Sian Confidential: How do I know if I’m being treated right in my relationship?
Walking on eggshells, losing confidence and a disastrous sex life. Amy speaks to Sian to find out why she feels mistreated in her marriage.
How do I know if I’m being treated right in my relationship? I have been married for four years and we have been together since we were 18 after meeting at university. I am a teacher and he is a solicitor. I always feel like I have to walk on eggshells around him. If we are having a chat and I try to agree with him he picks up on it and criticises what I’ve said. I’m left feeling confused and hurt. I used to be confident about the way I looked and now I worry that I’m not dressed right. He has made a comment that I dress like an older woman and that I’m getting frumpy. I wear flat shoes for work now! Most of the time it is great, but I find myself ‘people-pleasing’ him and its even started to be with my friends. He always gets his own way. If I say let’s go for a walk and he doesn’t feel like it, he says no I can’t be bothered but if I am busy and he wants to go for a walk, I’m selfish. Our sex life for me is a disaster. I can now not orgasm. He likes to think he is some caring attentive stud so when I don’t orgasm quickly, he rolls his eyes and has said a couple of times “I’m not spending all night on this”. I was devastated and humiliated. I have less confidence than I used to, but I feel guilty talking about him like this as in every other way he’s pretty wonderful.
Wow. I feel your humiliation in the bedroom. The fact that you are writing for help suggests you know you are being treated disrespectfully. I did swear out loud when I saw your letter. Firstly, people get away with what you let them get away with. Remember when you were a kid and your mum would shout “dinner!” and you would ignore her as you were in the middle of a vitally important game PLUS you knew you had about 10 minutes before she got annoyed after repeating herself. Well, your mum was inadvertently teaching you to only come for your dinner after the fourth angry shout. We learn not to listen to idle threats and we don’t respond to requests until the consequences are undesirable – i.e. “come in for your bloody dinner or it’s going in the bin.”
There needs to be a slow retraining here. The same way you would train a naughty puppy. Here are the rules of assertiveness:
- Explain to the person that you find their behaviour unacceptable; we give them the benefit of the doubt.
- If they do it again you remind them that you have already asked them to stop this behaviour as you find in unacceptable and a third time will reap consequences.
- You don’t talk anymore; you do something that is equally annoying or upsetting to them.
There are a number of things to be very aware of here. DO NOT DO THIS WITH RAGE. DO NOT DO THIS OUT OF SPITE OR REVENGE. STAY CALM AND ASSERTIVE.
You wouldn’t get sadistic pleasure out of grounding a child or putting them on the naughty step – you know that what you are doing is for the benefit of all concerned. It’s easy for me to sit here typing a response and not so easy for you to put this into practice. Therefore, start with small and manageable behaviour changes on your behalf. You can’t change other people. You have to change the way you behave, and they have no choice but to adapt to those changes.
If they can’t, that’s another matter and it can lead to big rifts, I always warn my clients that they have to be prepared for their partner not being able to accept the new you. I suspect that there is a lack of self-esteem from both parties here and happy to have a more in-depth and private conversation over the phone. Plus, I have some suggestions about the bedroom situation that might raise a few eyebrows!
About Peaceful Minds
Sian is a cognitive behaviour therapist and also a clinical hypnotherapist, having trained at Goldsmiths College, University of London and the College of Clinical Hypnosis. Four years ago Sian relocated her Harley Street practice to her native North East after 26 years in central London. Sian now runs her private clinic in Gosforth and also owns a training academy to help organisations with stress reduction. Sian’s approach is to help people become their own therapists, whether they come to see her for panic attacks, depression or OCD (she covers a wide range of emotional and behavioural issues).