or spoil your mood. Tell yourself that only you have the power to control your mood and no one can take away this power so easily. Moreover remind yourself that you are responsible for your own feelings and your spouse cannot make you feel unhappy or bad about yourself without your consent.
Avoid engaging with him on such occasions
It may severely try your patience to be put down on yet another occasion, especially before others, but keep your cool instead of getting worked up. Cutting off your husband prematurely or reacting with an impatient gesture or tone of voice will only blow up the situation and give him another excuse to criticize your apparently volatile behavior. Rather give your husband an opportunity to be heard, so that he feels that he has had his say and then you can either choose to ignore the complaints or calmly give your side of the matter.
It is little use defending yourself
In case the need to put others down is a pathological compulsion in your husband, there is little that you can say or do to defend yourself. You know that your spouse’s overly critical behavior is an expression of some flaw in his personality but he doesn’t. Launching into counter-criticism is even more meaningless since responding to your partner’s constant negativity by pointing out his faults in turn will make little sense to him and only escalate the fight to ugly levels.
Examine your own attitude
Though not excusing your husband’s negativity towards you, sometimes it may make sense to honestly consider if something in your own words or behavior is triggering his tendency to belittle you. No human being is perfect and everyone has some faults or other. Perhaps your husband is fed up of paying your credit card bills and thus doesn’t miss a chance to make acid remarks about your shopping trips. Or maybe you are spending way too much time at work and the only way he can express his loneliness is to put down your profession, boss and co-workers. It is only too easy to get upset and decide that the criticism is unfair and miss the part which has a grain of truth after all.
Seek to discuss it with him
If your husband has been relentless in putting you down, it is time to bring matters out in the open. Schedule a time to have a talk with your spouse. Discuss how you are feeling unhappy and depressed at being ticked off all the time. Let him know that being constantly criticized does not want to make you try harder – in fact it only makes you feel more discouraged and wish to give up on making a difference. End the discussion by reaffirming your love for your husband and your readiness to improve any aspect of your behavior which may be actually upsetting him. If talking face to face with your partner seems too hard, perhaps you could even write him a letter. Here too, sandwich concerns of your emotional well-being between affirmations of love and support for your spouse.
Consider your options
If your husband’s tendency to belittle you has been going on for so long and to such an extent that it has sapped all your self-worth and self-respect, then it may be time to consider other options. One pertinent sign that things have crossed bearable limits is when your husband puts you down in front of your own family, kids and other close friends. Though being belittled in private is no better than being treated so in public, if your husband is doing the latter, it implies that he is past caring what others think and veering dangerously close to verbal and emotional abuse. Such forms of abuse can be accompanied by actions like instigating you to retaliate so that every issue raised gets murkier and getting a perverse joy in seeing you hurt or in tears. If you believe that your husband’s tendency to put you down is part of a wider abusive behavior, you may have to take action according to the degree and extent of the abuse. If the abuse is mild to moderate, your strategy could focus on saving your relationship. Talk to a counselor or a therapist so that your husband gets help in dealing with his personality disorder while you can restore your self-worth and marriage. On the other hand if the abuse is extreme and your well being - as well as that of your kids - is endangered, it may be better to opt out of the marriage.