My Husband Wants Me to Yell at Him

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m not a fan of yelling.. If I do then I’ve been pushed really far. My husband comes from a family that routinely treated him insignificantly and verbally/emotionally/ and to some degree physically abused him. His father was a preacher, he grew up in ministry. He has had several relationships that follow that same path. Yelling makes me uncomfortable, and it never seems to solve anything, so I only do it when if feels like the only way to get attention–and then I feel horribly afterwards. The thing is, my husband likes getting yelled at.. Not in a smiles and loves it kind of way, but in a “finally I’m getting what I deserve” relief kind of way. And he’s either cruel to me to the point of my fighting back, or ignored anything I say completely..he’s not a violent or perverted man, just seems to think he deserves abuse and degradation, and won’t hear or accept anything other than that. I’ve put 5 years into starting with positive encouragement that has teetered into more yelling–and I hate myself more and more for it, until today I just told him I would give him what he wanted, and tore into him and watched him lower his head and solemnly find relief in the lashing, like somehow he was martyring himself so that I could feel good or powerful or something… And while I was yelling I pointed out to him how much he looked finally at ease.. Then he broke down and cried.. Sobbed.. And it went on.. Until I finally stopped. After awhile he admitted how much he enjoyed the yelling and was hoping I would hit him, and how ludicrous that was. He finally sees this, but why is he like this? How do we go on from here? I can’t find anything out there that seems to address this problem. I kind of think it’s the unhealthy upbringing his parents instilled in him of his lack of value and his deserving the abuse he used to receive… What is going on?

A: I can only guess at why your husband responds this way since I’ve never talked with him. If his father believed that we’re all sinners and that our sinfulness has to be beaten (verbally and physically) out of us, then chances are he parented from that conviction. The route to parental approval in such a household would be to be a martyr. It’s the only way to become a “saint.”

I think your husband needs therapy, not more martyrdom. You can’t be asked to replicate an unhealthy relationship so that he’ll feel better — at the cost of his dignity and self-esteem. It’s unhealthy for both of you.

If he won’t go, go yourself. You could use some new ways to talk to him as well as some support for holding your own line. Once he sees that therapy is helpful to you, your husband may join you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Jun 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). My Husband Wants Me to Yell at Him. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/06/26/my-husband-wants-me-to-yell-at-him/