One of the most common topics that I hear about is an inequity of affection between two spouses. Every one wants to feel special, valued, and understood. And when enough times goes by that your spouse isn’t feeling these things, he will probably eventually tell you. Sometimes he tells you with words. Other times he tells you with actions. Sometimes, you get both actions and words. This can seem very unfair when, in your mind, you love him very much and make every attempt to show him.
A wife could explain this type of scenario: “my husband has always been insecure in our relationship. I think that he is good looking, but he does not. He has always said that people probably don’t know what I see in him. It’s true that I had a lot of boyfriends before him and men still look at me quite often. But I honestly try not to notice this, because I don’t care about it. I’m married. I’m committed. As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t necessary to think about this. But my husband thinks about it a lot. And it seems that he has himself convinced that I don’t love him enough. He has a lot of friends and coworkers who are married to younger second wives and these bimbos fall all over their husband and bow to his every whim. I would never do that. I have more intelligence and dignity than that. I tell my husband that I love him all of the time. We have been married for many years, so obviously this would not be the case if I did not love him. Still, he will point out times where he says I wasn’t attentive enough or where I didn’t pamper him enough or notice that something was going on with him. He was angry that I didn’t take off of work to attend a conference with him. If I don’t ask about an important presentation at his job, he says I don’t care enough to notice what is happening in his life. This is a bit silly to me, as I have my own work life and I certainly don’t expect him to know every single thing that happens at my own work or to react to it. However, I feel like I have to listen to him because he’s increasingly started making little comments about separating or just accepting the fact that he should have known early on that our marriage would never work. I want our marriage to work, but I still think his claims are silly. I love him more than enough, but he’s insecure and he has it in his head that he isn’t attractive or doesn’t deserve me. His perceptions aren’t my fault.”
I can understand your frustration. It can be annoying to watch someone project their own securities onto you when you really don’t deserve that. It’s certainly not your fault that he has always felt a little unsure about himself. Still, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself which would be worse – to potentially separate or divorce and not have your spouse at all or to find small ways to boost his confidence and to make him feel loved. If you’re still invested in your marriage, it is probably the later.
Sometimes, you don’t have to go over the top to boost his confidence and to show a little more affection. Sometimes, all he is looking for is effort. It’s certainly worth it to try – every single day – to notice something to compliment him about. This is a very small effort that can pay huge dividends. You also want to make sure that you are showing physical affection regularly. Brushing his hand, putting your arm around him, or giving him a hug or kiss literally takes a few seconds, but might mean that you hear him complain a whole lot less.
I know that it’s probably very tempting to try to make him see that he’s being very petty and insecure. But honestly, this type of conversation might make him even more insecure. The best antidote for an insecure spouse is to try to build up his confidence. I know that this might seem as if you are giving him exactly what he wants, but try to see it from his side. How would you feel if you thought he was better looking than you and if you perceived that everyone thought that you weren’t good enough for him and that you did not deserve him? That might be how your husband feels right now. Add that to the fact that he doesn’t perceive that you are showing the affection that he wants, and he’s likely hurting quite a bit (whether it is justified or not.)
If you can keep reminding yourself that his pleas are based on his own fear and not on any true and accurate reflection of you, then it is easier to approach him with empathy and patience. Just remind yourself that at the heart of this is a person who, deep down, is afraid of losing you. This perspective makes it easier to offer him reassurance. That’s potentially all he is looking for, although his method isn’t a great one.