These are the things you should never ask of your partner.
In a marriage, spouses continually need each other, whether it’s for emotional support during a hard time or to attend a boring work event so one doesn’t have to suffer alone. But some expectations of your husband — or of your marriage — are unrealistic. Here, experts draw the line between what’s acceptable and what’s simply asking too much.
- Making him choose between you and his mother.
Whatever your issue is with your mother-in-law — maybe he sometimes puts her first, or your personalities just clash — it’s best for you to really put forth the effort to resolve the problem. She is, after all, the reason he exists in the first place. Plus, allowing little squabbles between the two of you — like getting frustrated because she insists on sitting in the passenger seat when he drives — to become a bigger issue puts the burden on him, and that could make him feel resentful, says April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert in Boca Raton, FL. “It’ll drive a wedge between the two of you, not him and his mom,” she says.
When she starts to grind your gears, Masini suggests taking a minute to keep things in perspective. Will it kill you to let her sit in the passenger seat and you take the rear? It may feel slightly demeaning in the moment, but if it’s not that big of a deal, maybe it’s one thing you can sacrifice. If it’s not, then talk to your husband — in private — about coming up with a potential solution together.
- Expecting him to listen like a girl friend would.
Your husband should hear you out in tough times, absolutely. But he shouldn’t necessarily be the person you turn to when you just need to vent. “Men and women tend to have different goals with communication,” says David Bennett, relationship expert and author of Eleven Dating Mistakes Guys Make (And How to Correct Them). “Men [are] concerned about identifying and fixing problems, and women express feelings [to] connect emotionally.”
So if you just want to get something off your chest — and don’t want someone to offer up advice on how to fix it — then consider asking one of your friends for a girl’s night instead. Otherwise, expecting him to stay silent could make him feel frustrated and like he’s not being helpful, Bennett says, while you end up feeling like you’re not being heard.
- Wanting him to never notice another woman.
Be honest: Do you not notice the attractive man in your coffee shop, or the one pumping iron at the gym? How about the guy who just passed you on the street, or the one you saw picking up vegetables at the grocery store? Just because you’re married doesn’t mean your eyes build blinders to attractiveness, so if you see how handsome someone is, you can’t expect your partner not to notice a beautiful woman.
“Looking is natural, and it’s not even unhealthy as long as it’s just looking,” says Jason Arshan Nik, M.S., a psychologist in California. Of course, if your husband is doing more than that — like gawking, flirting, asking for a number, or cheating — then you need to confront him about his behavior. Otherwise, let his one-second glance slide.
- Asking him to give up his passions.
Your husband’s interests are likely part of what attracted you to him in the first place, so resist resenting the time and energy he spends on those things once you’re married. “When a husband throws himself into work or a hobby, it isn’t to ignore family, but to ground himself for his overall happiness,” Bennett says. That said, balance is key: His passion shouldn’t deny you regular family time or a weekly date night.
- Expecting him to be a different man.
When you’ve been together a long time, it’s natural to occasionally wonder, “Why in the world did I marry this person?” But remember that a trait you loathe in your husband may be the flip-side of one you love, says Nakya Reeves, a licensed marriage and family therapist in South Florida. Example: You hate that he has trouble staying on schedule, but love how spontaneous he is. The two character traits may go hand-in-hand, so Reeves says you may need to pick your battles. So, yes, it’s important that he pick the kids up from soccer practice on time — but his habit of being 10 minutes late for dinner may not be that big of a deal.
As for the truly crucial tasks, “explain to him where the duty fits in for the family’s overall plan for the day, then discuss your individual responsibilities,” Reeves suggests. “That way he feels like he’s a part of the decision and taking accountability, rather than simply feeling like he’s being nagged.”
- Wanting him to ditch his friends.
You know that best bud your man had when you were dating — the one who kind of got on your nerves — and you figured you could phase him out once you were married? Is he still around? Thought so. Because no matter how long you’ve been married, your husband needs outside confidantes just as much as you do. He also needs people who are “his friends,” rather than only having couple friends that you double-date with. And he needs pals of his own gender; ones he can, well, be a guy around. “If you cut off those resources, he’s going to be less and less happy,” Masini says. “And chances are, he’s going to connect those feelings back to you.”
He doesn’t automatically have to ditch his female friends, either. It’s one thing if she isn’t able to honor boundaries or is inappropriately seductive. If that’s the case, “then it’s time for him to give her a fond farewell and let her know that this isn’t right in the context of his marriage,” says Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Santa Monica, CA. But if she’s respectful, friendly, and doesn’t pose an actual threat, there’s no reason to give her the boot.
- Expecting him to remember every moment in your relationship.
While you can pinpoint exactly what you were doing when you realized you were in love, he likely only knows that he felt the same way. And while you remember the time and location of your engagement, your husband may only recall the date. But his forgetfulness isn’t because he doesn’t care. It goes back to men’s and women’s brains being wired differently; women tend to retain emotional memories better than men do.
That said, if a milestone matters to you, instead of quietly holding him on a pedestal that you know he’ll fall off of when he forgets, tell him how important the memory is to you. Mark it on his calendar. Schedule it in his phone. If he still overlooks it, be direct and calmly explain why you’re disappointed. It’s not fair to guilt-trip or expect him to telepathically understand how an oversight affected you, Reeves says. “It’s unrealistic to expect that he interpret the deepness of your sigh,” he explains. Open communication is always more productive.
- Wanting him to share all of your interests.
He may have gone with you to the chick flick because he knew you really wanted to go, but if he’s not into that movie genre himself, don’t make him to go to the next one — and the one after that.
“Give him the chance to feel your absence from time to time, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a licensed family and marriage therapist in Southern California. “He’ll react by getting back into courting behavior and letting you know he appreciates you.” That’s because enjoying time apart with your separate passions strengthens a marital bond, Dr. Tessina adds. It gives you both room to breathe and grow, so that you can come back and do something fun with a refreshed spirit.
- Making him always be the bigger person.
Listen, nobody acts like an adult all the time, but if you act childish more often than not — by default forcing him to be the adult in the relationship — then that could drive your husband to start retreating. Acting childish doesn’t have to mean throwing tantrums on the floor, either. It can be more subtle, like giving him the silent treatment or withholding affection (especially sex) in order to get your way. But your behavior could very well backfire.
“Being passive-aggressive is one of the most destructive forms of relationship communication,” Reeves says. “It creates a negative cycle that only gets worse, and creates feelings of anger and resentment.”
If you feel like your husband owes you an apology, don’t make your feelings sound less important than they are (that’s being passive), and don’t attack him (which feels aggressive), Reeves says. Instead, be assertive with an “I” statement. Saying something like, “I feel hurt when you ignore me because it makes me feel like you’re not taking into consideration what I have to say” very clearly expresses your opinion, how his actions make you feel, and opens the floor for a healthy conversation.
Photo Credit:Time Margazine