I am a confident and optimistic person who has a lot of friends who think that of me. However, if my husband and I have an issue I feel very defeated and useless by his critism of me. He will criticise me and I take it too personally because I have low self esteem, I shut-down and retreat to escape from the emotional abuse and he gets annoyed. He says he wants to make a runner when I do that – when I shut him out – and I just get so emotionally wounded and crippled I can’t do anything else.
I know I need to “fix” that within myself, I need not to be dependant on him to be happy – I need to heal myself so that I can be more in control of my life and my feelings. How do I do that? What do I say and do to change the pattern we have created over the last 20 years? I know I have to change my response to his lack of support and his criticism – but what do I say and do to break the cycle? How do I do that?
I think he is a lousy husband and father – but he seems okay with that – how do I get him to up his game? How do I influence him to be a better partner and more involved in our family life?
A: I’m indeed very sorry that you are feeling so wounded. 20 years is a very long time to feel so bad. You’re right that the focus of your efforts needs to be on yourself. It’s unlikely you can change a man who doesn’t think anything is wrong with him. But he might change in response to changes you make in yourself.
I hope you will consider getting into therapy. Any advice I could offer in a column like this one would be superficial at best. A therapist will help you feel better about yourself and will coach you in ways to respond differently to your husband’s remarks. You will probably need the ongoing support and attention a therapist can offer while you work to shift your relationship with your husband and with yourself.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Sep 2009
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Critical husband, dependent wife?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/09/16/critical-husbanddependent-wife/