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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Husband Doesn’t Understand that His Behavior Bothers Me

Dear Stavroula,

I have been married for 10 years and my husband and I have a generally good life. We don’t have any big problems. But there are many behaviors of his that hurt me or that make me feel bad. What bothers me the most is that, when we are with friends or relatives, he never misses the opportunity to throw a mean-spirited comment or complaint about me, covered with humor, of course – most of the time – but which I feel is insulting to me. He may mock me if I say something he disagrees with, or comment on my appearance or behavior in such a way as to make others laugh, so that it seems like a joke.

I try really hard not to make an issue of it, and let it go, because a few times when I tried to talk to him, he told me that he was joking and that I don’t understand that he just wanted to tease me and that if it was something serious he wouldn’t say it in front of everyone. But the truth is that it is only when we are with others that he behaves like this. I would like your opinion on the reasons why he does it so that I can understand what I should do.

Lia

 

Dear Lia,

Communication is the basis of any successful relationship, but it is not always easy to be effective.

Many prefer to keep something inside that might hurt them or make them feel weak rather than express it to their partner. That’s why they often cover their displeasure in every way, because that’s preferable to them than showing vulnerability or feeling exposed.

Something similar might be happening in your case. For some reason you have chosen not to confront your partner, despite the fact that his comments hurt you. You prefer to put up with this behavior rather than communicate to your husband exactly what is bothering you and why.

Perhaps just as important, if not more, than understanding the reasons why your spouse behaves the way he does is understanding the reasons why you choose not to react to what is bothering you. Behind your attitude may be the fear of rejection or abandonment.

There may also be a behavior that you have learned from childhood that you have become accustomed to or find effective. In any case, talking to a mental health professional would help you clear up what exactly is going on inside.

On the outside, of course, your husband’s behavior may indicate that there is a problem in the communication between you. If as you say, he only chooses to engage in this behavior when you are with people, even if covered with humor, then maybe for him it is not just fun but a way to express something that bothers him either to you or even to himself, in a safe environment, in which there is no risk of being misunderstood.

It would perhaps help your relationship to restore honest and effective communication between the two of you. For your part, it might help to express clearly and directly (at the time he does it) to your partner what it is that bothers you about his words or behavior, focusing on what you feel and avoiding criticism or accusations. And on the other hand it would be important to try to hear what your partner is expressing behind his comments and jokes. What is it that he actually wants to share?

Even though you don’t have major problems in your relationship, no matter how minor the problems you are facing might be, they need to be resolved with respect and honesty in order for the relationship to continue to be healthy and long-lasting.

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