Eavesdrop on any group of women chatting honestly about their husbands, and you’ll hear that some of their men are romantic, generous and kind while others will have less attractive characteristics from never picking up the towels after they’ve used them through to being selfish or having a trigger temper.
And every now and then, when these irritating traits become dominant, women began to question why they put up with their husband’s behaviour or at least how to handle it better.
‘In each of the main personality types, there will be a payoff for the wife,’ says counselling psychologist Rachael Alexander, author of How To Be A Courage Queen. ‘If she feels her husband isn’t refined or clever enough for her, she might enjoy feeling superior or the project of improving him.’
But there’s usually a more subtle reason for being in a relationship with a man with a particular trait that does more than get us irritated every time we have to go around picking up those soggy, discarded towels.
‘If there’s a quality you don’t like in someone, you will probably find that you have the same issue within yourself,’ Rachael says. ‘For example, the woman who’s married to the unrefined man probably has a fear that she isn’t as grammatically correct as she could be.’
But while it’s easy to identify and recognise five distinctly less likeable traits some of our husbands display, it’s not so clear cut, insists Dubai-based life strategist Sami Toussi. People are made up of multiple traits, often from more than category, and these can change as we evolve and grow – or are affected by some external factor.
‘Both men and women can have various personality traits,’ she says, ‘and they can change over a period of months, depending on a lot of factors, such as a heavy workload, loss of parents and becoming a parent.’
So which type of man are are you married to what can you do to help him and your marriage?
This husband will be a charmer until he wins you over, says Rachael. ‘He’ll spare no expense when he’s wooing you at the loveliest restaurants but once you’re together and settled, you’ll find he thinks of no one but himself. All he’s concerned with is how his own needs can be met.
‘The way he behaves depends on what his priority is – if he wants social standing, he’ll send his children to the most expensive private school. If he has to choose between taking his son to football practice and going out with his influential friends, he’ll abandon the soccer coaching.
‘He has a complete lack of empathy. When you’re ill, he tells you to pull yourself together.’
Rachael says narcissists promise to change, but two or three months down the line, they revert to their old behaviour. ‘Have an honest conversation and write down what you discuss. That way, he can’t deny what he agreed to,’ she says.
Sami says the narcissist’s wife may feel she constantly has to please him. ‘He will need a lot of flattery and for you to tell him that you love him,’ she says.
‘But let him know you need time outside the relationship to make your time together more meaningful. Create a list of non-negotiable things like going to the gym, reading and meditating that help you relax and attain inner peace.’
The Rough Diamond
This man may have a few rough edges and there will be sides of his character that make you cringe, because you’re very different.
‘He might not know which knife and fork to use at a fancy dinner or he might have tattoos,’ says Rachael. ‘Your friends and family will wonder what you’re doing with him.
‘You may not be matched intellectually – while you’re busy building a career in finance, he might do a manual 9-5 job, and you may worry about taking him to your company’s annual dinner dance in case he shows you up by telling your boss his terrible jokes. In restaurants he might not say thank you to the waiter and he might not hold doors open for people.
‘You’ll try to change him and you’ll be constantly putting him on diets, taking him shopping for new clothes and correcting his pronunciation.’
Rachael suggests if you’re married to a rough diamond, rather than look for signs he’s not the one after all, start by working on yourself.
‘Instead of seeing your man as a project, work on your beliefs,’ she says. ‘Then make a list of all his good points and appreciate them!’
Sami suggests we treat our rough diamonds with encouragement and appreciation. She also suggests we asked whether we’re fulfilled or bored.
‘There may be some voids in this lady’s life, so needing to fix her man may be a way of occupying her time,’ she says.
It’s take, take, take all the way for this man, and he’ll sap your time, energy and patience if you let him.
‘He may claim to be a stay-at-home husband, but, in reality, he spends most of his day on the Play Station, and then he’ll call you to say there’s nothing in for dinner,’ explains Rachael.
‘He’ll leave the family finances to you, yet if he wants to buy an expensive new camera with money in your joint account, he will, whether you can afford it or not. He asks you to pick him up and drop him off in the car. For you, it’s like having another child.
‘Your mantra may become: ‘It’s easier to do it myself,’ and you could start behaving like a single parent, fitting in work and looking after the children on your own.’
Rachael suggests together you draw up a rota of jobs for him to do.‘Settle for different standards, and accept he might not parent or tidy up the way you do,’ she says.
Sami urges the parasite’s wife to think back to the early days of their relationship.‘Go back to a time before you felt sapped and exploited and remember why you liked him in the first place,’ she says. ‘Ask yourself whether you’ve encouraged this behaviour, then ask him for some help, maybe around the house, and then re-assess the situation.’
This man may be passive aggressive or just plain aggressive. ‘He may sulk and say things like: “You’d let me go on a boys’ holiday if you loved me,” Rachael explains.
‘He might also make you doubt yourself and any decisions you make. He will put you down in a very subtle way and he’ll control much of what you do.
‘When you’re out with your friends, he’ll phone you 30 times to see what you’re doing, or in a restaurant he’ll give you a budget in which to order.
‘If you decide to have a date night at the cinema, he’ll reluctantly go along with it, then on the way he’ll stop for something to eat so you never get to see the movie.
‘If he’s aggressive, he will shout, throw things around and slam doors.’
Rachael suggests the bully’s wife starts by setting some boundaries. ‘Let him know it’s not acceptable for him to yell at you,’ says Rachael. ‘If he flouts your boundaries, you’ll have to have sanctions. Yours could be seeing a relationships counsellor.’
Sami agrees this lady may need help from a third party to assess her husband’s behaviour. ‘If she doesn’t get help and the bullying continues, she will start to blame herself and doubt her decisions,’ she says. ‘There will also be a massive hit on her self-esteem.’
You’re married to Mr Too-Nice Guy and he couldn’t make a decision, if his life depended on it.
‘He’s got no passion, no ambition, no motivation,’ says Rachael. ‘For him life has become very humdrum and boring. He buys you the same birthday present every year, and he’ll spend ages agonising over small decisions, like how many portions of fries to order with a meal.
‘He doesn’t get round to doing any jobs at home. At weekends he slouches around in the same jogging bottoms. He’s in the same job he had when he left college. Even his social life is a routine – he meets his friends for an hour every Thursday evening. He’s stuck in his comfort zone.’
Rachael suggests the pushover’s wife encourages him to have a health check to make sure there isn’t a medical reason for his lethargy.
‘Then find out what interests he had when he was younger and come up with ways to take them up again,’ she says.
Sami suggests this man’s wife also looks at her own behaviour, especially if she likes to be in the driving seat in the relationship.
‘It may be she’s demanding and aggressive so her husband is shutting down, retracting into his safe shell and keeping quiet,’ suggests Sami. ‘She could show enthusiasm when he makes decisions and try to be more playful, gentle and kind.’