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Critical husband, dependent wife?

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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?

Critical husband, dependent wife?

Answered by on -


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.
Dr. Marie

Critical husband, dependent wife?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Critical husband, dependent wife?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 22, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.