Marriage and the Husband-Wife Relationship/Self esteem problems


Hello, thank you in advance for helping me out. I have been married for 17 years and started to notice only now how years of criticism are affecting my self esteem. I guess that now that both me and hubby are self-employed and work at home the effects are becoming more evident. I feel my husband is very strict, he has been in the military for years and he wants things done his way. For instance, he does most household chores because he thinks he does them better. That's fine with me because I am not very fond of cleaning. In any case, he's almost obsessed with cleanliness. For instance, forget about eating popcorn or chips on the sofa. I had to give this up years ago. He is terrified of mosquitoes. When we go in the yard, he's rushing me and closing and opening the door for me to get out. This morning he woke up pissed off because we sleep in a bed covered in net to protect from mosquitoes and in the middle of the night--I am barely awake when I wake up to use the restroom, I left it slightly open. When I use the oil bottle for cooking, I must wipe it after each use,when I split cookies for the dog, I must remove all the tiny crumbs that fall, when we walk he must stay on my right so people don't feel compelled to look at me. He's constantly going after me for stupid mistakes. One day he even tried scolding me for walking the bedroom wearing shoes. I didn't let him win that though,because he allows our dogs to walk in the bedroom too. He washes his hands so often he got eczema. When my mom call, I must end the phone call by 12:30 when it's time to fix lunch. Any how, I noticed that the more I adhere to his "guidelines" just for sake of peace, the more he comes up with new ones, and I have a hard time keeping up. Today I had a breaking point. First, I had some phlegm (sorry if this is gross too much information,)come up while eating soup so for respect I went in the bathroom to cough it up and he was complaining that while he was eating he heard me cough it up) and then today, he said I keep on talking about the same things over and over. Anyhow, this has been going on for years. Nothing new. But lately I am noticing some effects I never noticed before. When I talk to him, I am start to swallow as if I am nervous. I lick my lips too. And then I started now to stumble when I talk, something new as well. I think all these years are starting to affect my self esteem. I am scared to tell him as this may make him feel empowered?  He comes from a family that blamed him for everything his sisters did and his mom hit him as well. My guts say that I must find a way to get more respect, but I don't know where to start. I was about to leave him a few years ago for good, but didn't have the guts. While I can keep up some days, others I struggle and feel hurt. I would love to see my parents in Italy once a year, but now he doesn't want to be left alone. I know I am very talented, pretty and have known men who would likely have treated me better, sometimes I think to just leave and find somebody better, but I guess I still love him, but at times I wonder if it's really love or just fear of change that keeps me from leaving. Fact is, I am getting old too (39) and I feel I committed to this marriage and need to make it work. I would love some insight on how to tell him that I am getting tired. I told him many times in the past, and he changes for a bit (like ignores some things for a bit) but then he goes back to normal. I told him I am getting older and have less patience. He takes me seriously for a bit and then goes back. I am not perfect, I realize this, but h'es really  a pain sometimes. His ex girlfriends were treated the same way too, one he criticized her for the way she drove, the other because she dressed too provocative. We fought initially too, but I guess I started to give up at some point and tried following his guidelines, but now I am starting to feel so insecure, which I was already on my own (I have suffered from anxiety, insecurity, social phobia and panic attacks) for more than 20 years.

Say to him, "Do you know that you are overly critical of me?"

If he says yes, say, "What can I do or say to help you be less critical?"

Agree that whenever he is critical, you will let him know and also keep a record of his criticisms as above. Then once per week you will meet to review his progress.

Marriage and the Husband-Wife Relationship

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Daniel Keeran, MSW


I can answer questions about issues arising in marriage: conflict, communication, listening, anger, verbal abuse, household responsibilities, infidelity, addiction/substance abuse, pornography, physical abuse, time spent together, finances, in-laws, death of a spouse or child, separation and divorce, problem-solving and much more. FREE PDF DOWNLOAD "Counseling In A Book"


I have over 30 years as a counselor for couples experiencing difficulties. I have been a counselor for over 30 years in private practice and hospital settings. For deeper understanding and healing childhood experiences affecting adult life and relationships with self and others see the reader-friendly source

"Effective Counseling Skills: the practical wording of therapeutic statements and processes" at and "Loss and Grief Counseling Skills" at

MA (University of Kentucky), MSW (Kent School of Social Work)

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