Do you sometimes think you hate your husband?
Can you become filled with resentment and bitterness when he walks into the room?
When he touches you, do you cringe?
Do you daydream of a life that is far different than your own?
A client of mine, Debbie, confessed, “I hate my husband.” Debbie was someone with whom I had a very strong coach-client relationship, so I really pushed to get at what was going on behind the scenes, deep within her subconscious mind.
Later, Debbie described the outcome as the single biggest breakthrough she’d had in her life thus far, so (with her permission and use of a pseudonym) I am happy to share the details with you in this post.
She laid out her husband-hating feelings in spades.
“I feel so completely dismissed, irrelevant and rejected. I hate him so much! I can’t have an opinion without him correcting me. I can’t ask for anything without him making me feel guilty. I can’t even give him a gift without being told in some way that I have fallen short of his expectations. He’s so selfish! I just hate him.”
She was reduced to tears of resentment.
“I want to leave him so bad. It’s what I think about every day,” she continued.
“How long have you hated your husband?” I asked.
“Well, we’ve been married for 13 years and I am sure I’ve hated him for 12,” she finally said.
“Twelve years is a long time to hate. Amazing you’ve stuck with him…” I said.
“It’s complicated,” she explained with a degree of patience. “I feel like I shouldn’t hate him – that somehow this is all my fault, so I have no right to feel this way. I keep telling myself that hating is wrong and if I can just stop…and I don’t think he would do well without me, besides. He thinks he’s all that, but it’s really me who keeps his life together.”
“I am still amazed,” I repeated.
“If you hate him, it seems you wouldn’t be so invested in keeping his life together for him. Besides, he can make it on his own. He is a grown man.”
“What are you trying to say?” She sounded skeptical.
“Well, when an explanation doesn’t do a situation justice, there is usually something else going on.”
She stopped breathing for a few moments. “Like what?”
I continued, “First let’s get our minds around dislike and hatred. When you dislike something that you have a choice about, you avoid it.
Dislike broccoli? You don’t eat it.
Dislike baseball? You don’t play it.
Hate Hawaii? You don’t vacation there.
Dislike a man, then stay with him for 12 years and counting?”
“Yes,” she agreed, “but again it’s not that simple, Mike. Marriage is not a vegetable.”
“I know. And 12 years is long enough to decide to leave and work out the details if you dislike it that much. It’s such a long time to endure a miserable, hateful relationship. And the stress takes an overwhelming toll on your body. Anyway, I’m just taking you at your word. You say you hate this man. You’ve wanted to leave him for a long time. I can’t imagine why you’d stay so long after knowing this.”
“I really do dislike my husband. And I have no positive feelings for him left – and it’s been this way for a long time. Why on Earth am I still with this guy?” she was beginning to wonder more open-mindedly.
I dove in, “That’s the most important question you could ask. It’s not because you want to keep his life together for him. In fact, you probably resent doing that. And it’s not because it’s all your fault. I am sure you understand that you are both responsible for this marriage.”
“I know, I know. I just can’t figure it out. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all go away!”
“We can do that. Once you understand the real reason why you are staying, it will all go away, one way or another. Do you really want to know?”
“Yes.” She sounded congruent.
“Let’s talk about rejection, then. Your husband rejects you a lot, right?”
“Have other men rejected you beside him?”
“Well, my father was pretty good at it! I never felt good enough for him – ever.”
“Ok. Have you ever been in a relationship with a man who accepted you wholeheartedly? A lot of women haven’t.”
“Yes,” she said.
“What happened there?”
“Actually, I’ve been with a few guys who were kind and accepted me. But, I lost interest. I didn’t stay with them for very long.”
“I don’t know. They were…too nice!”
“Right. What about other men who rejected you consistently?”
“It seems like all the men I’ve really invested in have been chronic rejecters!” she exclaimed.
I asked, “Can you imagine being in a healthy, exciting relationship with a man who accepts you and treats you well?”
“Um…no. It’s like I would have to be someone else. That’s just….not me, I guess. I can’t even imagine,” she confessed.
“Now, we’re closer to the heart of the matter. This is called an attachment to rejection. You’ve been unwittingly seeking rejection – and succeeding in finding men who are ready to do the job. And you’ve avoided the ones who are kind and accepting.”
“Am I that screwed up?” She wasn’t laughing.
“Not any more than I or anyone else is. Attachments are serious. We can go our entire lives caught in their grip. Attachments ruin people. And we are all in this together.”
“But why would I ever seek rejection? I mean….it is painful. I hate it!”
I replied, “You said it earlier. I asked if you if you could imagine being with a kind, accepting man…”
“So, it’s because this is all I know?”
“Partly. And it’s because you so familiarized rejection early on…that it became…”
“Comfortable!” she concluded with finality. “I actually take comfort in it, like it’s home to me!”
“That’s it. Some kids even ‘pleasurize’ rejection. You know, they get criticized and scolded over and over and over…then before long, they start doing things that push mom and dad’s buttons so they get scolded even more. If you pay close attention, you see that they are devious in it, as if they enjoyed it,” I explained.
“After a few years, you have a kid that secretly takes delight in pissing mom and dad off. He takes a perverse pleasure in the rejection – the punishment. Of course, this is a socially shameful thing to do – and for other reasons, the child eventually hides what he is doing, even from himself,” I said.
She replied, “To think I have lived my whole life choosing men who reject me to play out some childhood thing. How did I hide it from myself?”
“Through your hatred,” I said.
“Yeah. The hatred is a defense mechanism. It’s a huge smokescreen. It’s as if the hatred is saying, ‘I don’t like rejection. In fact, I hate people who reject me. I am not taking any strange pleasure in it!’”
“But I don’t take pleasure in it!” she insisted.
“Are you sure? Think deeply. Of course you hate rejection consciously, but isn’t there more to the story?” (This is a high stakes question that one can only ask if there is a significant amount of trust.)
She responded, “Well…I feel nauseous. Um…I…this is surreal, Mike. I don’t know what to say. I feel like I am in forbidden territory here, but I can see what you are saying. Sometimes I feel a strange thrill, like….I won, or something…when he rejects me.”
I affirmed, “I do. I am a self-sabotager, too, you know. I know the subtle, distorted delight that comes when I do something self-destructive in my life. I get it.”
She turned a corner now, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I need to let this go. It’s been so many years and I have suffered so much, when I had a choice not to. I need to move on.”
I asked Debbie to do nothing more for the next couple of weeks than pay attention to the hidden, yet pleasurable feeling of winning when she gets rejected.
She followed through faithfully. Then, she thoroughly expressed her dissatisfaction to her husband and made a real effort to save the marriage over the next few months. During that time, she was careful not to provoke him and invite more rejection, which she noticed she had a tendency to do.
Six months later, she was divorced, living in a small condo and had lost her interest in a certain type of man that she had always attracted.
Of course, divorce is not inevitable. Many husbands adjust in a healthy way when the dance changes so profoundly. Debbie’s did not. He had attachments of his own that he wasn’t willing to understand.
There is one thing that you can get right and help any relationship you are in. The video below will shed some light on your situation. It will help you understand why you might be in your current relationship and what you can do to make it better.