He loves you. He takes care of you and the family. He pays his share of the bills. He gives you no reason to complain. Sounds like the inch-perfect man, doesn’t he? But occasionally, he also makes fun of you. In jest, of course! Even though it appears harmless on the outside, you can’t help but think that perhaps your husband doesn’t respect you enough. And that brings one to ask, what to do when your husband belittles you?
So he doesn’t involve you in any major decision-making. Your world revolves around his, but he barely needs your opinion or advice in his. He always tries to show you the right way of doing something because your way is never good enough for him. If these things sound all too familiar, it means that you might be in a comfortable but deeply disrespectful marriage.
You may not realize it all the time but what we mentioned above are some of the classic examples of belittling in a relationship. These are little ways in which even seemingly ‘good’ husbands make their wives feel small. The more he treats you lightly, the harder you try to gain his approval and appreciation. It’s a never-ending loop. Such demeaning behavior in a relationship can hurt your self-respect and confidence immensely.
Now that you might have confirmed that you are indeed subject to being belittled in the relationship, the next step is understanding what to do when your husband belittles you. Knowing the answer to this is very important if you are seeking an equal marriage, one in which you have a say, are respected, and valued for the person you are. So without any further pause, let’s dive right into it.
What Is Belittling Behaviour In Relationships?
Belittling is the act of making someone feel unworthy or making them feel like they are not good enough. Here, it is essential to differentiate between being belittled by your husband and being emotionally abused by him. In literal terms, the word can be divided into two – be and little. Essentially, it means you are subtly shown your place and it is always secondary to him.
Often when a husband belittles his wife, it is not taken seriously, at least initially, as it is not seen to be overtly abusive. The signs of belittling actually aren’t all that major but if not pointed out, they can create major rifts within a couple. A husband who is always putting you down won’t change his pattern until he is called out and made to realize how his harmless jests make you feel.
Things such as using gaslighting phrases, making someone feel unimportant and inferior, poking fun at them in public, and taking away their power are all signs of belittling behavior that can eventually lead to emotional or verbal abuse. Most importantly, it can slowly and steadily erode your self-confidence. The unfortunate part is that it is very difficult to identify such behaviors because they rarely happen in public (though sometimes they do).
Instead of big fights or yelling and screaming, husbands can resort to sarcastic or belittling comments, patronizing statements, and being unsupportive of what you do or say. They may go to the extent of comparing you with their mother or other women in your acquaintances. They may even keep telling you that your career goals are unrealistic and you don’t have it in you to achieve them. These are all examples of belittling in a relationship.
Related Reading: What To Do If You Think Your Husband Hates You?
Why does a husband belittle his wife?
Andrea, an artist from New Jersey, is completely broken, putting up with her husband’s condescending behavior. She says, “Feeling dejected by husband is the curse you have to live with every minute of every day for the rest of your life and it’s too overwhelming. Because my lifestyle is a bit more lavish than his, he would call me “your highness” sarcastically.
“He can’t beat me on the financial front, so he tries to show me down everywhere else – constantly correcting my sentences, teasing me for my fashion sense, abruptly cutting me in conversations with other people. I don’t understand this urge to belittle me. Does he get a kick out of my humiliation? Why does a husband belittle his wife after all?”
Well, Andrea, either you are living with a narcissistic husband or he is trying to hide some insecurity sitting deep inside him. It can even be a reflection of the fact that he was bullied as a child, at school, or at home by his own family. Now he is projecting the same trauma onto you. If he has lived his whole life with a sense of ridicule and feeling unimportant, he would try everything to not let others see that anxious side of him.
Or your husband is just another product of patriarchy. He can’t allow you to get the upper hand in the marriage with your strong opinions. Your independence, financial stability, free thinking – everything is a threat to his sexist brain. He has to prove himself to be the superior counterpart, by all means, to keep you under his authority.
Coping with a condescending spouse can be an uphill battle. The question that arises, therefore, is: What to do when your husband belittles you? First and foremost, understand that it’s not acceptable or something that you should just overlook. And then take measures to put a halt to it. Here are some ways to do just that.
What To Do When Your Husband Belittles You
Sometimes belittling comments are passed off as casual jokes and initially, you might also treat it as a joke and laugh it off with him. Many wives often even admit things such as “My husband belittles me in front of others and makes fun of me” but don’t do much about it. It is important to keep your relationship private but even more important to take a stand for yourself when such things happen.
If you try to make a point and it is always brushed aside, or if you are heavily criticized for not understanding the situation and coming up with a ‘dumb’ solution, you might just have a husband who talks down to you. And if the frequency of such comments increases, then sitting back is not the solution. You need to take some steps to re-affirm your place in the relationship. Here’s what you should do if your husband belittles you.
1. Do not dismiss the comments he makes
Trust me, you are not being the bigger person here by letting these hurtful comments slide while you are feeling dejected by husband every day. Rather, you are putting your mental health, self-love, level of confidence – everything at stake. Recognize the signs that you are being slighted. Women are often trained to overlook mean comments and rude remarks that come their way, but it is time to change that.
“My wife doesn’t know a thing, I trained her in cooking”, “You fail each time anyway. Why are you trying something new?”, “This dress would look great on you, only if you were slimmer” – these are all prime examples of belittling comments. Words have a way to hurt us way more than actions sometimes, so pay attention to what your partner says and how he reacts to what you say to him.
Often, your spouse may think that he is being kind to you when he acts over-protective or doesn’t allow you to make decisions. In reality, he is clipping your wings because he thinks you need him and you can’t do this alone. You may think his intention is correct but the way he does it or conveys it is still not acceptable. It gets reflected in his comments in private or public, so watch out for that and call him out on it. Tell him how these remarks are bothersome and that he needs to stop.
2. Don’t put up with it
If there is a pattern in your husband’s words, it is time to act. Nick Keomahayong, the founder of True Nature Counselling Centre, C.A, and host of the YouTube channel ‘Real Talk with Nick’, asks a simple question in one of his videos: “Why are you putting up with it?”
If you ever wondered why someone belittles you, despite you doing everything to please him, know this: It’s because you allow them to. Sometimes instead of lamenting, “My husband brings me down”, tell yourself, “I won’t allow my husband or anyone else to minimize my achievements”.
If he uses mean words, you can always get back with a calm “I don’t like to be spoken to like this” or a “Don’t talk to me this way.” Simple, powerful things said at the right time can put an end to condescending behavior (one of the main signs of belittling a person).
Related Reading: How To Deal With A Gaslighting Spouse?
3. Work on your self-esteem when you have a husband who talks down to you
Instead of spending all your time wondering, “Why does my husband belittle me?”, go out, distract yourself, work on some skills and start working on your self-esteem instead. As you would have probably understood by now, low self-esteem is a prime reason that a person – be it your husband or a colleague – can get away with saying hurtful things to you. At times, they might even bring up past failures to taunt you and make you feel much worse.
For instance, if you are nervous about a project you have been working on for a long time, instead of giving you motivation, your husband might say, “You don’t have what it takes to make this a success. Are you sure you want to go ahead with this?” It’s clearly one of the examples of belittling in a relationship.
He might feel that he is warning you of potential failure but he doesn’t understand what it does to your self-esteem. Slowly, you might not even realize it, but such words will start eroding your self-confidence. A husband who is always putting you down is least bothered about the long-term effects of his theater of cruelty.
Here’s what to do when your husband belittles you. Don’t count on him for your self-worth. Putting an end to derisive or mildly abusive behavior can sometimes start with building your self-esteem and having a backbone, so you must do what it takes to work on it. Whether it’s a Zumba class, a new job, or just a girls’ trip with friends, it’s all about bringing back your mojo as well!
4. What to do when your husband belittles you? Draw a personal boundary
“Why does my husband put me down every chance he gets?” It’s probably because you haven’t set solid boundaries in the relationship and let him get away with doing or saying anything to you. Boundaries are important, even in a loving marriage, and are important for developing respect in a relationship. Keomahayong advises shifting the focus from your husband to yourself. “Instead of worrying about their behavior, focus on yourself. You can stay in the relationship and confront the person or you can say no and simply leave,” he says.
Basically, there are different options that you can try (if you have the privilege to leave, then that’s an option too) but it’s all about you and how okay you are with this behavior. You don’t have to be too sensitive about everything he says to you but if there is a point when your ego is hurt and you feel disrespected, it means things are not quite right.
Drawing a boundary early on in the relationship is good so that you set the notions clear about what is acceptable behavior and what is not. When your husband constantly passes belittling comments, be aware of how it impacts you and your emotions and take necessary action to stop him as well.
5. Detach or learn to ignore the signs of belittling
What to do when your husband belittles you? One way to deal with it is by learning to ignore the manipulative, condescending behavior your husband displays and detach yourself from his opinion. It’s difficult, we agree, but once you understand the reason behind his manipulative behavior, it might make sense and you may even be inclined to do so.
Why does my husband belittle me? When do people belittle others? They do it when they want to elevate themselves and feel more worthy than everyone else around them. And the reason they do that is that they feel small on the inside. To cover up their own inadequacies, they need to put you down and make you feel insecure.
Sandra, a 35-year-old homemaker, says, “Initially, I had difficulty coping with a condescending spouse. But the more I got to know my husband, I learned about the difficult childhood he had been through. Eventually, it all added up to make the picture clearer and it was easier for me to let go of a few of his taunts. I am not defending my husband’s behavior or anything. But he also made an effort to change this pattern and agreed to go for couple’s therapy.”
By remaining disengaged, you are taking away their power to belittle you. When your husband resorts to belittling in a relationship, do not respond in kind; it will only add fuel to the fire. Instead, try humorous comebacks and really give it back to him.
Related Reading: 15 Signs Of Emotional Neglect In A Marriage
6. Stay in control
When your husband belittles you, remember to not let him pull you into his negative world. Be in control of the narrative and think of a calm response. He might be trying to provoke you, so focus on your own emotion at the time. But what do you do in the case of “my husband belittles me in front of others”? That’s one of the worst ways in which a husband can treat his wife.
A husband demeaning wife truly takes a bad turn when it is done publicly or in the company of friends. In that case, be careful not to show your anger or disappointment there and then. You don’t have to indulge his remarks at all and can choose to leave the place. Then voice it out in the privacy of your home. There, you can put him firmly in his place.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be aggressive or angry. Be calm, stay focused, but state your displeasure and boundaries clearly. A belittler tries to rile you up but if you show you are affected, they are tempted to behave even more badly. Sometimes the silent treatment does have its benefits.
7. Better yourself
A husband who talks down to you can be harrowing, but it is not your fault. Stop thinking about him and start thinking about you. Set your own goals, have your own vision. You really don’t need your husband to tell you whether you are worthy or not. You don’t need to be compared to anyone you know or don’t know. You are enough as a whole so stop asking “why does my husband put me down?” because it has nothing to do with you as a person.
On the contrary, when your husband belittles you, it is he who is acting as if he needs the attention. When you get busy trying to be the best version of yourself, you really won’t have time to get affected by your partner’s efforts. Ultimately the choice is yours whether you want to remain in the relationship or not. When belittling comments and behavior becomes a constant and are impossible to ignore, think long and hard if it is worth staying in a relationship.
8. Accept the pain and talk it out
Sometimes, pretending that a shallow or belittling partner does not affect you, can be futile. Don’t lie to yourself to avoid the pain of it all. It is actually better to accept the pain they cause you. At other times, it would also be good to reflect on their words. Even if they are critical, maybe there is a point or two that might help you improve yourself. Once you only pay attention to the positive, you won’t have time to be sour about the negative.
Demeaning behavior in a relationship can ruin the very foundation of your bond. As long as you supress the fact that you are bothered by such treatment, it will make you subconsciously hostile toward them. With no fault of your own, you will drift apart from your husband with each passing day. If their words are very hurtful, talk to someone you trust.
Belittling comments can impact your psyche so seeking professional help is a good idea. Skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel of experts are always here for you. Drop in any time you wish! Of course, this does not mean that you accept belittling behavior in any way. On the contrary, it means you need to call it out even more strongly. Equip yourself with strength and even your partner won’t be able to palm off his shortcomings onto you.
Belittling behavior is very common in the workplace between colleagues or superiors. But in relationships, it is very tricky to negotiate. Sometimes, this is so matter-of-fact that you fail to notice that your partner is trying to bring you down. More than a lack of love, it might be a sign of entitlement and hidden feelings of inadequacy that propel such behavior. There are two keys to handling this – self-development or self-implosion. After that, the choice is yours.
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