1. He feels like he can’t win.
Don’t think your heavy sighs and the comments made under your breath are going unnoticed. Unhappily married men often say they feel as though their wives are never satisfied with anything they do, said Kurt Smith, a Northern California-based marriage and family therapist who specializes in counseling for men.
“For some guys, they never feel like they can make their wife happy. Regardless of the issue, they don’t do it enough, they do it too much or they never do it right,” he explained.
To counter the negativity, Smith said spouses need to put more effort into recognizing helpful, positive things their husbands do around the house or for the family.
“The problem is, many men feel like their partners only notice when they do something wrong,” he said. “When we feel like we just can’t win, we often just give up trying.”
2. He rolls his eyes every time you ask him to attend a party.
It’s great to attend parties and get-togethers as a couple — and making time in your busy schedule for date night is always a good thing. But for some guys, the pressure to be your plus-one at every wedding, work event and ugly sweater party can be a bit overwhelming, said Betsy Ross, a Massachusetts-based psychotherapist and divorce coach.
“Many unhappily married men complain that their spouses pressure them to do this or do that when all they really want to do is absolutely nothing. Sometimes, you just want to chill out for the night,” she said.
If you’re hearing variations of “leave me alone” more and more, Ross suggests you do just that.
“Men may want more time to themselves but it leads to them lending a hand and actually wanting to spend time with their spouses, without being asked.”
3. He complains about nagging.
It’s a cliche at this point, but psychologist and divorce mediator Kristin Davin confirms that complaints about nagging spouses is a constant in her New York City office. That said, there’s usually more to the story than meets the eye.
“Often — but not always — women nag because men don’t follow through. How many times have you had a conversation about doing something and he commits to doing it and never follows through? Often, I’m guessing,” she said. “Women feel caught in the middle: You continue to try and talk to him and address the issue but it goes nowhere. He interprets your request as nagging. You want to believe him but his promises go unfulfilled.”
How do you save yourself from having these circular — and tedious– conversations?
“Try to change the dialogue,” Davin suggested, “Say: This really is very important to me so when can I expect it to done? Is there a hurdle we can address? If it’s not done by a certain time, can we call someone in to do it instead?”
4. He’s putting in extra hours at work.
Sure, staying late at work can be a means to get ahead, but if he’s working late into the evenings, on weekends, and even during vacations, he could be using his job as a convenient excuse for avoiding family time, Ross said.
“Spouses usually have a threshold for how much time they can tolerate away from their partner so when a husband starts spending more and more time and energy on work, they’re devoting less time and energy to their marriage,” she said. “Several of the unhappy husbands I’ve worked with spent increasing amounts of time on their career, networking or generally pursuing interests outside of their marriage and away from their family life.”
5. He feels like he’s being punished for things he did in the past.
At some point, you need to leave marital problems you dealt with years ago in the past, said Smith. For example, if he admitted, apologized and truly made amends for having an affair — and you’ve granted him forgiveness — you can’t continue to punish him for it.
“We all have made mistakes, but some guys feel like they can never can get out from under the shadow of their past screw ups,” Smith said. “These guys know when they make another mistake they’re going to also hear all about what they did wrong five, 10 or 15 years ago.”
6. He doesn’t understand why you give him a hard time every time he wants to hang out with friends.
If the two of you are constantly at odds over his weekly fantasy football league get-togethers, try to address what’s at the heart of the issue: If it’s his need for space and time to himself that’s bothering you, you might want to rethink your position, Davin said.
“Space is vital in a relationship,” she explained. “Think of it this way: your marriage should be an interdependent relationship and not one that is dependent and enmeshed. Time spent apart creates space between the couple, which they need to grow, evolve and miss one another.”
7. He dodges important conversations.
You may think mid-argument is the best time to bring up the issues that have been bothering you as of late, but the same might not hold true for your hubby, Davin said: Men often need more time or space to process your problems.
“This is very common complaint – often referred to as the ‘pursuer-distancer dance’ in relationships. Generally speaking, when there is a disagreement, most women want to talk right then and there — they pursue. Men? Not so much. They want to distance – basically, they need to move away to a place where they have space to think.”
The solution to this dilemma, Davin said, is to agree that you’ll return to the problem when cooler heads prevail — but for your own sanity, “do it sooner rather than later.”