My husband has to “win” every argument, no matter how small. Even when he is clearly wrong, he has to have the last word. He is a sensitive man and not at all domineering, yet when there is a disagreement, even about something factual, he has to defend himself and will never admit being wrong. I tell him that this drives me crazy and makes me not want to talk to him, but he can’t seem to stop. —Can’t Stand This
But in these arguments, he is being domineering. Granted, it might not come from a typically controlling personality: Perhaps it’s obsessiveness, nit-pickiness, tunnel vision or just being certain he is the definitive expert on ’80s band Fun Boy Three. Bulldozing his way through these interactions is still not “sensitive,” though. And refusing ever to admit being wrong is choosing to put a serious crack in the foundation of a true partnership. Of course, this gets meta — talking to him about how it affects you might bring out the same refusal — so maybe it’s time to break out the advice column cliche of showing him this letter?
Their texts are really testing me
My wife texts with her brother day and night. They have always been close and I appreciate that, but I feel like it is too much. I know he is her brother, but I feel like he knows her better than I do. I have caught her sharing news with him before me, or running stuff past him to figure out how and whether to talk to me about it. She says that since he is single, she serves an extra role for him since he doesn’t have another main confidant like she does. But it is past the point of getting old. Please tell me how to handle this. —Jealous Husband
Exhibit A of why outside relationships need not include sex to cause trouble in a marriage! Has this been getting worse? If so, it might not just be a cause of marital problems but a symptom of them. Granted, spouses need not be the be-all and end-all of each other’s emotional support. Friends and other family members add so much and can be crucial. But her active prioritizing of him over you, time and again, is taking away from what you two share.
Part of this is a tech issue: Texting makes him ever-present in her pocket, even physically between the two of you. So why not start there? Acknowledge that he has a unique role in her life, but the frequency/intensity/nature of her communication with him intrudes upon your own connection. Can she start by putting the phone away at certain times when she’s with you? Making a point to stretch herself to open up to you first sometimes, perhaps initially about ways that she feels a gap between you? Make sure, too, that your relationship with him is in good repair, so that this doesn’t get set up further as a “him vs. me” dichotomy.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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