A woman commenting on The Generous Husband recently said:
“I have spent many years changing and he and I have believed the whole time that it was just me and my failing. About 2 years ago, it became apparent that he was not meeting these needs. I have been patiently learning boundaries so I could say “this is not my issue”. While I know that it will not be fixed over night, he is moving towards fixing the issues that prevent him from hearing me, understanding me, and believing that I have value.“
This hit home with me because I did much the same in the early years of my marriage. I would not have told you I was perfect, but Lori had some real baggage, and she was honest about her baggage and serious about dealing with it. Toss in a bit of pride, and it was easy for me to think our problems were 99% her stuff. I was all about helping her with her stuff, but I was not looking for or working on my stuff.
As she worked through things, I did not see the changes in our marriage I thought I should. Things were better, but not as I thought they should be. Slowly it dawned on me that I had issues too. When I started to work on my stuff our marriage growth rate improved. With both of us working on ourselves, things improved faster. Some of the places she felt stuck went away because they were my problems all along.
I suspect many men do what I did. We tend to be sure of ourselves, or pretend to be, and I think pride is a bigger problem for young men than young women. If a man’s wife is willing to take all the blame, he will gladly let her have it. Even if she is not willing to take it all, he may think most of the problems are from her stuff.
I like what the woman said above – she learned to say “this is not my issue”. Such a clear, simple statement. You could also say “I’ve done all I can to make this better, it’s your turn.” Beyond that, you are not responsible for making him deal with his stuff. He needs to take responsibility, followed by action. You can encourage him and suggest resources but do not allow him to put it back on you.