How Do You Live with an Emotionally Immature Spouse?

by | Dec 18, 2020 | Uncategorized | 35 comments

What to do when your spouse is emotionally immature and passive aggressive
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How do you draw boundaries with an emotionally immature/passive aggressive spouse?

I thought I was finished with my emotional maturity series, but a wonderful question came in to the blog this week that I thought it was worth running!

 

I was wondering if you knew of any resources for the spouses of emotionally immature / passive aggressive / avoidant people (I realize that’s a lot of problems at once, but they seem to go together a fair bit).

There seem to be so few resources available, yet this is very difficult to live with without wondering if YOU’RE the crazy one. Keeping perspective and motivation day after day isn’t easy. They tell you you expect too much. That they’re “doing their best”. They feel like the victim of some cruel tyrant. And all you’re asking for is to connect and deal with problems like adults.

A lot of marriage books/courses are aimed at couples where both partners are working to make the marriage better. But you need a whole different game plan when your spouse is passive aggressive and immature. One with very strict boundaries (a la the Boundaries in Marriage book – a very helpful read).

This issue is the silent killer of marriages. The passive aggressive/immature spouse is often easy going and pleasant AS LONG AS NOTHING IS REQUIRED OF THEM. People outside the marriage think they’re so “nice”. When you try to explain it to someone whose spouse isn’t PA/immature, they’re mystified by why you’re making such a big deal out if it. “All spouses are difficult sometimes – you just need to talk it out,” they say, not understanding that a PA spouse will literally refuse to discuss things. They stonewall and get quickly more uncooperative the more you try to appeal to them. If you try to explain to others, people tell you to be grateful because “at least he isn’t doing “______” (insert obvious bad behaviour here). The sins of omission can be as damaging as the sins of commission but it’s very hard to convince others who haven’t experienced it.

What do you do if you don’t have a degree in psychology to deal with your spouse’s manipulation? Are there counselors specifically trained in this? We’ve tried seeing counselors in the past, but my spouse sheds a few tears over their behaviour and the experiences in his childhood that caused it, everyone feels we’ve made progress… but then NOTHING CHANGES. The next time an issue comes up they stonewall, become rude and dismissive and say they’re just too “busy” or “tired” to deal with it right now. When I ask “ok, when is a good time to deal with this” they get angry and say they “can’t name a specific time”. If we could afford to pay to see a counselor every week for the rest of our lives, maybe that would help (they behave much better when someone else is watching), but we can’t. Plus, since they DO behave much better when someone else’s eye is on them, the counselor thinks “oh great – they’re cured” and sends us on our way with a cheery wave. And then my spouse spirals back down into their passive aggression and avoidance.

I’ve decided I need to stand up and say “enough” but I expect it will bring a lot of escalated behaviour from my spouse and a lot of going against my own ingrained habits. I’ve been dealing with this the wrong way for a decade, doing what I thought would help. So, as I try to live differently, it would be so helpful to have a support group, Christian counsellor who knows all the tricks up my spouse’s sleeve or even a book that gives practical strategies (for someone who’s spouse is not at ALL interested in changing and all you can do is change the way YOU act).

I actually don’t want to comment on this too much, because I’m hoping that some of you have some great ideas and great book suggestions. I honestly can’t get around to reading everything, because I’m so busy, but I often get the best recommendations from my readers.

And if you’re reading this post through email because you’re signed up to my daily emails, and you have some ideas, please click through and leave a comment!

But I will say that things won’t change without being willing to deal with escalated behaviors.

That’s the price of rocking the boat–things get rocky! Right now your marriage is in equilibrium. He’s happy because he doesn’t have to deal with the things that are bothering you, but you’re not happy.

The only way that he will change is if the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same. In other words, there has to be some pain in staying the same!

But people don’t usually change without a fight, so he may not be happy as you try to draw firmer boundaries of what you will put up with.

I will say that familiarizing yourself with attachment issues is likely wise. 

Often people act in counterproductive ways because they had terrible attachments to their parents and family of origin, and that affects how they act now. A great book to understand this better is How We Love. And, yes, Boundaries in Marriage is great, but if you find it doesn’t go far enough, try the companion book Changes that Heal. And Leslie Vernick’s How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong is also very good. 

Often we do things because of pain in our background that has never been fully processed or dealt with, and it’s just plain holding us back. It sounds like this is what’s going on with her husband. But it’s also so, so tiring to live with someone like that, so make sure you leave room for your own hobbies and for your own friends so you also get some healthy headspace, too.

But I’d like to throw this out to everyone else now: What should she do? Any book suggestions? Any key things for having counseling sessions be more productive? Let’s talk in the comments!


You may also enjoy:


 

How to Live with an Immature, Passive Aggressive Husband
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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35 Comments

  1. Jeff

    I noticed the title was immature spouse, then once I clicked it said immature husband. I think it should stay spouse as many of us men are the mature ones and the ones seeking advice/help.

    Reply
    • Mary

      Sheila, do you know anything about Autism Spectrum Disorder or what used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome? So many of us are living with a husband or wife on the autistic spectrum and it is exhausting. As it is a neurological disorder or disability it profoundly affects our marriages. The normal ways of relating just don’t apply as we cannot expect our spouse to cope with normal challenges of living together. Sometimes it may appear that our spouse is passive/aggressive or emotionally immature but the usual ways of dealing with this just don’t work. Neither can we expect normal emotional connection or mutual support. I’d love to hear from you if you have any encouragement or support for us Neurotypical spouses in a neurodiverse marriage.

      Reply
  2. Harriet Vane

    I faced something similar with my husband- perhaps not to quite the extreme as the OP. I took sex off the table and told him that if he wanted our marriage to survive, things would have to change. Both those things got his attention. He is now in therapy. We’ve done some couples’ counseling but that therapist hasn’t been a great fit and we will probably look for another in the new year.
    What has helped the most has been me being in therapy with a psychologist. I started with her to deal with other traumas, and that led to me being able to unravel and articulate all the issues in our marriage. It’s because of the growth I’ve had through my therapy that I’ve learned how to advocate for myself to my husband, communicate what needs to change, and lead the way towards building a healthy marriage.
    My husband was comfortable with how our marriage used to be, and he didn’t like the discomfort of the changes I insisted on. But he is a basically good man, and he does love me and want our marriage to survive, so he is slowly learning and changing. It’s been hard and frustrating and there have been many times I’ve wanted to give up. But growth is happening- slow and painful, but it’s there.
    I think what the OP has to ask herself is, is her husband fundamentally good-willed towards her? If he loves her and values their marriage more than his own comfort, then if he is faced with the possible loss of her and their marriage, he will begin to do the hard work of change. But she has to be willing to face the possibility that the reverse might be true.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great thoughts, Harriet! Thank you. And I think your summary in the last paragraph is exactly right.

      Reply
  3. MHMC

    You can’t force an emotionally immature spouse to change. Rocking the boat will only drive yourself nuts waiting for results and questioning yourself, trying to plan your next “move”. Read boundaries. (Or boundaries for marriage). Read leslie vernicks books. Read “Is it me” by Natalie hoffman. I read a lot of books. A LOT. Not going to suggest them all, cuz not all of them were beneficial. I do suggest going to a decent counselor for yourself (forget marriage counseling- emotionally immature/passive aggressive men don’t respond to marriage counseling). (A counselor who’s christian, not necessarily a “christian counselor”). And I would really ask yourself- is it “emotional immaturity”, or is it something else? Research “crazy making”.
    Be willing to be honest with yourself.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, MHMC. I agree–there is a difference between emotional immaturity and crazy-making.

      Reply
  4. Rachel

    When my husband and I were newly married, I would want to address what I saw as areas of improvement for our marriage. Unfortunately, he heard that as “hubby has failed and stinks at being a husband”. So he would “shut down” and wouldn’t talk because he felt like I was attacking him. In his childhood home, conflict was never addressed. I would get so frustrated with him for shutting down – I felt like he didn’t care about me or our marriage.
    Somehow, thru my persistence and God’s intervention – we were finally able to talk it thru. He heard that he isn’t a bad husband and I heard that I need to watch my words better. He finally understood that I wasn’t saying we had a bad marriage but a good one and we could make it even better. We’ve now been married 21+ years and have a great marriage!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad! That’s a hard breakthrough to make, but so important.

      Reply
    • mtKatie

      Rachel, it’s like I could have written this comment. That’s exactly what was going on with me and my husband. I thought I was just trying to make things better and he thought I was attacking him and saying how horrible he was. Sooo hard to find the right words for each of us to finally understand the other. And still sometimes hard for us not to fall back into the old habits of me—talking too much and him—not talking at all.
      I used to think he was emotionally stunted because he would shut down but I’m very stubborn and I finally decided that it was just not acceptable. I refused to give up on trying to get him to respond. There was definitely some verbal battling and much more than one slammed door (that’s me, oops 😶) I finally had to be brave enough to say if you don’t find value in talking to me about a problem than you don’t find value in me. I was terrified that he would say okay, well, goodbye then. But instead it helped him understand the harm he was doing by shutting down. When he thought he was just trying to keep things from getting worse.
      Growth is hard but it’s worth fighting for. I am fully aware that it could have gone the other way, he could have left. But if you aren’t in a real partnership with someone. If he’s not willing to fight for your marriage. It was already over. He was already gone. I deserved to know that. No matter what the answer was. And so does this woman.

      Reply
  5. Bethany Persons

    I wonder if Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas would he helpful here, for perspective, encouragement, and perseverance. Obviously the goal is to have a peaceful, joyful, marriage of equals. But that’s not always possible, so the question becomes how to live, find purpose, and honor God in an unbalanced marriage.

    Reply
    • Maria Bernadette

      “Obviously the goal is to have a peaceful, joyful, marriage of equals. But that’s not always possible, so the question becomes how to live, find purpose, and honor God in an unbalanced marriage.”
      I would say the primary question is how to honor God. Then, does God want me to stay in an “unbalanced” marriage, if so, stay in what way? (I would think that if it’s a valid marriage, God would want the spouses to honor their vows.) Honoring vows can be done at a safe distance – if the issues in the marriage are so bad that one spouse needs to move out, have separate finances, etc.
      Another question to ask is, can boundaries be set to mitigate the harm of living in a joyless, unpeaceful, or unequal marriage.

      Reply
  6. Ashley Purdue

    Have you read ‘The Emotionally Abusive Relationship’ by Beverly Engel? Or ‘The sociopath next door’? I’m not saying the latter one is applicable but it’s necessary to consider that he may have a personality disorder of some sort. We all want to hope that our spouse was just traumatized in some way, a wounded believer and with healing, all will be well, but this is not always the case. Definitely start by not enabling him. Don’t make things comfortable for him to save yourself trouble for the moment. It’s a sad delusion and slow death. Recognize that this is your selfishness and sin nature at play. Ask for Gods sacrificial love that will propel you to do the right thing even if it costs you everything. Speak truth even if he doesn’t like it. Don’t say you’re ok if you’re not. Don’t lie. Take your husband off the throne where God belongs. I realize there is great fear in this, fear of what you’ll lose. Fear that he may choose to leave. Truth is a revealer. Even if he chooses to walk away (pretending to be a victimized Christian the whole way) you will know that he is in fact not one. The madness will end. Satan will not be able to use him in your life anymore. This is the tough part and why we only do the right thing up to a point, because of the fear of loss. Better to lose your husband than your God.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Ashley! Great thoughts. Especially loved this: “Don’t make things comfortable for him to save yourself trouble for the moment. It’s a sad delusion and slow death.”

      Reply
  7. AspenP

    Books & resources that have been helpful to me in my marriage are:
    The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick
    Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft
    Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud & Townsend
    Exposing the Rejection Mindset by Mark DeJesus
    Critical Spirit: Confronting the Heart of a Critic by June Hunt
    This blog for exposing the lies of Love & Respect Book (that kept me stuck for so long) & for bringing healing with an emotionally distant and sexually disinterested spouse.
    I also found the books Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero to be really healing to me. Kill the Spider by Carlos Whittaker was also helpful and a good quick read.
    Connectedfamilies.org is another great website for parenting and marriage.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wonderful suggestions, Aspen! I love Connected Families, too. And I’m so glad I helped you get over the lies of Love & Respect!

      Reply
      • Mrs. C

        This sounds so much like my marriage. The book that changed things for us was The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Lislie Vernick. I felt like the worst wife in the world for even buying the book. How could a good submissive Christian wife consider it, right, does that sound respectful?
        Once I knew what we were really dealing with, then I could do something. It has been a long hard road in the last 15 months since I was able to name what was going on. We are on our 3 Christian counselor, and we each go to a support group, mine for domestic abuse him for the abusers. I have learned to lean on Christ in a whole new way.

        Reply
  8. Becky

    The Life-Saving Divorce by Gretchen Baskerville

    Reply
  9. Barb Waalkes

    I would suggest the book Living with a Passive Aggressive Man by Scott Wetzler.

    Reply
  10. Carrie

    Know that you are not alone! You hit the nail on the head here with the description of the emotionally immature / passive aggressive / avoiding behaviour spouse. The “Boundary” books helped me with the “what am I doing wrong “ & “what am I doing to cause this”. For your emotional, psychological and physical health you need to do what is right for you.

    Reply
  11. EOF

    For me, I’ve been getting a lot of good tips from youtube videos on narcissistic relationships. They aren’t biblical in nature (that I’ve found), but many of the tips are spot on. Also, I can’t tell you how many times these videos have explained the why behind the crazy behavior. It’s been really eye-opening.
    There are also a lot of books, but I can’t recommend any yet as the only one I’m currently reading is about healing narcissistic parenting. The library has a lot you can borrow as ebooks.

    Reply
    • J

      Hello, My Wife was living over sea’s. Helping her mother start a new subdivision. One day my wife wasn’t able to walk or stand for 30 minutes. She had got into a horible car accident. So had new back problems. I felt bad for her because she just got clean from living wrongly!! I had wrote her a Beautiful note that got her on the Straight road. So now this car wreck has her in recovery mode. We are very proud of her. This is just another hurdle we will concur. Everything takes time!

      Reply
  12. K

    As a female who has been the problem spouse, I would say an important first step is to assess for any mental illness or neurodiversity. In my case, we eventually figured out I am autistic and have pmdd. Knowing that hasn’t solved all our problems but it allows us to find solutions that are applicable to our problems – not other people problems. Lots of good online tools to do some self/spouse assessment and see if more professional help needed for assessments.
    Also second the connected families. We’ve been doing their online course because we have kids, but I would recommend it even for couples without kids. It’s good to watch together (books spouses tend to read separately or only one person is reading) and discuss your own upbringing. I think the basics of communicating with kids and husband are the same. The first thing they stress is ensuring the child feels safe. One of best things my husband said to me is that he wants to life with me, even if it is hard.

    Reply
  13. N

    Try Patrick Doyle you tube videos. He’s a counselor that helps women in emotional abusive relationships and give ideas of what the red flags are.

    Reply
  14. NoMore"Nice"Girl

    Thank you, Sheila – this made my day!! I’m definitely checking out several of those titles.
    I have and love “How We Love” – such an insightful book. He’s an Avoider, I’m a Vacillator (the kind they say they most often see in therapy – lucky us).
    I would like to say that he is a good man at heart. Honestly, that’s made it harder to “rock the boat”. If he was just a no-good jerk, I could wash my hands of him.
    But, as I said before, he very nice and easy-going as long as nothing is required of him. And that makes me want to believe that everything’s ok and wonder if I’m crazy to feel such anger and misery at times). But then this whole other side of him lashes out whenever there’s an issue that needs resolving.
    And it’s gotten steadily worse over the years, so I feel a bit like the frog in the pot (“it’s not that bad”). But, over the last couple of years, it’s gotten to the point where I just have to say, “could we talk about something” for him to go full porcupine. There are so many unaddressed issues cluttering up the relationship now.
    And part of me (the loving side of the Vascillator personality type) wants to just pretend it’s fine and enjoy the easy-going guy he is when we’re just talking about “safe” topics. But since those topics have slowly excluded spirituality, sexuality, plans for the future, romance, or his feelings… it’s hard to feel close.
    The two sides of him are bewildering to my own feelings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve warmed back up to him when he’s kind, articulate and reasonable only to feel (*cliche alert*) like my heart is breaking when he suddenly treats me like a despised enemy.
    I’ve had a lot of time to think it over and I think he’s just very very bad at handling his own emotions. He’s an expert at hiding and numbing (mostly through video games and such) and, when I suddenly pop up and insist he face something painful, he feels I’m attacking him. His only coping method for this is to shut me out do his best to make me go away.
    He also has zero faith in his own ability to become a better man and refuses to seek outside help (“it wouldn’t work”).
    So the only thing left for me is to set very firm boundaries (which I have been doing – it’s been exhausting!!) and try not to feel like the Wicked Witch of the West when he’s in his “nice guy” mode (feeling unthreatened). And he can be quite sweet when he’s trying to get things back to “ok”. He doesn’t like things to be uncomfortable (whether it’s because I’m pushing him to talk or because I’m angry and distant). I’d say the hardest, most guilt-inducing thing for me is that I’ve realized I can’t be close to him in the “nice-guy” phase without throwing my passionate, Vascillator all into the relationship and wanting/working for more connection.
    My solution is to be polite and my generally cheerful self but not to be close in other ways. This feels so selfish and small when he tries to be nice. And cutting off sex feels SO WRONG (the whole “do not deprive” thing, though I’ve ready your posts about that, which is helpful). But that’s the only game-plan I have so I’m doing my best. That and trying to read-up on how to handle this better.

    Reply
    • Recovering from abuse

      It sounds like what you are describing is the abuse cycle. The honeymoon phase, rising tension, abusive episode, etc. You may he correct and he may not know how to deal with his emotions, but you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of his immaturity. Boundaries may give you some clarity. Reading Natalie Hoffman’s book may help also. I’m so sorry you are treated this way. It’s not okay. 🙁

      Reply
  15. Recovering from abuse

    I’ve been in a similar marriage. What was helpful for me was to recognize that the patterns of behavior are emotional and verbal abuse. Patricia Evans book- the verbally abusive relationship pointed out to me that verbal abuse isn’t always yelling. It can be stonewalling. Natalie Hoffman’s Is it Me summed up my marriage. And her program Flying Free has been amazing for helping me grow into who I want to be. It’s not currently open but she has a podcast and resources on her website.
    The key in dealing with these types of relationships is to work on yourself. Because once you understand you, then you can decide what you want to do with your life. Once you are showing up in a way that you are proud of, then you can be empowered to make decisions that are best for everyone. Sometimes that might be putting your foot down and seeing if your spouse will work on things. Sometimes it may be moving on with your life.

    Reply
  16. HB

    This could almost have been written by me 1-2 years ago. By the grace of God and this blog, now in a much much better place, a GOOD place! Leslie Vernick’s books, which I learned of through this blog I believe, were most helpful for me. ‘The Emotionally Destructive Marriage’ helped me to realize just how bad it was (and also in ways it wasn’t as much) and ‘How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong’ helped to direct my actions. And prayer, lots of prayer. God worked on me and ultimately a miracle in my spouse. Re-read some journaling the other week and just bawled. At the pain I lived in for so long (that escalated immensely when I started taking action for a year until God’s breakthrough), but didn’t realize just how much God was answering my prayers at the time.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m so glad you’re in a better place now! That’s wonderful.

      Reply
  17. Laurel

    boundaries in marriage …. And I’ve found wonderful support through an e-course / support group from Nina Roesner.. at Greater Impact Ministries – called Strength and Dignity

    Reply
  18. Elsie

    I think the woman asking the question about her “immature” husband needs to understand that passive-aggressive behavior is abuse. It’s basically covert anger expressed as procrastination, stonewalling, forgetting, pouting, sulking, the silent treatment, and obstruction. Her husband is getting one over on her. He, like many PA’s agree to what is asked of them, and then turn around and do whatever they please. When their feet are held to the fire they feign forgetfulness or claim they’ll do it at a later, which never comes. If you pressure them to take action they will turn everything around on you and claim you’re overbearing or expecting too much of them. The sad thing is that unless her husband recognizes he has a problem things will only get worse, and rarely do PA’s seek therapy as they feel they are the victims of unfair treatment and over the top expectations. My advice would be for her to understand she won’t be able to rely on her husband to be a participating partner in the marriage and she should make plans to deal with issues, emergencies, home repairs, disasters and major decisions on her own. And above all she needs to stop thinking of her husband is a “nice guy” because he’s not. He’s angry but doesn’t openly express it. He’s petty and likely plays tit-for-tat. He’s manipulative and doesn’t care how his wife’s happiness is affected by his behavior. Those aren’t the traits of a nice guy. She should insist her husband receives therapy and she should inform the therapist of his passive-aggressive behaviors and how it affects her and their children (if they have any).

    Reply
  19. Nicole Keller

    While I do agree, Sheila, with nearly all of this wonderful post (thank you!), I disagree with your statement: “Often we do things because of pain in our background that has never been fully processed or dealt with, and it’s just plain holding us back. It sounds like this is what’s going on with her husband.”
    Rather, that is exactly the kind of thinking this type of people WANT you to be convinced of … which is why they often bring up these issues to throw you off their trail … This is, rather, a case of PURE, UNADULTERATED selfishness, laziness and taking their spouse completely for granted.
    If I were her and had the opportunity, I’d go for a healthy separation, where the husband is forced to move out for a time or the wife moves, if he won’t leave. That way, it scares him to realize he no longer has anything to take for granted, and she means business. Justice or divorce would be the goal of the separation. If we continue giving him the emotional benefit of the doubt, while at the same time setting boundaries, we’re going to have trouble NOT feeling sorry for him, which IS what he wants. Instead, my advice would be to throw the WHOLE past out and HE needs to ask permission to bring up anything in his past, as it’s not currently relevant and takes away from the discussion. And if he doesn’t ask permission, she needs to stop the conversation, while he’s mid-sentence and say, “You know what, I’m not interested in hearing excuses anymore. When you have something helpful to say that takes responsibility for your actions in this matter, I’ll be happy to talk.”
    I have personally learned to do this, after having a husband who USED to be the same way as this woman’s husband. However, I gave him no outs. My firm insistence worked, and he now thanks me for not allowing him to get away with his irresponsibility! Plus, he also now admits he knew he was being entirely selfish and making excuses, THE. ENTIRE. TIME. He was just trying to throw me off his trail of forcing him to pull his big boy pants up and deal with adult life.

    Reply
  20. BeNotAfraid

    It is both heartbreaking and encouraging to read as I could have written most of it myself. My husband and I are currently separated (action I took after reading Boundaries in Marriage). There is a lot to unpack here, but a few things I wanted to mention:
    1. I had this awful sense that something was deeply wrong in the relationship, but it was difficult to explain. We had been to counseling (one of our pastors at Church who has also been a counselor for 40 years) but I felt like my concerns were dismissed. My husband has this ability to win people over. I don’t think it’s done out of ill-intent or that he even recognizes it. I think it is how he has learned to cope. It was only after separating, that I was able to SEE the manipulative behavior clearly. It is almost like a spell that your under. We had established this pattern of, every time I would voice a concern, my husband would cry and somehow manage to turn the attention to himself. I would have compassion for him, seek to listen, etc. thinking that is what a loving spouse should do, but then later realize there was this pattern where he would turn the attention to himself and my original complaint was never heard or dealt with. He would play the victim and would say things that would cause me to question myself. I have also wondered if he might be somewhere on the autism spectrum. He is extremely self-centered and emotionally immature. He cannot handle a complaint. He is the most emotionally fragile adult I’ve ever known. My deep desire to love him and cherish him, for a time, caused me to put my own needs, desires, wants and feelings aside in effort to serve him. But, that lead me to being in an unhealthy state and reacting out of anger.
    2. The OP mentioned having ingrained habits. My therapist (not from my Church!) suggested CoDependent No More by Melody Beattie. I was ashamed to even order it, but am so glad I did! While the book is largely geared toward’s those with an alcoholic spouse (not my case), the principles in how to establish new patterns of behavior, dealing with yourself, and how to “detach” from your spouses emotional abuse – are extremely helpful and I highly recommend this book. Her principles help you learn how to take care of yourself and not get caught up in your spouses emotions. And, I have not seen this book mentioned on this site, but think that as much as sexual addiction is discussed, this book could be a really good resource for many people (If your spouse is an addict: alcohol, porn, sex, etc. – you may have codependent tendencies).
    3. Community/Safe People is a must. This is a healthy space, but I think it’s absolutely necessary to have at least 1-2 trusted friends who you can share openly and freely with. Friends who will be advocates for your marriage, but also provide a safe place for you to process and to vent as needed. People who can “crazy check” you and remind you that you aren’t crazy, but who can also challenge you when the time is right.
    4. On counseling: Both my husband and I are in individual and going to marriage therapy weekly. It’s not a promised path to success. Our relationship has steadily gotten worse over the last few months. If your husband isn’t willing to change and grow, all the counseling in the world isn’t going to make much difference. A question my therapist has asked me to keep in mind: “Can I be in this relationship and be healthy?” My current goal is to grow and be in a healthy position, despite what my husband chooses. If he doesn’t want to grow, I can’t make him. So, the question has become: Can I remain healthy and be with him? I want to. I’m praying for that. But, the answer is yet to be determined.
    5. Lastly, I wanted to thank Sheila for her work. It is so nice and refreshing to feel like I have a trusted resource in the Church! I look forward to looking into the other books and resources mentioned in this space.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, thank you for that helpful comment! That’s wonderful. I’ll definitely take a look at that book. I’ve had other people mention it as well, and it sounds great. I’m glad you drew boundaries. That honestly is the most loving thing to do, both for you but also for him. It’s not healthy or good for him to live in perpetual immaturity and selfishness, and being forced to confront this is good. If he chooses not to change, that’s tragic, but that’s also on him.
      My prayers for strength for you! That’s tough to walk through.

      Reply
  21. V BHASKAR

    This resonates with me totally 25 years of marriage and my spouse is on a self destruct trip for years and also paying penalty as she has lost all relationships due to bad karma but I have never been able to bring her around actually the issue here is they are never listening it is always a one way traffic she does apologize but of no avail back to her ways again though this led me to explore myself and human nature to quite an extent and I realised it was my reaction which caused me pain but still difficult I strongly believe I have the power to change only myself not others it is when u are able to control your mind not when you are servant to your own thoughts u can be level headed and emotionally evolved I have realised her 90 pct thoughts are imagination rest 10 Pct is real the art is to be able to see only what u can see and not imagine. the flip side is this opened a totally different side of life which I was unaware

    Reply

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