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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Husband Does Not Value Me

Dear Stavroula,

I am a 60-year-old retiree married to the same man for 35 years. We got married out of mutual love and we live a very comfortable life financially based mainly on my husband's work. Our relationship has gone through ups and downs from time to time, but I cannot say that we have ever reached a kind of serious crisis. However, this is largely due to my own submissiveness. My husband is a difficult character, irritable and assertive. Many times, especially when he is tired, he talks to me abruptly and ignores me. I have learned not to answer when I see him like that, and to retreat, so that we do not clash and can live calmly. But lately, his behavior has become more intense and I feel like he does not value me at all. Recently, I learned that he sold one of the apartments we have without discussing it with me at all. I tried to talk to him and ask him why he did not ask my opinion and he started making fun of me "what do you know," and "God forbid if all these years I waited to ask you what I should sell and what I should buy," and so on. I now feel very tired of his behavior. What should I do?

Penelope

Dear Penelope,

From what you write to me I understand that in your relationship there is a problem of communication with your spouse. He speaks to you in a way that hurts, and you retreat.

Behaviors like your husband's, which are characterized by insults, criticism, irony towards your partner, are usually found in people who have low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority and therefore feel the need to look strong and tough. In other words, these people usually have a problem with themselves. They refuse to admit their own mistakes and believe that others are responsible for all their problems, and for this reason they are filled with anger and lash out verbally. It is not at all easy for them to realize the trap they have fallen into, and to change their behavior.

Your share of responsibility lies in your attitude towards your spouse. You have chosen to avoid conflicts with him by giving in to his behavior. In fact, you essentially send the message that he is right to treat you in this way, why else why would you accept it and not react?

I would suggest you visit a specialist together, but I'm afraid it will be hard to convince your husband of that. You could, however, talk to someone and consult with them.

In any case, it might help to have a calm and honest discussion with him, trying to avoid as much as possible phrases that could be considered as criticisms or accusations. Try to talk to him honestly expressing your feelings and the consequences of his behavior on you. You could, for example, express yourself like this: "Every time you do not take my opinion into account, I feel insignificant, and get upset."

Finally, try to put some limits on how he behaves.

Even when you choose to give up, tell your husband clearly why you are doing it. Tell him how you prefer to stop talking, because you feel that he is not in the mood to speak calmly and because you do not want to get into a conflict, even though you disagree with him, so that he does not feel justified and consider himself right.

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