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He's Selfish, Disrespectful And Irresponsible

Question:

I have been with my husband for 5 years. We have a 3 year old daughter together. We have really great times together but we also have super bad times. He is very verbal with me. Most of the time I cannot view my opinion or even just say something is bothering me in fear that a huge fight will happen, usually just him yelling, calling me names & threatening a divorce. He spends a lot of money on what I think are stupid things. We live at home with his parents temporarily until we find a place. But instead of saving he spends. Like golf clubs, a new car. I supposedly have no say in it cause it’s his money. So if I tell him please don’t get that car. I wanna get a house & move out of here. He says we will. Don’t worry about what I’m spending MY money on. All my bills will be paid. Yeah, here at his parents he has none. I want to have things like a house. I drive an old used car & I’m the one who halls our daughter around 99% of the time. He has has 6 or 7 cars since we’ve been together. I have had 2 only because the first one just stop running. I cant afford a car payment cause I pay too much for day care. He doesn’t help me with day care. He says cause he’s got other bills that he doesn’t have money to help me. We have separate accounts because of his spending problems. I just really need advise from someone who doesn’t know either of us. He disrespects me all the time in front of our friends. Somehow everything is always my fault, or at least leads to someway of making it my fault. He’s selfish, disrespectful and irresponsible. I really doesn’t know what to do. I can’t tell him that in fear of a divorce or him screaming at me or throwing something. I don’t want to live like that but I don’t want to end our marriage and our family if it can be saved. Please help me

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Answer:

When you say, “He’s selfish, disrespectful and irresponsible…I don’t want to live like that but I don’t want to end our marriage and our family if it can be saved”, well, it is hard to get clearer about your issue than this sort of statement. So, congratulations on your clear understanding because that is actually an accomplishment. You can’t figure out what you need to do before you understand what is wrong. The key outstanding question in your description above will be your deciding whether the marriage can be saved. This is going to come down to how much selfishness, disrespectfulness and irresponsibility you can take from him and still feel okay about yourself and your situation. It is not a question of whether the marriage can endure; it is more a question of how much disrespect you will put up with before it becomes better to leave than to stay.

It seems clear enough that you’ve asked him to behave better and more thoughtfully on various occasions in the past with little success; if he is to change how he relates to you you’re going to have to try different ways of interacting with him. Perhaps you will have to learn to be more assertive with him, not backing down, not giving in, and not letting him off the hook when he does something selfish (all the while, doing your level best to communicate rationally, and to not raise your voice or become whiny). Any attempts you make to assert your needs will likely be met with resistance, however. It seems that he escalates and threatens whenever you push him for something because he knows that this will shut you down. You can expect that the more firmly you advocate for respectful thoughtful treatment, the more you will be yelled at and threatened with divorce. You will need to be ready for this.

This man knows your fears and uses them to keep you down. Your challenge is to stop being afraid, or to at least stop letting your fears keep you paralyzed. When you stop allowing yourself to be paralyzed with fear, he stops having leverage over you and the power dynamic within your relationship will necessarily change. When you find your gentle but persistently firm voice and stop responding to his threats he will either start giving ground and behaving better, or he will escalate ever further until it is truly dangerous to live with him. I hope that he is wise enough to learn how to compromise some, because it is clear you don’t want to leave this marriage. If it becomes necessary to leave him in order to preserve your self-respect or safety, I hope you will find the courage to do so, however. There is life after divorce, and it can be sweet. At least, sweeter than your present experience seems to be. Good luck.

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