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Heidi LPC
Heidi LPC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 278
Experience:  Licensed Professional Counselor
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In spite of trying to create an open line of communication

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In spite of trying to create an open line of communication where it is safe to be transparent, and repeatedly, openly admitting my faults and areas that I am working to grow in, my husband refuses to reciprocate. Instead he spends a great deal of time repeating the same mistakes over and over again, and denying doing things improperly. How should I handle this situation? It's putting a serious strain on my ability to have respect for him as the head of our household/family. Thank you!
Good evening, this is Howard,

I'm sorry to hear you are having problems with your husband.

Is your husband repeating the same mistakes over and over intentionally? If so, why do you think he is doing that? What mistakes is he making?

Have you been to see a marriage counselor? If not, why not?

You sound very angry!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Good evening, Howard.
No, he is not intentionally repeating the mistakes. "What mistakes is he making" is difficult to answer, as they do not all fall within a specific category(not that I've noticed, at least). Most of them are relative to simply remembering that a specific task or decision has already been problematic, and needs to be handled differently. The cycle is very much like "Honey, next time, please _____." "Okay, no problem." and then, again, "Do you remember when we spoke about this before? Please do/don't _____." "Yes, I remember. I'm sorry." This goes on and on until there is an argument where one, or both, of our feelings are hurt.
Yes, we have had marital counseling. This particular issue was not addressed.
I have been angry in the past, but I am actually not angry at all right now. I am, however, at a loss regarding how to deal with this.
Thanks for the additional information.

I have trouble remembering things too, so I set up a reminder service which sends me emails to remind me I'm supposed to do something. That works really well for me. I suggest you talk to your husband about doing same.

Feel free to post a follow-up question. I'm here to help!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Sir, the basis of my question was not about the mistakes he makes repeatedly, but about having an open line of communication regarding anything that could benefit from some acknowledgement and personal growth (including repeated mistakes). The "mistakes" are not things that a reminder service would be able to assist with, because they are basic, everyday things that most people remember to do as part of a regular routine (e.g., locking ones's doors at night!). What I am experiencing difficulty with is figuring out how to encourage him to refrain from being a "right fighter" or denying on a regular basis that there are problems resulting from his lack of attention to detail and/or poor decision making. My desire is to figure out how to encourage him to be a person who acknowledges these areas, because where there is no acknowledgement, there can be no growth/repair/healing. I am trying to figure out how to approach a person who operates in EXTREME denial and defensiveness, and encourage him to become a person who feels free to admit his faults (instead of having them pointed out to him, which would be counter-productive) so that he can look closely enough at himself to acknowledge and change the behaviors. I am seeking advice about how to begin a conversation, or or anything, that will aid me in this. Being open and honest about my own faults does not seem to help. Instead, it seems to make him uncomfortable and he becomes quiet, but not upset.
Thank you for the additional information.

I have a question for you: Would it be possible for you to give up your need/demands that your husband acknowledge these areas? If the answer is no, I would appreciate knowing your thinking on this.

I have another question: In the event that there is no growth/repair/healing, what is your plan?

I have another question: If you are unable to encourage your husband to feel free to admit his faults, what is your plan?

I have one more question: If your husband is unable to change his behaviors, would you be willing to change your behaviors? If the answer is "no," please explain further.

I'm only asking these questions so that I may be better equipped to advise you. If you feel that I am not being helpful, you have the option to relist your question.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
In response to your first question, the answer is "No." I have been in relationship with my husband for over 12 years, and I have seen, firsthand, how the lack of acknowledgement results in the continuation of issues that could initially be considered small. I have also witnessed how this same behavior has damaged relationships within his family, and am not interested in having that "legacy" continue with me and our children. In that children learn what they live, and in that a refusal to acknowledge a problem leaves little to no room to resolve it, this is not something I am willing to just "give up." I consider it an important "need" (not demand) of mine, as well as for the benefit of the future of our relationship and overall familial well being.
In light of what I've just written, there is really no option for growth/repair/healing to continue to elude us. Particularly because we are people of faith, opting to "not" grow/repair/heal is not an option. As uncomfortable as it may be, growth/repair/healing is a requirement in our lives.
If I am unable to encourage him to acknowledge there are areas that require his attention, this is a matter that will have to be included in some future marital counseling, and writing in this format will have been unfruitful (unless it eventually results in some idea/strategy that I can incorporate in private). I have heard, seen, and read enough to know that any reputable counselor will see the importance in his acknowledgement of these issues, particularly when there is a very real risk of damaging his relationships, just as his parents, and their parents before them, did.
I am willing to change my behaviors, hence my initial question in this format. I am willing to do some things differently, but not willing to forego, altogether, his eventual willingness/ability to become a man who can confront issues head on and see them resolved.
I am still hopeful that you, in light of all of this additional information, will be able to make a suggestion(s) so that I may be more effective in encouraging this behavior privately as opposed to taking it to a counselors office where he will be forced to publicly deal with an already uncomfortable situation.
Thank you.


Since the other Expert opted out I would like to help you.

You sound like a very competent and confident woman. On the other hand, your husband sounds like he is weak, ineffective, and unable to be the leader of your family. At least that is the picture you have painted. From what you write, you want and desire and need him to be that head of the house and you believe by his "changing" he can do that.

What you seem to be asking for is a way to encourage this change. Is this correct?

The only way people change is through their own desire and commitment. You cannot "make" your husband change. That must come from within his own heart and soul.

It appears to me that when you use the word "encourage" you really mean "demand".

The most important thing you can do to encourage your husband is to love him unconditionally. That means...not putting demands on him to change but accepting his gifts and his flaws. When you love unconditionally you embrace all of that loved one and offer grace when their behaviors trouble or bother you.

Rather than focusing on what your husband needs to do, I encourage you to get support for what you need. Please attempt to understand what it is you need to feel more at peace with yourself, and ultimately with your husband.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Based on these responses, I fear that I am not very "competent," at all. I do, however, appreciate the compliment. I think I've made it clear that I have not put "demands" on my husband in this area. I would also like to say that I do not believe I have portrayed him as "weak," "inefective," or "unable to lead." If he were "weak," I would not be confident that he is able to overcome whatever shame or insecurity that keeps him from feeling safe in his transparency, and feeling comfortable looking inward for potential answers to some of life's tough problems. "Demand" and "encourage" are very, very different methods of approach. I have attempted to "encourage" my husband by being honest and transparent enough to say "You know, I am not very good at doing housework. It just isn't my grace. However, I am committed to doing a better job, because it's important to me that our children are more disciplined in this area than I was growing up." This is one of many examples. I have witnessed a refusal to own up to ones weaknesses (holding people at higher standards than we hold ourselves, withdrawing from situations when they become tough instead of courageously addressing and resolving them, playing the role of "victim" in EVERY situation, etc.) ruin my parents-in-law marriage as well as their relationships with their children. I have been told that the same type of behavior was the downfall of their parents, as well. This alone is reason enough to not take the "Ooohh, I just love you, in spite of the things that damage our family!!" approach of which you speak. I am not willing to be subjected to, nor subject my children to, the same fate when a little bit of elbow grease and effort can make the difference between passing on those communication/behavioral darts as opposed to changing the way we do things so that our family has a better chance at being emotionally healthy. I was only asking for tools from you guys, some insight on my "example" approach, and/or a suggestion of a new approach that I might try in the future. You mention "finding support for what I need," but in this area, that support can only come from my husband and my children's dad. I am very familiar with God's concept of "grace," and it does not include turning a blind eye or deaf ear to our faults. God, too, loves unconditionally, but that is not an escape for the growth and development that He requires of us.
I have, apparently, already bothered you all enough with this. I suppose what Mr. Wise was saying was not actually that he was inquiring of me with a laundry list of questions to have further insight, but that I should actually re-list the question and, promptly, exit his hair:->. I do wish he'd said so, and I would not have taken the time to answer his questions. While I don't believe my question (or it's importance, in light of my husband's family history) is difficult to understand, I will refrain from continuing to obtain a direct response to it in this format. Thank you, ***** ***** much for your time and efforts.
If it is appropriate, please feel free to forward my question to a woman. Perhaps someone who is not taking up the mantle of my husband (who is, apparently, perceived by you gentlemen as severely battered) can give me some advice regarding an approach that will be more effective, or simply tell me to take it to the counselor so that they can address it in a more public setting than our home. My husband already has an awesome support system (including a wife who cares about his emotional scars being healed). What I need is an answer to my very simple question as opposed to repeated attempts at diagnosing me as a pushy, demanding woman who does not accept him for who he is. He would boldly (as in not "weak":->) tell you himself that the truth, as it relates to my behavior toward him is quite contrary to this presumption.
Thank you, both.

Hi there! I have read your exchanges, and thought that maybe I would offer some advice from my vantage point.

It is frustrating to have to replay the same old scripts over and over in marriage, when you clearly can see that there could be such a simple remedy. What you are asking for is simply for your husband to be able to accept responsibility, and demonstrate responsibility. This is a skill that many people are taught in childhood, yet one that many people never learn. You are now attempting to help him learn this skill, while trying to point out to him the benefits of learning and following through on it. If he has always managed to get by with the assistance of others, with the leadership of others, or by blaming others for situations that have gone awry.... and if this has WORKED for him... he will see no need to change his behavior.

In order for him to get on board, there must be some type of benefit for doing so, and some motivation. The key phrase for you to keep in the back of your mind is whatever we give the most attention to is what we will get more of. So be sure to heap on the praise when he follows through or admits defeat... which I am pretty sure you are already doing. What has helped me (as a married woman of 25 years with a wonderful husband who has difficulty remembering to follow through on many occasions!), is that I have to look at the whole picture to keep my perspective. He has weaknesses, and sometimes his insecurities get triggered and he attempts to compensate with defensiveness. I have to weigh this weakness in terms of who he is in every other area, and try to overlook certain things. Not all, not all the time, but each situation has to have it's own approach. Is he a sweet, caring man? Can you depend on him to be there in an emergency? Is he a good friend? Is he a hard worker? etc... This perspective may help when your frustration levels climb...

Finally, when we fear being judged or criticized, our defenses fire up. You have probably already told him that you just have certain needs for order in the house, or safety, or security and you need a willing partner to help with those responsibilities. Talk about these things and together work to determine their value to the family and each of you personally, so that he can see the benefits. You want to be able to trust him to follow through so you will be able to relax and not be hyper vigilant, and if he pitched in with a bit more conscious awareness, you could both relax. State your needs and wishes clearly and write them down in necessary. Try to use humor as a way to melt any defenses, and choose your battles so that you focus on one particular issue at a time until you work it out. Repetition is the key, rewarding the efforts, and reminding yourselves of what a great thing you have... and anything worth keeping is worth working at!

I hope my view was somewhat useful to you--- I will await any reply or any further information or questions!

Heidi LPC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 278
Experience: Licensed Professional Counselor
Heidi LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Mrs. Heidi,
Bless you. First of all, to answer your questions (which I understand are really for me:->), yes, my husband is very sweet and caring, not the best in emergencies (but that is because he was never nurtured as a child or young adult, so he's still trying to learn how to nurture), a great friend, and an extremely hard worker.
I will do what you've suggested and be sure to heap on lots and lots of praise for the things he does right. While I do offer praise, I tend to have an attitude that says "Well, this is what mature grownups are supposed to do..." but we all start out at different places in life, and grownups don't all get to a certain level of maturity in the same way or at the same pace. I will try to respond to him similarly as I respond to my children-- not speak to him as though he were a child, but give him as many of the "atta boy's" (that his parents didn't give) as I possibly can. This is going to be a little bit challenging for me, because I don't expect or shower praise for basic adult, day-to-day responsibilities, but I will do it. I will also write a letter to him (which I'm sure will be less painful than listening to me ask him "Can you please open up about what's wrong with you?" LOL! Just kidding:->). I have already asked him once, in an e-mail, and I told him I actually do "need" this from him. He did not respond, but I will write a nice, heartfelt letter to him about it. If I can "complain" about an issue twice, I can certainly ask for what I need twice:->.
You hit several proverbial nails on their heads, but the one that impacted me the most was "You want to be able to trust him to follow through so you will be able to relax and not be hyper vigilant, and if he pitched in with a bit more conscious awareness, you could both relax." Bingo. I love and appreciate him, at the same time, I want to be able to trust that he is paying attention to the details of his family, and that he's fully tuned in (like he is at work!). I also want for us to keep the "junk" that every human has, to a minimum as it relates to passing our behaviors, ideals, beliefs, etc. on to our children, and the ability to accept responsibility is a HUGE asset for people to benefit from before becoming adults.
I appreciate you, very much, for your focus on my question. I will continue to be an example of this so that he can see "Wow, people can be their own best critics... and still SURVIVE!" I will also turn up the praise and be even more selective than before about choosing my "battles," and I will not hold back from lovingly discussing the importance of this with him. I am looking forward to him seeing how this can help shed the guilt/shame/insecurities associated with being in a regular state of what I call the "cycle of deny and defend," walking in the TRUE FREEDOM it brings, and being able to enjoy it!
Mrs. Heidi, thank you.
I am glad that I was able to be of some service to you! They say that we teach others how to treat us, and sometimes we forget that we actually have the power to teach... and the responsibility. One must never assume anything, and we have to look at everything that we DO have in our marriages, and remember to be grateful for that... and I wish you all the very best as you smooth out this little wrinkle of married life! Let me know how it works out!! :-)