How to Talk to a Resistant Husband

Despite the entrance of women into the workforce, men and women today still live in a world in which the demands of balancing parenting and work, autonomy and commitment, and time and money are left largely unresolved. Here are a few recent stats:

  • Overall, women now do a little less housework and childcare, and men do a little more.
  • Working women spend about an hour more a day on both housework and childcare than men.
  • Working women spend about as much time in activities with their children as stay-at-home mothers in the 1970s.
  • The “housework gap” between men and women stopped narrowing in the 1980s.
  • The additional time women spend on domestic labor, particularly childcare, is a leading cause of the gender gap in pay and promotions at work.

When wives raise domestic issues seeking change, husbands, often without conscious awareness, can become resistant to that change. This resistance is not overt, i.e., a clear statement that they do not want change. They do not want to compromise their career, they feel less “masculine” when doing housework, or they prefer a traditional arrangement. Instead, they revert to tactics that make it difficult to talk about and deal with issues.

Interpersonal Process Tactics

In marriage, it is easier to focus on issues and events than how your spouse responds interpersonally when you raise an issue. [1] Issues such as having less sex, not sharing childcare and household duties, or spending too much time at work are easy to describe. What is going on between you when you try to talk about these issues is the interpersonal part. And it is much harder to identify and talk about than a specific issue. Here are a few examples of interpersonal process when it is used as a tactic:

  • Your husband withdraws from the interaction by turning away, not making eye contact, crossing his arms, or leaving the room.
  • Your husband raises a counter concern he has about the relationship that is not related to the issue you have raised. “You always want to talk about ________; what about the things that I think are important?
  • Your husband may up the ante by saying you are “nagging” him—this is tantamount to calling you a name.
  • Your husband may use sarcasm—“Oh, I guess I never do enough for you.”

Reactions like these are designed to distract you from raising issues that concern you. These tactics shift the focus from the issue to the marital relationship. And, these tactics affect how you feel about him, how you feel about the relationship, and how you feel about yourself.

Husbands historically have used the above tactics to resist being influenced by their wives, to avoid looking at themselves, and/or to protect their sense of masculinity when they perceive it as being challenged.

What Can You Do?

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