Are You Inoculating Your Husband?

No, I am not opening the vaccination can of worms here; I am thinking of another kind of inoculation that happens in marriages. 

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The Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary defines inoculate this way:

to give (a person or animal) a weakened form of a disease in order to prevent infection by the disease

In the same way, I think we can give our spouse a weakened form of an issue that prevents them from taking us seriously when we get tired of whatever and want it to change.

Something he does bothers/offends/hurts you. Maybe it is something to which you are sensitive, and maybe it is something that would deeply bother 99.87% of sane women (either way it is valid). I am not talking about how he hangs the toilet paper; I’m talking about bigger issues.

It goes something like this:

  • Wanting to be kind, you mention it nicely and say something like “Would you mind not…”
  • He makes no effort to change – so much so you wonder if he heard you.
  • You repeat your kind request several more times.
  • He still makes no effort to change.
  • You ask again, a bit more firmly.
  • He does nothing.
  • You keep bringing it up, slowly telling him it is more and more critical he do something about the issue.
  • He keeps ignoring you, or says he will change and does not.
  • You reach the end of your rope and blow.
  • He looks at you like you are crazy… and still does not change.

When you first mentioned it, you made it sound like it was no big deal. You made it sound like something that would be nice, but was not important. That inoculated him against hearing it really is important when you try to communicate your need more accurately.

I have seen both men and women do this, but men seem more likely to be inoculated.  I think there are a couple of things at play here. Women are often taught to be nice, to set aside their feelings for others, while men are taught to be up front and forceful, and to see their wants and needs as valid. Additionally, men tend to “set it and forget it” – once they (think they) know how you feel about something they write that to their internal hard drive and ignore any contradictory information.

Dealing with this for future events is easy – be clear about how important it is for something to change the first time you mention it. What about those things he has already been inoculated against? You need him to change the data on his hard drive, and a good way to do that is by addressing the wrong data currently on the drive. Get his attention (there’s another post  ;-) ), then let him know when you first brought up the issue you were not honest with him about how much it bothered/offended/hurt you. Then tell him how much it upsets you, and if possible why. Give him a clear idea of how you would like the situation to change, and ask him for feedback.

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