By Joyce Oglesby
Q: “My husband devalues me. Everything I say is disregarded. He never asks my opinion about decisions that include both of us. He talks to me like I’m one of the children instead of his spouse. Of course, he wants me to clean his house, cook his meals, keep his laundry done, and have sex on demand. I feel like I don’t matter to him except to fulfill his needs. He completely ignores mine. My mother tells me to get used to it — all men are this way. She has never had a voice. I didn’t want to marry a man just like my dad, but I think I did. Can I change him or is there no hope? I’m miserable!
Joyce: Misery’s only hope is change.
Men are not all the same, but the same kind of men of whom you speak come a dime a dozen. I have lived with both extremes of men: my dad, who objectified, used, and abused women, and my husband, who honors, respects, and esteems them. I can tell you, the latter certainly makes life
worth loving and love worth living. There are many in-between men who report they don’t always realize what they’ve done to devalue a woman. I would quickly add, however, that most of us are guilty of having minimized our spouse’s worth at one time or another. I believe everyone has a general idea of when our words or actions are targeted at lessening someone’s worth, whether intentional or not.
Where does that leave you? Life is certainly too short to live it in misery, so let’s talk about the hope and find you a plan to facilitate change in your present condition. In order for things to improve, both of you must be willing to work together and use your strength to pull yourselves into a better place of love.
1. Draw the boundary lines. People in general think things are copacetic when everything operates without interruption or objection. Put some limits on what and how much you will do and/or tolerate without some acknowledgement, appreciation, and gratefulness.
2. Teach kindness in the family. Many people are guilty of being kinder to strangers than they are to their loved ones. I recall my deer-in-the-headlights look at my dad’s funeral when a flood of people paraded through the viewing line and spoke of how kind he was. We never knew that kind man. We only knew of his harsh, sharp, criticizing tongue and heavy hand. Once I got married, I could have chosen to be the same way, but I selected a different path. That is the key: choice. We choose how we will love, and we teach it to those we love. When your husband is demeaning your worth, stop him and say something like, “I choose to believe you don’t mean to devalue me like you just did, and here is a kinder way to have said what you wanted to convey.” Teach him. Give him alternative solutions to how you could accept the criticism and ignoring of your opinions, and choose to respond in a kinder manner yourself. We know that honey typically draws more flies than vinegar.
3. Decide not to settle. Don’t settle if your instruction to your husband isn’t paying off. If he continues on his course of blatant disrespect for you, insist on counseling. It is better to go through therapy before years of rubble have accumulated.
4. Take note of your reaction. If you find yourself becoming distant from your spouse, you know his attempts at devaluing you are taking hold. Likewise, if you find yourself pursuing or coddling him hoping for change in his conduct, you not only enable the behavior — you validate his actions. People who get caught in the trap of withdrawing and chasing eventually abdicate their own self-worth and fall out of love.
5. Remember how valuable you are. Don’t give in to the notion that you are worthless. Many a wife has lost her identity by forgetting how special she is. Always remember you are a daughter to parents who love you, a mom to children who adore you, a wonderful creation of God, and someone who deserves to be cherished by your husband. Don’t allow another season to pass without celebrating your truest worth. If your husband has trouble finding your value, it will cost more than misery in the end. There is hope for you both, but the current pattern of living must change to a better design of love.
Struggling with a relationship issue? Contact Joyce Oglesby, Family Life FIX-IT Pro and find a solution for life. Listen to The Just Ask Joyce Show M-F from 3-5pm on WFIA 94.7fm/900am. It’s where real life and family values connect!