Q & A Table of Contents
Dealing With a Stubborn Husband
From: Shabana, Mumbai, India
Question: I do not know how to deal with my husband. He is extremely introverted and very stubborn. When he gets stuck with his ideas he forces me to follow them, and I am unable to get my way at all. What do I do?
Basically, when he gets stubborn, I feel powerless to even explain my viewpoint. I feel frustrated and give up.
Response: There are a number of approaches you can take. In the worst case analysis you can accept that the situation is extraordinarily difficult. Then, rather than thinking of yourself as 'winning' by maximizing your gains, perhaps the best thing is to satisfy yourself by aiming to minimize your losses.
It is possible to take a more positive approach, however. You should examine your interests, prioritizing the interests that are most important to you. For example, perhaps you are more concerned about decisions about dealing with children, money, or issues relating to your personal independence. The issues that are most important to you deserve the greatest effort. You might want to be prepared to trade 'losses' on other interests or issues for 'wins' on the more important ones.
You also need to take a look at your BATNA on the various things that concern you. BATNA is your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. For example, you need to ask yourself whether your husband is the most helpful decision-making partner on a given issue. Perhaps a friend or relative can offer you better help or resources for dealing with a particular problem.
Again, taking a pessimistic view, perhaps what you need to do is consider marginalizing your husband when it comes to certain issues. Simply go your own way, to the extent you are able, and don't include him in the decision-making process. The troublesome element of this is that in some countries, there is great inequality between men and women -- and this may mean that your freedom of decision and action is extremely limited. But even in that case, being able to discuss things with friends and relatives, creating a personal 'support group', may ease your burden.
If your husband is threatened by interaction with other people, would he feel relieved if you were to become the spokesperson for the two of you in certain kinds of activities? If he says, for example, "The telephone company is impossible to deal with." perhaps you can offer to be the person who deals with the telephone company.
You also have to ask yourself a very hard question: is the relationship so damaging to you that it is bad for you to continue it. If that is the case, you need to examine your alternatives. If it brings you stress or health problems, even undertaking a regular program of meditation or exercise could contribute to a more rewarding inner life for you. I am not recommending divorce, but rather taking a look at how you can create a situation where you take power over elements of life that really only involve you and in which your husband has little or no interest.
When you do deal with him, listen closely to what he says. If what he says is not clear, keep asking questions to find out what underlies his approach. If what he says is unacceptable to him, respond with what Americans call a 'poker face' -- keep silent, don't respond, threaten him with your silence so he will know that you are not happy. Don't simply wait for him to stop talking and then let loose with a barrage of arguments. When he finishes talking you can say, "I want to make sure I understood you properly. Did you say 'x, y. & z'?" Let him know you are listening, make it clear the rules of discussion involve reciprocity: "I listened to you, now it is your turn to pay attention to me."
Ask your husband about the short and long term consequences of his decisions. How will this approach work in six months, one year, ten year? What results will it bring. Again, pay close attention to the things he finds most significant and try to design your responses to show that you are listening closely and understand his interests.
It sounds as if your life is extremely stressful. Rather than trying to change your husband, your first priority must be to build up your personal psychological, relationship, and even material resources.
I wish you good luck. Please let me know if this is helpful.