As women and mothers we have a nurturing side that means we
naturally want to take care of the people we love and care about.
In our lives and marriages, our own wants, needs, dreams and desires often get relegated to the bottom of the pile. Over time, our family’s happiness and emotional wellbeing begins to take precedence over our own.
As a result, we end up with the unconscious belief that our happiness is less important than everybody else’s.
Of course, as mothers, we have a responsibility to do our best to raise healthy, happy, emotionally well-adjusted offspring.
But very often we extend this sense of responsibility to our husbands too, by taking ownership for their feelings and emotional wellbeing.
We take on the job of being responsible for our husbands’ happiness.
Not our Job
It’s a job we’re neither qualified nor equipped to do.
In practical terms, it means we base our choices and decisions on how we believe our husbands are going to feel about them.
We languish in unhappy marriages, sometimes for years, knowing in our hearts we want to leave.
But we don’t leave.
Because: ‘He’s not a bad person’ or ‘I couldn’t do that to him’ or ‘He wouldn’t be able to handle it.’
In other words, because we don’t want to hurt his feelings.
We worry about how he would react to our decision and how he would cope emotionally.
We worry he would blame us and judge us and call us a selfish bitch for breaking up the family.
And of course we worry about the impact on our kids.
Or maybe we don’t even want to leave. But we want more emotional connection in our marriage. We want to feel like we are living with our life partner instead of a house-mate.
But we’re afraid to speak up. Or we don’t know how to broach the subject. We don’t want to offend him.
Or we don’t want to be on the receiving end of his anger or aggression.
Or worse, his apathy.
So we take care of his emotions so that he can feel, if not exactly happy, at least comfortably numb.
The Price We Pay
And the cost to ourselves is that we feel sad, bad, mad, frustrated, angry, miserable, resentful. The whole plethora of negative emotions.
Because in essence, we’ve given ourselves the message that our feelings and our happiness don’t count.
That we don’t matter.
As a result, we exist by living a life one of my clients described as one of ‘quiet desperation.’
It’s the very opposite of self-love.
It’s the very opposite of treating ourselves as our most precious resource.
It’s a Familiar Story
My client Jane (not her real name) was the mistress of taking responsibility for her husband’s feelings.
In fact, she was an expert at it. Believing his emotional wellbeing was her job kept her prisoner in her 22 year marriage for several years too long.
And truth be told, it’s something I have struggled with too. And, at times, still do.
I know first-hand how hard it can be to stop doing this.
What I can tell you with absolute certainty is this: It’s no way to live.
Every time we suppress and ignore our own wants, needs, desires and dreams.
A little piece of us dies inside.
We deny our right to our own joy and our own happiness.
We deny our right to create and live our best lives.
We lie to ourselves. And to other people.
Our life becomes a lie.
Here’s what we don’t realise – and what I didn’t learn for the longest time:
Even if we wanted to, it’s not even possible for us to be responsible for our husbands, or anyone else’s, feelings and emotional life.
Why? Because our feelings come from our THOUGHTS. Not from other people.
It’s impossible for us to get inside somebody else’s brain and body and make them feel anything. We simply don’t have that power!
How we feel about anything another person says or does is entirely dependent on how we CHOOSE to think about it.
This is because our thought drive our feelings. And ours feeling drive our behaviours, actions, inactions and reactions. This is what creates every result in our lives.
It’s how we’re wired.
What we choose to think and feel about anything depends on our individual personality, our values, our beliefs, priorities, preferences and perspectives.
Always. No exceptions.
The Good News
The fact we have zero control over what our husbands choose to think or how he feels or reacts to anything we say or do is actually very good news.
It means that instead of trying to contort ourselves into the shape of the person we believe he wants us to be; instead of trying to manipulate him into feeling the way we want him to feel, we can just give that shit up already!
We can give back the job of making our husbands happy and the responsibility for his emotional wellbeing to the only person it rightfully belongs with. Our husbands.
And we can focus our time and energy on the one job we are in charge of and uniquely qualified to excel at.
Our own happiness and emotional wellbeing.
How you choose to think, feel and behave in your life = your business.
How your husband chooses to think, feel and behave in his life = his business.
If we all just stayed in our own business, and stayed in charge of the things we do have control of and responsibility for, our lives would be so much richer. And simpler.
What does this mean?
So, if you’re not responsible for your husband’s feelings, does this mean you can just do whatever you want, with no thought for him whatsoever?
Of course not.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have compassion for how our decisions affect our husbands.
It doesn’t mean we should be insensitive to the impact of our choices on him.
It does mean we should never take responsibility for his feelings.
If our husband is sad, or angry or disappointed, those feelings are his to own and to process.
That is the key difference.
And if he chooses to blame us for how he feels instead of owning his emotions, that is his business. It does not mean we have to accept that blame or take it on as our own.
Are you guilty of taking responsibility for your husband’s feelings? If you were to place that responsibility back where it belongs, what would you do differently in your life and marriage?
Announcing The Untethered Wife… A New Kind of Support for Navigating Your Life and Marriage
Learning to let go of feeling responsible for our husbands emotional wellbeing and placing that responsibility back where it rightfully belongs is just one of the many concepts we’ll be covering in my brand new group experience, The Untethered Wife.
It’s a programme that combines my coaching expertise with the support of a community of like-minded women on a similar path. It’s designed to give you crystal clarity of what you want for your life and marriage now and how to give yourself permission to create it.
It’s for women who want to learn and grow and transform together.
We start 12th September for eight weeks. Registration closes in a few days.
Full details and registration link here.
Enjoyed this article?
Sign up for more inspiration – it’s free! You’ll also receive the 5 Steps Mini Guide.