How to Fix Your Husband (or Yourself, at Least)

woman fixing a leaky sinkIf I had a dollar for every time someone has come to me and asked me to fix their partner (or mother, or child, or boss), I would be a wealthy woman. I’d be richer still if I could actually provide this service! Alas, I can no more fix your husband than I can my own (and by the way, I’ve tried; it didn’t work).

So what do you do when your husband needs fixing, but you’re the one in therapy? Work on yourself, that’s what! And by all means, get him to couples counseling if you can. But even if he won’t go (yet), what are your choices? Many people see this as a black-and-white situation: either he changes or I go. But sometimes if you change, he may change, too. Or at least be willing to consider trying …

Here are a few things to try that may bring some fresh energy and perspective to the situation.

  • Stop and listen to him. Even if he complains about the same coworker day after day and you can predict the next thing out of his mouth, give him your full, undivided attention for a few minutes. If now isn’t a good time, agree on a time in the very near future when you can lend him your ear. If you model good listening skills, you may observe that he is appreciative and reciprocates at a later date. At the very least, you are building your “cred” so that when he is not listening to you, you can refer back to the other night when you fully attended to him, and ask him how he felt when truly heard. Then you can ask for the same consideration and reasonably expect him to at least try.
  • Make regular time to connect without distractions. For most couples, it’s not realistic to have an hour a day to sit down and talk. But even if it’s 10 minutes and you really talk (not just plan your schedules), you will be less likely to drift apart throughout the week. Sit next to each other and look at each other, touching in some way, if possible. This “posture” will allow each of you to give and get the other person’s full attention, and makes it harder to get angry and defensive. If there are things that need “improving,” let him know how his behavior makes you feel instead of pointing fingers. Some of you may be saying that this is yet another example of you having to take the lead to bring the attention to problems in your relationship. That may be true, but someone needs to initiate the change or it won’t happen. So be willing to start the ball rolling.
  • Let go of your assumptions of what his behavior means. Perhaps it does indeed mean he doesn’t care about you when he doesn’t listen, or that he’s being passive aggressive by peeing on the toilet seat. But isn’t it also possible that he is doing these things mindlessly or out of habit? Or that he is preoccupied with his fear of losing his job? Maybe you shouldn’t take it so personally this time.
  • Tap into your compassion. Many negative behaviors can be attributed to the traumas and fears of daily life, if not to those suffered long ago. Take a few deep breaths and imagine what it feels like to be in his shoes. It may soften your stance a bit, enabling you to more gently convey your concerns.
  • Hold him—and yourself—accountable for your actions. Although all of the above are useful, ultimately you want to be in a relationship where you can negotiate the ups and downs of daily life. If you consistently feel unheard with your concerns, then it is time to get some help and sort through the “he says, she says” stuff. Chances are you are both attached to your versions of things and the longer you wait to address them, the more entrenched they will become.

And if your husband still won’t come to therapy with you? Become the best version of yourself and see if he can reciprocate. In yoga, when we say “Namaste,” we invoke the concept of “the best of me greets the best of you.” If you greet him with your best, you can then see if he is willing to meet you part of the way and do the emotional work that will bring him—and your relationship—into a healthier place.

If he still won’t meet you, then at least you are becoming your best self. From there, you will figure it out.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lillian Rozin, MFA, LCSW, RYT, therapist in Media, Pennsylvania

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 8 comments
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  • kyle

    kyle

    July 21st, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    It is not my job to fix other people but instead it is my job to fix myself if this is someone whom I choose to have as a part of my life. The only one who can change us is us, and usually we are pretty offended if there is someone else who is out there trying to make us do that without our consent.
    I know that marriage and relationshiops are hard, they take a lot of work. But you knew who this person was when you commited to him or her- why do you need to change the game now, after the commiting has been done?
    There is always room fro growth and change but it has to come from a point where both participants are willing to do it, and not just that one is pushing to get what he or she wants.

  • Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    July 22nd, 2014 at 5:42 AM

    Wonderful, very useful article!

    I’m also a big believer in the power of touch to stay connected. I also advise my clients (and myself!) to watch out for the negative judgments unspooling in your head and look for the things you like or love about the person. Another one I love is to watch your partner breath while they’re asleep. It’s virtually impossible to feel anything but love…

  • Junebug

    Junebug

    July 22nd, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    If you try to do too much “repair work” when someone just isn’t interested in that I think that you will find that you will drive them away very fast.

  • Constance

    Constance

    July 23rd, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    My husband isn’t the best listener in the world and it does try me crazy, but instead of getting all angry I will simply remind him that I am talking and that it would speak to my love languages in a little bit of a better way if he would get rid of his distractions for a while and pay a little more attention to me.

    He and I have been married a long time and I can say these things to him and he will know that I am only doing these things because i want to feel connected to him. It hurts when I feel like he is not fully in tune with me and I just remind him of that when I feel like I need to.

  • paula

    paula

    July 24th, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    This is not strictly a female thing, as I have a husband who is constantly on my case for everything that I do or don’t do around the house and yet I never see any articles that pertain to how men also try to change things about their wives. The argument starts to feel a little one sided you know/

  • Sadie H.

    Sadie H.

    July 26th, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    When will my friends learn that it is not about changing someone else that would make everything alright but perhaps taking a little look inward to solve many of those problems that they presume that they have.

  • Debbie

    Debbie

    July 27th, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    I know that I should be more compassionate to his needs and more understanding but the things that he does sometimes truly baffle the mind! How can he have lived this long and still not know how to do the most basic things for himself? I am not sure what role he wants me to fulfill most times, his wife or his mother and that is very frustrating to me. I don’t remeber him being like that when we first got together but maybe I was just so blinded by love that I didn’t see it.

  • michael

    michael

    July 28th, 2014 at 4:40 PM

    There can be an upside to this in that if you are going to therapy and he starts to witness how great you are starting to feel as a result then maybe he will want to join you and the two of you can begin some work together. It may be a reach but often what is going to be that little jumpstart will be for him to see that this is something that can be positive and that this is not about changing him but just improving upon the relationship that the two of you already have. If he can see things from this perspective then maybe the threat would be gone a little and he could then bring himself to be a part of the journey with you.

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