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Anna, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1945
Experience:  Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 29 years in addictions and mental health.
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I'm looking for suggestions on how to deal with some very

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I'm looking for suggestions on how to deal with some very annoying behavior that I see in both my Mother in Law and my husband. In a nutshell they both will ask for advice or ask for someone else to make a decision, but they will always challenge the response or reject the choice and continue to ask you to make another choice. Even if they are asked what they would like, they will make a suggestion and if it is accepted, they will also challenge their choice and offer up other suggestions.
Some examples are going out to eat dinner. My husband will always ask me what kind of food I would like to go out to eat. If I make a suggestion, he will immediately say "I don't feel like that", and ask me for another suggestion. If I ask him what he wants and I agree with that he suggests, he will then say okay, but almost immediately will say "Well, what about this instead?". If I allow this to happen, the conversation goes on and on and he generally will come back to what HIS first suggestion was. This happens even when we go out for something like my birthday where I would expect to make the choice.
Another example is that he will ask me what we should make for dinner. He insists that I give suggestions, always rejects them, and wants to even challenge his suggestions.
Another example is choosing a movie. He will ask our 5 year old twins if they want to watch a movie from the video on demand of our cable provider. He then scrolls through the list of movies and of course the kids are under the impression that they will get to choose the movie, but every time they make a choice, he says "no, lets find something else". As you can imagine this turns into a lot of frustration and crying by two 5 year olds because he plays this challenge game as well.
Other behavior issues that may or may not be related is that my husband has a very hard time accepting any kind of criticism, no matter how constructive or gently it is relayed. He will go into a long, drawn out explanation of why he is right, attempt to force you to believe that you just misunderstood or don't understand the situation, and also gets frustrated if you don't agree with him in the end. Yet, he is very forth giving with criticism himself.
He also gets very frustrated when people do not share his views on certain subjects. One example is that he absolutely hates the Nancy Grace show on HLN. Not only does he hate her, he gets extremely frustrated that I watch her show sometimes. He will go into long speeches about why she is a horrid person. I even go out of my way to not involve him when I watch her shows, but if he thinks I've watched her, he goes into this long session of slandering her in hopes that he will convince me to not watch her anymore.
Any input as to what the behavior is called, or what I can do to deal with it would be greatly appreciated. Him going into counseling will never happen, so I'm just looking for ways to either avoid the situations or ways to make it less painful. His mother does very similar things, especially with asking for input or advice and then wanting to challenge every suggestion, etc.
Hello & Welcome to Just Answers.

This is an incredibly frustrating problem to deal with. It's a push pull manipulation---come close-go away. Hostage taking with no ransom demand. It exhausts people and it seems that the only way to get around the manipulation is to not care about anything, have no opinion and not to attach to anything so that they can't 'catch ' you at it and then drive you bananas with a session of soul-sucking, exhausting, combative emotional bashing----all the while acting like they're simply asking a simple question and don't understand your emotional over-reaction.

It's a very cruel form of emotional abuse, and it's all about control. By doing this...they get you to keep your thoughts on them and adapting your world around them by trying to walk on eggshells in all that you say and do....even when you're not near them, you still have to keep them at the center of your thoughts lest you endure a 'session' later. Complete control of your thought process is the goal, but that is never acknowledged. If confronted, it will be denied and then you would be attacked for having an opinion they didn't approve of.

Some folks do this under the guise of 'nice', 'gifting', 'volunteering' 'helpful', 'curious', 'wanting the best for you', and some just go straight to the bullying without the sugar coating. It's all about control and power.

To save yourself, you have to get out from under the verbal vomit that you get covered up in and get some information. Information is power. Learning that 'No.' is a complete sentence. Remembering that adults don't answer up to adults. Remembering that unsolicited attention, help, curiosity or advice can be refused. Google controlling personalities and co-dependency and you'll start to learn how it works. The book Emotional Vampires is another good place to find information.

You can thwart the effect this has on you and get out from under the spell just through education and an attitude change on your part. You'd be amazed at how the power floats away when you don't defend yourself or answer up to them.

You're not insane...this is a very common form of emotional abuse and it's effects are can see what his mother did to don't want your kids being like that. Let the buck stop at your feet.

My best to you.

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