Historically, it has been the case that women in marriage are more likely to seek changes in the relationship, thus making requests of their husbands.  You may find that your husband tends not to listen, perhaps as a way of avoiding such changes–he may like the status quo.

You want to avoid angrily demanding what you want or criticizing him as a way of getting him to attend to the things that are important to you.  There is a blog titled “Extraordinary Marriages” ( that talks about Gottman’s approach to husbands who resist influence by their wives.  One strategy suggested for wives is called a “Gentle Start Up”, in which you are to approach your husband in a gentle way.  Instead of saying “We need to talk” say “When is a good time to talk about our vacation plans”, as an example.  The above post (“Smart Spouses”) talks about this approach, why it might work, along with some other approach suggestions.

While I think this is a good approach to use in marriages that are working well, it is not clear to me that this will work with someone who is actively resisting your requests.  In my clinical practice I have often worked with women who have resistant husbands or husbands who would not come in for couples counseling.  Here is the general approach I have taken to help and support these women.

First, work through your own personalized reactions to your husband.  Read the TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY post and use the associated WORKSHEET to address your own personal reactions to his lack of cooperation with you.

Second, you have to assess how committed you are to the marriage not the relationship–the marriage and the relationship are not the same thing.  I know that the felt quality of the relationship is a significant factor in maintaining a long-term marriage.  However, people stay married for reasons that are important to them that are not directly related to the quality of the relationship (e.g. for children, money, religion). You may not achieve the quality of your relationship that you wish to have and still choose to stay married.

Third, you can inform (not confront, not criticize, not blame, not cajole, etc.) your husband, from your more self-contained position (having done the above steps), that while you are committed to the marriage, the quality of the relationship is diminished by his apparent unwillingness to engage with you around the things you want to address.  Further, inform him that it is up to him to determine what quality of relationship he wishes to have with you.  Offer to go to couples counseling with him, if he wishes to do this.

Finally, try to accomplish the things that are important to you on your own, if your husband will not engage with you.

  • Do things you enjoy (going to the movies, out to dinner, to the theater, etc.) with friends
  • Get invested in your work
  • Do things with your extended family
  • Develop self-help activities (yoga, exercise, etc.)
  • Seek personal counseling



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