I’ve been engaged to Ron for about three months now. Our wedding is still two months away. I’ve gone out with quite a few men before being set up with Ron and I know “what’s out there.” Ron has a lot going for him and I feel very blessed to be engaged to him.
I’ll run through some of his good qualities, because there are so many and I don’t want to sound like some kind an ingrate. Ron is bright, caring, sensitive, ambitious and motivated to work hard in life and succeed. He treats me well, is respectful toward my parents and family and friends in general, and I feel proud to stand by his side.
There is one problem, however. Not the type of problem that would G-d forbid motivate me to break off the engagement. But something that has come up more and more and concerns me enough to write in to you, because I don’t know how to handle it and I certainly don’t want it to be part of our relationship or even get worse with time.
Since we’ve become engaged, and I feel more and more comfortable being myself and saying what’s on my mind, I’m noticing the Ron can’t handle any sort of criticism. Whether it’s about something small or large, he gets really angry at me and usually shuts down and stops talking to me, until I apologize for saying anything.
Because this cycle of being shut out is so painful for me, I’m seeing that I’m keeping all of my criticisms to myself, which maybe is good to a certain degree, but can a married couple really never be able to tell one another when they think the other person is doing something wrong?
I’ll give you a few examples of clashes we’ve had recently as a result of Ron’s inability to hear criticism. First something small. When we were dating, I was never thrilled with the way he ate. He would push food onto his fork with his finger. This always turned me off, but I never said anything because I figured there were so many great qualities in him, I would overlook his poor manners when it came to eating. After we got engaged, however, I very carefully mentioned to him that the proper way to eat would be to push food onto his fork with his knife, and not his finger. Well, he gave me such a look, you would think I just accused him or murdering someone. After the look, he sat quietly throughout the rest of the meal, until I finally apologized for saying anything. As you can imagine, he’s still pushing food onto his fork with his finger!
A more serious example has to do with a comment I once made regarding his relationship with his mother. He is basically a good son and respectful, but I’ve noticed that when we are together and his mother calls, he never takes her call. We could be out for hours and he doesn’t get back to her. I once suggested that it would be fine with me if he took his mother’s calls, (she’s a great lady and I know how hard she tries to stay close to him). He got so upset with me because I was “telling him how to behave as a son.” Once again, the silent treatment, until I finally apologized for interfering with his relationship with his mother.
Ron really is a terrific guy in so many ways, but he just can’t handle criticism. What is a kallah/wife to do? Do I just back away from ever sharing my feelings to avoid conflict? Or is there a way to talk to him about it so that he changes in this way? For the time being, I feel like I’m wearing a muzzle!
The very fact that you feel muzzled tells a serious story. One of the basic premises of a good marriage is the ability for two people to trust one another, feel safe together and to be able to share differences of opinions without worrying about being punished.
When Ron hears something that feels uncomfortable for him, right or wrong; it appears his natural inclination is to punish. That is exactly what he is doing in order to get his way by making the situation so unbearable for you, you ultimately cave in and make nice to him. This is a childish behavior and self-indulgent. It does not set the stage for a truly connected relationship.
Though you may not need to hear this, I do want to make sure that when you criticize Ron, (I don’t even like the word criticize, maybe “share your feelings” would be better), make sure you do it as gently as possible. Some people’s egos are unable to hear that they are, in some way “bad.” So be sure to work on your presentation, if it could benefit from any tweaking. Secondly, and very possibly this is not something you need to hear, pick your battles. We all see many behaviors in our spouses that we’re not necessarily crazy about. But we don’t have to comment on everything. Some things are non-negotiable, but some things can be overlooked. So pace yourself. Save it up for the really important stuff.
Having said that, you and Ron have already established a dance together that is predictable and unhealthy. You “criticize,” he shuts down, you apologize and he continues with his inappropriate behavior because he can. Now is the time to change up this dance. If not, get ready for a marriage filled with frustration and anger.
The next time you feel the need to share your feelings with Ron about something he’s doing that isn’t O.K., see what happens if you don’t apologize. See how long he waits before finally caving in and addressing the problem. If he’s the type of guy who is capable of staying angry at you “forever,” without respecting your sensibilities, I would suggest you tell Ron that this pattern is unacceptable and that either you two discuss it until he can properly hear you, or that the two of you need to visit with a third party, namely a therapist, to work out this unsettling area that exists between you.
I agree with you, this is not a deal breaker, in the scheme of things. However, it is something to be worked through and resolved. And the earlier the better. When ignored, issues like this one, only gets worse over time. Based on all the wonderful qualities that Ron does possess, my feeling is that he’ll be able to gain some insight into why he behaves this way and shift his behavior appropriately, so that ultimately your relationship is all it can be!
All the best,
Be sure to write or call with your responses to this week’s blog! We love hearing from you! As always, we are here to service all of your dating and relationship questions and concerns.