I received this honest question in a text from a wife in a destructive/abusive marriage. It’s far too broad and wide to answer in a text so I am writing some thoughts here:
“How is it that my husband is supposedly the blamer/abuser, when I have been the one for years believing he is someone he is not and pressuring him to be that man?”
First, you may or may not have responded to your husbands blame and abuse perfectly. I don’t know of a single person who has always responded to someone else’s destructive behaviors perfectly…except Jesus.
But, I would ask you a few questions:
Has he led you to believe he is someone he is not? Has he said one thing and then done another? Has he said he would protect and care for you, but then been the most destructive person in your life? OR has he said to you, ‘I am a lazy man and I don’t want to engage as a husband and a father’ and you are ‘pressuring’ him to be someone he doesn’t want to be?
Secondly, who does the behavior serve? Does your ‘pressuring him’ take away his voice and his choice? Or are you pressuring him to keep his word to you? Are your expectations higher than what he is capable of? Is your ‘control’ because you want the power over him or is it that you don’t want to live under his control?
I think we can have certain ‘common courtesy’ expectations, such as: calling when they will be late, keeping their agreements, taking everyone’s needs/desires into consideration when making decisions, personal hygiene, listening and working on issues and not stonewalling, and please and thank you. These are things that are ‘common’ in our culture. To require common courtesy is not being controlling. They may have to be learned, but they are not too high of an expectation.
We ALL have done destructive behaviors. Every. One. Of. Us. Humans can be manipulative, selfish, and controlling. We want what we want when we want it.
Abuse = power and control in taking away someone’s choice and voice. Abuse is damaging to the human soul, psyche, mind, and body. We can even be abusive/destructive to ourselves and may need to learn healthy choices.
The follow up question she had was telling:
“I don’t understand his inability to do the simplest things. Like why should his hygiene even be something I have to bring up? I am fed up with him not even showering or shaving. When I finally get fed up and ask him to shower, he just ignores me. I feel like the only option I have left is to make him a spot in the basement to sleep. It feels like I am the controller.”
Whenever you get ‘fed up’ look for a boundary to implement. A boundary is ‘the decision I’m going to make for ME.’ Then you are controlling you and not him. Give him options. Use ‘I’ and ‘me’ statements. Rather than “you smell and need to take a shower”, say, “I don’t appreciate it when I smell you all night long. I understand that sometimes you don’t feel like taking a shower. When that’s the case would you please sleep downstairs?” He can always say no, and then you need to make a decision…you sleep downstairs with a space heater, go to a motel, buy a cot and sleep in one of the kid’s rooms, etc.
Remember, boundaries must be implemented kindly or they come across as you are the one with the problem. When you hold a boundary in outrage, they will discount your boundary because they think you are just acting impulsively instead of acting decisively. It can take a long time to learn to hold boundaries firm, confident, and kind, but when you are able to, it makes them far more effective. And yes…you can have boundaries! They rock! If when you hold boundaries it is met with further abuse, it is time to consider getting support and creating a safety plan.
Your original question is worthy to think through. It is possible to attempt to pressure someone to be what we want them to be rather than who they want to be. There may be desired expectations that need to be let go. But if your expectations have been communicated and agreed to or if your expectations are ‘common courtesy’, then finding your voice and implementing boundaries is not being a controlling person. It’s living in a normal relationship.