Dr. A. Lynn Scoresby
The most complete web resource for parents, by Dr. A. Lynn Scoresby.

Husbands Who Believe They Are Always Right and Wives Who Withhold

March 21st, 2008 by Lynn


We all start out in life thinking we are the center of the universe and other people are planets that revolve around us. It is a natural thing for children to concentrate on themselves and think that everyone thinks or should think the same way they do. This is known as egocentrism. Often children are frustrated when adults don’t let them do what they want, when they want it, and as often as they want. But, in the process of making certain that other people’s ideas are considered, most children grow out of being egocentric. Most people learn to be aware of others, accept what others think, and consider other people as valid and important as they think of themselves.

Many do not learn quite enough. It might be true that all of us have some egocentrism. And, it is not all bad. Many professions attract people who believe strongly in themselves and accomplish much because they prepare themselves to possess great knowledge, communicate logically with persuasive evidence, and pressure or persuade others to agree. Some that come to mind are some business executives, medical doctors, and lawyers. I am not saying that all members of these professions are like this and I am not suggesting that egocentrism is limited to these professions. Men and women both can be egocentric and be in any profession or situation. Their strengths make it possible for considerable success at work, but at home, and especially in marriage this mental quality is often associated with real problems. Let’s consider the case of egocentric husbands and their wives who withhold.

When making a decision egocentric husbands believe their ideas to be better, far better. When having a disagreement they will argue to be right and avoid being wrong. They often will verbally punish (e.g criticize and demean). They will be critical of the pace someone goes to fulfill an assignment and will remind their wives of their slowness or inadequacies. They may, with an angry and condemning tone of voice, criticize a spouse or child who does not do what they require and point to the problems this creates for them. They will attribute their problems of unhappiness to the other person and communicate that they, themselves, are hard working and deserve more than they receive. If their wife, for instance, is having a hard day and feeling blue, this sort of person will, instead of comforting, often want to know the reasons for the emotion and act irritated that the depressed feelings are going to prevent the attention and warmth they want. Sometimes they will demean their wives for not bucking up and keep themselves in shape in order to fulfill their needs and desires. This can extend to her weight, to her sexual performance, and her social behavior.

What about their wives? Faced with this sort of behavior, and still emotionally attached, many wives develop a strategy of withholding whatever their husband desires. They may be passive when the husband wants activity. They may be late when the husband wants to be on time. They may withhold emotional warmth, sex, and affection. They believe they have been hurt, and they have been. They believe themselves married to someone who doesn’t care more for them than for his schedule, being right, and his needs. Sex, until it ends, is usually set up to please the husband and so she defends her position by collecting evidence that she is justified. Why does she stay with this type of person?

The reasons vary but often it is because she is strongly attached herself, doesn’t want to destroy the family, and she occasionally wants to win too or at least prove that she is not wrong as he would hope to make her. She is not happy and neither is he.

What to do? Usually this condition is not corrected without professional help. By then, however, one or both may have had affairs to deal with. But, if they both persist they can create something much better. The course of change usually includes each learning to stop trying to control or manage the other person and agree to focus themselves on controlling and managing their own behavior. (E.g. being positive and eliminate criticism and blame). Then they can be helped to discover what each other “wants” or “desires.” Finding two “want to’s” is not as easy as it sounds when someone has been telling the other what should and ought to happen. But if each can trust what the other person wants then they can practice treating them and acting toward them to give them exactly what is wanted. Why do that? Giving someone what he or she wants is the easiest and best way to get what you want if the other person is a loving and willing participant.

The next step is to ensure each person protects the other’s freedom to speak and act as he or she desires and totally without pressure or constraint. This takes some doing, because each believes that if freedom is granted the other person will use it to control or withhold. Lastly, they both will need to participate in several joint activities to actually demonstrate they can control themselves and participate fully with each other. In this stage they can finish the process by demonstrating their willingness to sacrifice for each other. This may seem like an involved process, and to some it is, but it is better than the other way.

Posted in Marriage, Mental Health

7 Responses

  1. R

    I don’t understand how to make this marrige better when my husband is acting exact way you wrote. It seems like a lengthly process and I don’t understand how to stay stable without taking some relaxing drugs so my heart and head will stop hurting, if you know what I mean.

  2. K H

    I did not think that I would find anything that could describe my relationship with my husband but this did a wonderful job.
    Whenever we discuss something, he always has to be right…and because I am trying to be right for once, he will accuse me of the same thing. He has even had the audacity to tell me I am “manipulating” him when my only intent was to bring up my feelings. He’s a real smooth talker, my husband, and always finds a way to talk around anything I have to say. I don’t feel like he listens to me and as a result I am reluctant to talk with him anymore. Of course, he knows when something is on my mind and he gets irritated when I refuse to talk to him about it. I tried discussing this communication problem with him on more than one occasion but I ran into the very problem I was trying to solve.
    He also tries to “manage” me. I have brought this up as well. He does not see it that way, he feels he is justified.
    For example, I have been trying to find a job as I just finished nursing school. With only one of us employed right now it is a struggle. But, I have been having trouble finding something with the hours I need; my husband has a challenging schedule to work around. So, he believes I am not looking…and the other week he checked all of the job websites and the search history to see if I’ve been looking! Of course, he played it off that he was “just trying to help me”…I have been upset about this since but I’m holding it in because what is the point of talking about it? Despite that he saw for himself what I am dealing with for jobs, and he knows that I AM looking, now he is acting like I’m not looking hard enough. He started asking me, “What about xyz company, and etc” and he has talked to everyone he knows in my field about jobs. He reminds me nearly daily of what my “top priority” should be.
    I don’t talk to him about jobs because of all of this. I feel like if I do, then I am submitting to him…in some way saying that it is okay for him to “manage” me. I haven’t told him that much…but he does realize I hold back information and of course, he thinks I do it to hurt him.
    I have become depressed…I have started slacking on the housework and making dinner and I can’t talk to him about it…it’s driving me mad! At the same time, that gives him more reason to “manage” me. He actually told me to clean yesterday…and I thought, “Would I ever dare tell you WHEN you need to mow the lawn?!” Because there have been plenty of times he has decided he did not feel like doing something, and I have not ever told him when he needs to get something done.

  3. shilpa

    my god sometimes i wish today was my last day but when i think of my son i want live is there any solution how i can be invisible, deaf to my husband. I keep quiet but wen i flare thats the end

  4. Jane

    Wow, that is spot on description of my husband, who is a medical doctor. He’s also a Major in the Air Force so lots of people listen to him and follow his direction. His ego is so annoying. Everything has to be his way. One time he sent me a Youtube link about a documentary he thought was interesting. I watched half of it, but didn’t finish it the same day he sent the link, and guess what…….he went into a pissy passive aggressive anger mode and then accused me of ignoring his needs. All because I didn’t *finish* watching the video. WOW. Talk about ego issues.

    Needless to say, as the powerless military spouse stuck in no man’s land (aka overseas) with no job, I am helpless without him so I conceded and shed tears of “I’m sorry for not watching the video.” When I cried, he felt better. No kidding.

    Living with this kind of man is so annoying.

  5. Arianna

    I am a military spouse too! And as the same as you, sometimes I think that my husband applies husband strategies at work with his troopers to me when at home! Many times, I feel overloaded! I knows he works hard everyday, and as a housewife, I try to tackle everything from taking care of our son, cooking for every meal, cleaning, laundry, etc. But no matter what and how much I am trying, it seems not enough to him! And whenever he does a bit of housework, ex: he daily put his wet PT clothes in the washer along with a few other clothes already in the hamper, he would take it as a huge credit for sharing the work with me later on, though I am finally the one who takes the clothes to dry, fold or iron. He also compares my body to xyz super model, blaming me for not working out hard to shed the excess weight after pregnancy, though I always tell him about my serious back and joint pain! For the kid, my son is a sinfully curious little boy. Then my husband blames me for not being able to keep the boy in control! Just recently, my sin dropped a whole bottle of black inn onto the carpet in our bedroom, while my husband was in the master bath picking his facial hair and I was washing dishes in the kitchen! My hus. blamed me for not keeping an eye on the little boy, and that inn spilled on carpet and my time and energy to clean the carpet like a crazy bull were the consequence! I was like “yah, if I somehow had an extra pear of eyes, I would be able to do dishes and watch the kid at the same when you bared the time picking the hair right next to the boy!”

    I have tried to bring up his problem to discussion with him many times, but they are going nowhere! He doesnt want to commit that it is his problem. And everytime, it ends up with he leaves me alone in the room crying! As the previous comment said, “I keep quiet [for I think of my son], but when I flare, that’s the end!”

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