In a previous Strengthen Your Relationship post we explored the important question, “How to be a better husband?” This question was asked by one of my readers who felt that with a little guidance he could give more of himself to his wife and their marriage.
Asking ourselves these types of questions (how can i be a better husband? what makes a good husband? how can I be a more responsive, loving partner? and so on) is a vital step in growing beyond the status quo that currently exists in your life and relationship.
The assumption underlying such questions is that there is room for growth. In essence you are making it known that you are willing to give and do more to improve yourself and make your relationship everything it can be.
What is your vision of a good husband or partner?
When change is desired, when you want to be a better ____________ (husband, father, friend, lover, etc.), it’s important to have a clear picture of what the desired outcome looks like. In this case, if someone were watching a video of you being a better husband, what would they be noticing? What would you be doing/saying if this goal were reached?
Vague and abstract goals can leave us adrift despite our motivation to move forward. This is why my response to the question about how to become a better husband included five specific areas that you can work on. Each (for instance, making your love known/visible to your partner) requires specific action on your part — action that is consistent with a clear vision of what a better husband/partner would look like in your relationship.
I want to change! At least I think I do…
But the reality is that many of us grind to a halt in our self-improvement journey even when our goals are clearly spelled out. How many of us can say that we’ve never abandoned a well-intentioned New Year’s resolution?
This inertia can be frustrating and confusing to all involved (to the person waiting for the promised change, as well as the person proclaiming that change is just around the corner). If this is the case for you, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. The phenomenon of wanting something yet acting in ways that suggest otherwise is so commonplace that Freud (the founder of psychoanalysis) gave it a name: resistance.
According to Freud (and many therapists since), for meaningful change to occur, we need to examine our underlying resistance to change so we can loosen its grip on us.
So in your journey to be the best husband possible, it will be important for you to explore any resistance that might be at work — think of resistance as any internal barriers that get in the way of you working on improving your relationship or marriage.
3 questions to help you unlock resistance to becoming a better husband
Resistance doesn’t announce itself. Rather, it usually lurks behind the scenes (though its hiddenness doesn’t prevent it from impacting us). So in order to make sense of any internal barriers that hold you back, you’ll need to do a bit of self-exploration in order to bring your resistance into the light of awareness.
It’s important to note that signs of resistance do not automatically mean you don’t want to improve as a husband, though it may appear this way to your wife or partner.
1) Resistance as rebellion
Is it possible that we say we want to change but part of us doesn’t?
It’s too easy to discount this question out of the gate and proclaim, “Of course I want to change! Why wouldn’t I want to be a good husband?!”
No one’s doubting your motivation to make your wife happy by becoming a more giving, loving partner. But that may be one part of the overall picture. And it behooves you to look at the entire picture.
It’s important to tap into any internal experience that may rebel against your conscious desire to change. We can eagerly agree to change for our spouse/partner only to find ourselves resentful about the new arrangement we’ve entered into.
There can be many reasons for our inner rebellion. For instance, the changes you’ve made begin to feel unfair (for instance, you might feel like you’re giving more than you’re receiving); or in giving more of yourself to your partner, you may start to feel like your freedom is being impinged upon.
The quicker you can access any internal kick-back to the changes you’ve made, the faster you’ll be able to make sense of why you’re not moving forward.
2) Resistance as fear
Is it possible that the idea of changing (even for the better) unsettles you?
To change is to go from the familiar to the unfamiliar (even when you imagine the unfamiliar you’re heading to is a good thing). And with uncertainty comes anxiety, especially if you’re someone who relies upon the known/familiar as a source of emotional comfort.
This is a “what-am-I-getting-myself-into” anxiety.
For one husband I worked with, efforts to become a better husband stirred anxiety over the idea that his wife would begin to expect more and place greater demands on him. While he wanted to make his wife happy, he feared that this dynamic would lead to him ultimately letting her down. In other words, he wouldn’t be able to maintain the new status quo of being a more communicative, loving, open, attentive husband.
In this case, this husband’s resistance was borne out of a fear of failing his wife, first by getting her hopes up and then by failing to meet her new expectations of him.
3) Resistance as unworthiness
Is it possible that you don’t believe you’re fully deserving of marital/relationship happiness?
Again, it’s easy to quickly shoot down this type of question as not being relevant to your life. And it may not be. But you won’t know for sure until you seriously ponder it. Feelings of inadequacy; thinking of yourself as less-than; and feeling unworthy of love are all experiences that can dramatically shape us. A negative self-image (which may be largely unconscious) robs us of our ability to give and receive love.
Our relationship with ourselves can be pretty complicated. Our inner struggles for self-love, self-acceptance, and the like, influence how we relate to others, including our spouse/partner. If you do not feel worthy of love, it’s not a leap to suggest that you may act in ways that prevent your wife or partner from acting lovingly toward you.
So as you take the steps toward becoming a better husband, be mindful of any contradictory behaviors on your part (e.g., you keep forgetting to text your wife when you have to stay late at work even though you promised to do so). And rather than quickly rationalizing these behaviors away (“I keep forgetting, that’s all!”), try to open yourself up to the possibility that resistance may be at work.
And don’t berate yourself for any resistance that may exist. Like Freud taught us long ago, resistance is something to be understood, not judged. You can use the above questions as a starting point to greater self-knowledge.
Here’s to working to become the best husband possible!
Dr. Rich Nicastro
(Featured image: stock images www.freedigitalphotos.net)