Page 2 | Can we have a support thread for those who reluctantly wear the trousers in their relationship?

(294 Posts)
DropMyTrousers Sun 28-Nov-10 20:22:28

Have namechanged...

Does anyone else have a partner that they love and don't want to leave, but is exhausting in their inability to make decisions/take control/plan/lead etc etc?

Whether it's moving house or deciding which packet of biscuits to open with a cuppa, DH dodges all responsibility by looking to me to decide and act. We have been doing a lot of talking lately about how tiring I find this.

We've been together 11 years and married for 9, friends for a good while beforehand. In that time I have tried various approaches. For the last couple of years I have been trying to build his confidence by handing over control to him regularly and supporting his decisions, but he still ducks out and things take aaaaages to the point that I want to scream "FFS let's just do it like this!"

The trouble is that I'm not a natural leader or at all dogmatic. I feel pretty uncomfortable in a leadership role myself, but I'm being forced there minute to minute.

Everyone thinks he is lovely, and he is - kind, loyal, safe, good career, handsome.

But he has just spent 3 minutes checking with me that it's all right to watch the Antiques Roadshow, and am I really happy doing something on the laptop? And we can watch something else if that suits me? And he can always watch it on the iPlayer another time? And am I sure? Etc. And then a few minutes in... Am I still okay with this, because we could have the X Factor on if I like? (I don't watch the X Factor!)

You can imagine what our sex life is like, can't you?

I hate it because I feel I am being put in the role of tyrant when that's not me at all. I would eat my own jumper if it meant that DH would just once say. "Hey, let's do this today!" or "I've decided we need to save up for this" or even "Make us a cup of tea, love."

I think he has a basic lack of confidence in his abilities and I want to help him to overcome this. However there are phone calls, driving, DIY, accounting, planning and raising children to be done and I am doing all of it.

OP’s posts: |
izquierda Sun 28-Nov-10 21:54:21

DMT, I meant, sorry - so busy getting on my high horse - I typed P not T
>>gallops off into the night<<

izquierda Sun 28-Nov-10 22:00:26

Re-read the thread. My DH also had an unhappy childhood, losing him mum quite young. Think I need to make more allowances but it is difficult.
He has always had a high-powered, responsible job, so maybe wants to play a less responsible role at home.
Just wanted to share my experience in sympathy and soldarity really, didn't mean to hijack DMT's thread.
Your point about being supportive when your DH does take a lead is really good, I intend to try that.

asouthwoldmummy Sun 28-Nov-10 22:03:20

Izquierda - when there's something DH doesn't get round to doing I can't do it without making him feel bad for not doing it. I don't like nagging him but if I don't nag him to take the take the rubbish out/put something in the shed etc he doesn't think to do it, if I do it myself he feels bad.

As an example he ordered some roof bars for our car from eBay. They came over a week ago and are still standing in the hallway! I'm almost tempted to not mention them and see how long they stay there!

DropMyTrousers Sun 28-Nov-10 22:13:11

Please do hijack away everyone - I meant a support thread, not a "support ME" thread! Glad other people are finding it useful.

Learned helplessness. Fascinating. Isn't it also true that if you want something doing, you ask a busy person? I am that busy person. I also own a feeling of importance about being the useful one, the one who knows what to do... I watch this like a hawk though, I don't want to become a martyr.

However, I know how activity = results can lead to an upward spiral of self esteem. The more I do, the more I feel I can do (up to a limit - bit too close to overwhelm for comfort, now.) I would love DH to feel that sense of getting a result a bit more often. How to unlearn that helplessness, though?

OP’s posts: |
perfumedlife Sun 28-Nov-10 22:50:07

Got thinking about this learned helplessness.

You know when some men have been brought up very strict and punished for transgressions? Do you think this is why some men pay hookers to change their nappy and feed them bottles? confused Acting out and trying to resolve/recreate their childhood?

It just seems that strict childhoods result in these complient types of men.

My sister who is divorcing similar guy always tries to change the men she meets. She starts off dating someone we wouldn't look twice at, bad dress sense/teeth/no ambition etc. Then she tweaks them until they look snappy and improve their jobs. Then she goes off them because they were too weak and allowed her to do this confused

OP, try to visualise a scenario where you were caught cheating. Can you picture your dh fighting for you, stepping up and being a man?

BecauseImWorthIt Sun 28-Nov-10 22:58:24

How does he function at work? Presumably if he is so talented, then he must take responsibility/make decisions at work?

So why can't he do it at home? How much are you taking away from him?

I can see that this must be incredibly frustrating, but I think you need to make him take responsibility for things. Why not make him do the shopping? And get him to work out the list, rather than you making it. If he comes home without stuff, send him back until he gets it right.


Eurostar Sun 28-Nov-10 23:34:42

On the spectrum of dependent personality disorder? If so, I've heard solution focussed therapy is the best approach
Offical criteria here:

F60.7 Dependent Personality Disorder

Personality disorder characterized by at least 3 of the following:

1. encouraging or allowing others to make most of one's important life decisions;
2. subordination of one's own needs to those of others on whom one is dependent, and undue compliance with their wishes;
3. unwillingness to make even reasonable demands on the people one depends on;
4. feeling uncomfortable or helpless when alone, because of exaggerated fears of inability to care for oneself;
5. preoccupation with fears of being abandoned by a person with whom one has a close relationship, and of being left to care for oneself;
6. limited capacity to make everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others.

Associated features may include perceiving oneself as helpless, incompetent, and lacking stamina.

PamelaFlitton Sun 28-Nov-10 23:50:55

Hey, it's better than the opposite. My ex, who got annoyed if I ordered a vodka and tonic instead of wanting the same wine as him, would not let me speak in the native language to others if we were on holiday (spoke English over me), got arsey if I wasn't his perfect woman in every single way.... grr. OK, it's annoying, but the opposite is worse

HerBeatitude Mon 29-Nov-10 00:13:53

I think both are madly dysfunctional though

sheepgomeep Mon 29-Nov-10 00:22:13

Yes my dp is like this too. He never makes decisions about money except to spend, never makes decisions on well any thing. He willnever suggest a night out off hisown back or where to go,I could go on and on.

Ido love him and quite often Iwonder why

whenallelsefailsmaketea Mon 29-Nov-10 00:50:47

When I married my DH my very perceptive Dad made a good speech and joked about my new husband's "simulated domestic incompetence". 24 years later the joke has worn off which is, among other reasons, why I have left him.

Having an extra child to care for in a family and no adult to share the burden with is exhausting and ultimately kills passion and leads to, in my case, terminal resentment.

I wish I had taken a stand fifteen or more years ago and made him pull his weight. We might still be together if I had.

Sorry to be gloomy. Be strong ladies, stand back and let them get on with it. As messily and as badly as they choose as long as they are in charge.

<<<waves to Izquierda>>>> Hi friend!

fruitstick Mon 29-Nov-10 06:56:09

I have the worst of both worlds. DH wants final say over everything but wants me to do all the organising.

His idea of helping is reminding me to do something. This usually starts with the words 'have we....?'

I've started not doing them and insisting on watching X Factor despite his protests (and my apathy)

fruitstick Mon 29-Nov-10 06:58:07

DH had complained at least 5 times over the past week that hr needs Christmas cards. Has asked to borrow mine but i haven't bought any either.

Most of these conversations occur whilst standing in front of Christmas card displays. confused

diddl Mon 29-Nov-10 07:20:05

OP-did he never live by himself & have to make decisions?

He´s acting like a child, isn´t he?

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 29-Nov-10 07:38:27

Hi DropMyTrousers,

Re your comment:-

"The trouble is that he offers me unconditional love, something I have never had in my life"

That says as much about you as it does him; would you care to elaborate at all?. He is not there though to give you unconditional love. You also cannot help someone who ultimately does not want to help his own self; he is responsible for his own actions here and is making a conscious choice. You cannot also rescue someone who ultimately does not want to be saved , he is not your project.

Learned helplessness also plays a part here in regards to your H.

For what its worth my outlaws are a bit like you describe in your situation and they are both very unhappy; they are together in that they are still married but are a million miles apart emotionally. Don't become like them.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 29-Nov-10 07:44:41


For what its worth as well my FIL lost his mother young. It has affected him markedly and one aspect of this was to encourage his further sense of learned helplessness (along with apathy).

You both seem very unhappy within your own selves. Two wrongs do not make a right. You cannot fix each other and you cannot heal his pain (I do not mean this at all unkindly but as his wife you are the last person who can help him), you can only help your own self.

sheepgomeep Mon 29-Nov-10 09:14:26

This is so interesting, a lot of your dp have had unhappy childhoods and/or lost mothers in one form or another. My dp was abandoned at the age of 3 by his mum and left in the care of a very dysfuntional neglectful family.

There is so much wrong with our relationship, not just the apathy bit but a whole lot more. I have just realized that I am a mug

IneedacleanerIamalazyslattern Mon 29-Nov-10 10:02:15

This is my DH as well.
I can see why some women leave dh's like this but also feel that the leave him posts are unhelpful.

Yes I get frustrated at times and yes it does feel like I have another child at times as well but my dh also has a lot of redeeming qualities.

DH is like this because his mother undermined everything he tried to do to help she had her own ways that had to be just so and would go and do it all again, he then met and spent 10 years with someone else just like that.

I do wish he was a bit more pro-active, and I really don't care what butter we buy if our usual brand isn't there...
He is getting slightly better but it is a long road. It has involved me regularly repeating I don't care buy whatever (or similar) over and over again but some of the messages are sinking in and he is making little decisions on his own.

I think the thing with him is that he is trying to do it rather than ignoring my shouting pleas to get a grip make a decision of his own.

IneedacleanerIamalazyslattern Mon 29-Nov-10 10:04:52

I maybe should say my MIL developed ocd and control issues when dh's dad died.
We were neighbours and young teenagers at the time and I think MIL started behaving like this at a time her life was so out of conrol she had to gain control somehow.
One of the unfortunate results is that she now has 2 grown up children incapabale of looking after themselves.

RitaLynn Mon 29-Nov-10 10:11:26

Just throwing this out there, so apologies...

Do you think you could have bullied this into him?

It's a bit of a stereotype, isn't it? Women who get to choose the new wallpaper, where to go on holiday, husband always makes the wrong decision, so they just give up for an easy life, and then they end up where you are now.

I mean, is there a reason why he asks you whether it's ok to watch the antiques roadshow.

PS. This is a question if asked by a man about his wife, many would be asking about controlling behaviour.

asouthwoldmummy Mon 29-Nov-10 10:56:59

Ritalynn - I think controlling behaviour is way off the mark.

If most of our DH's and DP's suffered poor or abusive upbringings surely it can't be a coincidence that they share an inability to take charge? I think it is more likely to do with upbringing rather than us just bullying our DH's/DP's.

FWIW posts saying to leave are completely unhelpful. My DH is annoying in his inability to take control but he has a lot of good qualities also. He is kind, caring, loving and a great father. Everyone has their negative qualities, he probably gets just as wound up about my forgetfulness!

Can I just ask everyone else whose DH is like this, are they also a worrier, or is that an unconnected trait mine has?

DropMyTrousers Mon 29-Nov-10 11:00:24

Morning all. This is really interesting stuff.

RitaLynn, that crosses my mind about 30 times a day. Of course I have my part to play in influencing DH's behaviour, but I need to work out what that is. I hate bullying and find I have to put an awful lot of energy into being kind, understanding and supportive. 99 times of of 100 I'll say "Oh well" when things he does (or forgets to do) cause problems, cos I know I'm not perfect either and by no means have all the answers. The other one time in a hundred I might roll my eyes and sigh and say "Okay, I'll do it then," but try to avoid that because it's martyrish of me and demoralising for him... But sometimes I can't help it.

The problem is that I am nearly overwhelmed by problems because I have precious little help, but that seems to be my problem to solve as well just to top it all off. Knackering, and I feel irritable often, but I really don't think I'm a bully.

OP’s posts: |
RitaLynn Mon 29-Nov-10 11:01:32


I was only throwing it out there, there must be some bullied men, married to Sybil Fawlty types, who get nagged about the wrong clothes, wrong TV shows, etc, who just submit.

susiedaisy Mon 29-Nov-10 11:33:44

izquierda- excellent post, especially,

"I long for someone to organise for me, as i just don't feel special and its all so one sided" i know what you mean.

Bonsoir Mon 29-Nov-10 11:49:49

My DP has absolutely no role model of a father/husband taking decisions in a family/relationship. His father is a very weak man, and very hen-pecked, though of course I only met DP's parents late in life and it is hard to work out what came first in a chicken-and-egg scenario.

While my DP is clearly a lot more decisive and proactive than his own father, the issue of not taking charge is still an issue for him and one that we work on. The other day we were ordering Japanese takeaway and he asked me what I wanted. I told him to choose something I like (we eat Japanese food often). He found it incredibly hard to do this, and kept pestering me to tell him what I wanted, until I pointed out that I do all the catering in this family, which includes making decisions for five people's food preferences, almost every week of the year - so surely it wasn't so difficult for him to choose one takeaway meal for me?

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