Does Understanding The Enneagram Help With Marriage Problems?

Morning friend,

Last time I wrote, I said I'd send pictures of an art project I did with my granddaughters for Nana week. I bought them some used cowboy boots. I spray painted them a neutral color, then brought out the paints, pictures, words to cut out, beads and sparkles and let them be creative. Once done, we filled them up with silk plants and now they are proudly displayed in their bedrooms. It was fun to see the words they chose and their creativity blossom.

Today’s Question: 

I am trying to stay well in my marriage and overall, it has gotten a lot better. I wonder if you ever consider the Enneagram types when dealing with marital problems. I recently hav been investigating my husband's type (8- the challenger) and my type (2- the pleaser) and how it affects our marriage. 

My question today though is something that feels really abusive that my husband does all of the time and he just won't stop. He says he doesn't do it. That thing is just disagreeing with everything I say just to be disagreeable. 

He blames me for being “too sensitive” and says that it was my childhood that makes me argument averse. (his childhood was no more healthy than mine) The 8 on the enneagram loves to argue- the 2 (me) hates conflict. He is a really good guy apart from this. He will never admit he does this- I have started documenting what is said because I tend to forget the specifics when we are in front of a counselor. I would appreciate you addressing this. 

I was in counseling for myself and the counselor told me to just say, “Yeah you are probably right” every time he argued with me- just to take the fight out of it. He eventually got really angry when I did that because he knew why I did it. (To draw attention to his argumentativeness and dip out) He keeps my stomach in knots! It feels abusive and unkind. He says he adores me and is crazy about me! 

Answer: Understanding people and accepting that we are different is crucial to forming healthy relationships. Using tests such as the Myers Briggs, or the Enneagram can be useful is defining specific ways people see the world and function in it. I am not an expert on the Enneagram test, but I do find it helpful to recognize and define more of our internal motivations – what drives us to do what we do. 

For example, you said you think your husband is an 8 on the Enneagram. The Challenger-8, loves to challenge, to argue, to debate, to question. He does not accept things at face value. He wants you to prove it to him. You, the Helper-2, love peace, getting along with others, accommodating people, and being helpful. You don’t want to argue or prove anything. You want to get along and have everyone play nice.

Understanding the Enneagram is more complex than just defining your type. There are wings and different strategies for how one handles stress. There are no “bad” types. Each number (9 in total) is different, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. But to summarize, each number on the Enneagram has a healthy way of functioning and an unhealthy way of functioning. For example, the unhealthy Helper-2, is a people pleaser, rescuing, enabling, and ignoring their own needs. They avoid conflict at their own peril. The unhealthy 8 is argumentative, insensitive, often cruel, and belligerent, ignoring that other people may have legitimate different perspectives.

Your husband is who he is –a challenger. That is not negative or sinful. John the Baptist was probably an 8 on the Enneagram, constantly challenging the Pharisees and their hypocrisy. The bigger question is whether your spouse is aware of his “type” and where he goes when he gets stressed or unhealthy. If your husband is typically unhealthy and unaware, he may become domineering and abusive in his challenging ways.

You are who you are. You are naturally a pleaser and helper. You are sensitive. That is not sinful or negative. That’s what makes you a 2. If you tend towards unhealthy features, you may over-function, feel resentful for all you do for others, take things too personally, and cave in to avoid conflict. 

Therefore, my suggestion since you’ve found this test helpful is to ask yourself what do you need to learn or how do you need to change/grow in order to become the healthiest version of you? The you that God created you to be? (Psalm 139)

No matter how healthy you become, you will never become a challenger or enjoy being challenged. But as you grow confident and healthy in who God made you to be, you can learn to respond to your challenger husband without getting defensive for being sensitive or reactive when being questioned.

Here are a few things you might try to say to him when he challenges or disagrees with you.

“I know you think fast and always have a come-back why you disagree, but I don’t think that way. I need to take time to process, so I’m going to think about what you said and I’ll get back to you when I’m ready.”

“It’s not that I think I’m right and you’re wrong, but I think we have different needs or wants or priorities here.” (For example, perhaps he values saving money so he doesn’t want to buy new furniture, and you value having a pretty and comfortable space, so you would like to buy new furniture). “How might we solve this dilemma in a way that’s a win/win for us both?”

“I am sensitive. I like that I am sensitive, God made me that way. And because I am sensitive I notice and feel things that perhaps you don’t because you are made different. Might God want me to help you learn to be more sensitive sometimes? Just like God may use you to help me think more critically about things?”

“I’d like to share my thoughts and I’d like you to just listen before you comment or disagree. In fact, I want you to wait and think about what I have to say before you respond. Are you willing to do that for me?”

You said your husband tells you he adores you and is crazy about you. I encourage you to do your own work to be a healthy and strong you. That will help you not be as easily intimidated by his challenges well as face and handle conflict in a constructive way. As you get healthier, your husband may also desire to get healthier, or he may try to bully you back into your old ways. That will give you a clearer picture of whether or not you can stay well long-term.

Friend, how have you learned to accept personality differences in those you are in relationship with without feeling disrespected or thinking they are wrong or you are wrong, when you might just be different?

27 Comments

  1. Gloria sprankle on July 20, 2023 at 8:48 am

    If I asked my husband a question it was “no” before anything was discussed. If I questioned what he was saying he said I was”talking back” , so we got nothing resolved. Over 57 yr marriage, we are separated (he filed) not to divorce me, but to hurt me in every way possible. It’s been 14 months and no divorce yet. Doesn’t get that pushing and shoving, threatening to kill me was an unacceptable way to.live. High conflict and Narcissistic personalities. When will it end!!

    • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 2:21 pm

      Gloria – thanks for sharing. He may never “get it”. That’s what the Bible talks about when it says that people are blind and self-deceived. That’s why I believe some of these ‘tests” can be helpful to help us see our blindspots – especially when the tests are more objective, we can be more open or less defensive than if our spouse tells us “what’s wrong with us”. The tests don’t change us, they don’t validate that it’s okay to be that way, but it gives the information we need (like an MRI gives us information we have a tumor) and then we decide whether or not we will do the work to get healthy. Your husband does not want to see. IT’s been 14 months. What needs to happen for this to end? Do you have a lawyer and have you asked him/her what you can do to facilitate this process?

  2. Cynthia on July 20, 2023 at 9:10 am

    That is so helpful. If only we could implement these types of resolutions to our differences we’d have less divorce. Thank you Leslie for the hood you are trying to do. You are so helpful and have great insight!

  3. Karen on July 20, 2023 at 9:57 am

    “That will give you a clearer picture of whether or not you can stay well long-term.” Your final comment makes it seem like her long-term health is dependent on her husband and his willingness to change or not. What am I missing here? Please clarify. My personal wellness isn’t dependent upon those around me even if they make my healing more difficult to attain, right?

    • Annie on July 20, 2023 at 10:27 am

      Karen…”he may attempt to bully you back into your old ways” If he does attempt to bully her (abuse) back to old coping she cannot stay healthy and the marriage is doomed.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 2:17 pm

      Karen, great question. “My personal wellness isn’t dependent upon those around me even if they make my healing more difficult to attain, right?” Yes, and no. The truth is people impact us – for good and for bad. The Bible is clear on that. Science is clear on that. So a woman’s decision to “stay well” depends on her ability to be able to be well in the environment she is living in. If she is unable to stay well – in other words, the interactions and behaviors of her spouse are impacting her and affecting her health, then her personal wellness isn’t dependent upon him changing but on her accepting he isn’t going to change and therefore, it may not be possible for her to “stay well” and be healthy. Therefore for her “health” she may need to make a different choice.

  4. Susan on July 20, 2023 at 10:50 am

    We are using new age pseudoscience to diagnose our relationships now? What happened to using the Bible?

    This answer, fully compliant with the enneagram nonsense, was truly disappointing, especially considering the Bible has much to say about quarrelsome people and coming into the likeness of Christ.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for your concerns with my answer Susan. I think my track record has shown that I value and use the Bible for many of my answers. Her question was about the Enneagram and see my response to Jodie, I should have done my homework about it before responding to that particular question. Yet to address you – I get a lot of questions about people who “diagnose their spouse” with NPD or BPD and may use other tests to try to figure out what’s wrong – perhaps “on the spectrum” etc. My goal is to bring understanding, compassion, and encourage women in these relationships to learn to study God’s word, also to think for themselves (instead of depending on others to think for them), have good boundaries, yet still have compassion and kindness for even their “enemy” as Jesus calls us to do. But I love that you are challenging my answer – so you are thinking for yourself and asking me to rethink my response, but let’s assume the best here okay?

  5. Jodie on July 20, 2023 at 10:55 am

    Leslie the enneagram has demonic roots. I would not promote it.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks. Jodie, I appreciate your concerns. I was trying to answer this readers question not make a statement about the Enneagram but obviously I need to do more homework on it, which I should have done before I answered. Thank you. Here is something I did read just this morning from a Christian source. It said, “The Enneagram Institute is correct that we are spiritual beings and that we are not living as we were meant to. But the solution is not to get in touch with our “true nature”; it is to cry out to God for salvation. We are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness (Romans 3:23; 6:23), which is made available by His grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8–9).”

      I do believe that the Enneagram or any other test or tool that we use to try to “figure ourselves out” is insufficient for salvation. I would add it’s also insufficient for the “solution” to the problem. That’s not the point of the tool as I see it. Yet, I see so many “saved” people that say they know and believe the Bible who lack self-awareness about what’s really going on inside of them and why they do what they do. They are judgmental, self-righteous, oppressive, harsh, unloving, etc, and yet they believe they are “God’s chosen people and going to heaven.” So I believe sometimes these tools may give people some insights to the self-awareness piece like mirrors help us see that we need to comb our hair or clean off our face. They don’t “solve” the problem, they simply give us ways to help us “see”. God’s word is our clearest Mirror – or way to see truth – and again, thanks for your concerns. I’ll definitely have to dig deeper into the Enneagram and do my own research.

  6. Connie on July 20, 2023 at 11:07 am

    My first h did that. One day when I challenged him about it, he said, “Connie, don’t you know you’re always wrong?” . This is his insecurities talking. He also said, “Connie, don’t you know that if I can make you sick or cry, that makes a man of me?” It’s all about control. If he was a good man, he would sense your distress and talk to you respectfully . Like the book, The Verbally Abusive relationship says, they have to win. They don’t understand win-win, only win-lose. All those “You could try saying to him”s are way above his comprehension level, and way beyond his give-a-dam level. Just saying.

    • Ann on July 20, 2023 at 1:00 pm

      In marriage counseling I expressed that a certain action of my husband’s felt like a “drop in the 20 gallon bucket that needed filling” and I was waiting to see if there were more drops coming before accepting that as evidence of change in our relationship. My counselor told me that my way of seeing it as “just” a drop and my husband’s way of seeing it as “a drop” (a very positive thing) was a “personality difference”. Would anyone like to offer insight on that one, because I am still puzzling over it?

      • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 2:26 pm

        Ann, I don’t know what your counselor meant, but like some people see the glass half empty and others see it as half full, might describe the personality lens of an optimist vs a pessimist. But your larger point is one drop in a bucket does not indicate change enough for you to trust more drops are coming into the bucket. It’s only after you see drop after drop after drop coming consistently will you begin to “trust” that the drops will continue to come. However, it may be too little too late. A plant that is dying, cannot be brought back with one drop of water. It must have more than a drop and it must be watered consistently or it will die.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 1:17 pm

      Connie, I’m sorry for what you experienced. He was very obvious in his motivations and methods. This person who asked this question may find out as she uses those conversation prompters I suggested, that indeed he doesn’t care to have a conversation for understanding, he just wants to win. Then that makes things clearer doesn’t it? And then again, as she stays calm and doesn’t allow herself to get triggered and react, she just may influence him to press pause and reflect on himself too. That would be a win for him and her and them, and their family. It’s worth a shot for anyone who is in this confusion if possible (especially as she indicated “he’s generally a good guy”), to take steps to work on her own unhealthy part (fear of conflict, unhealthy people pleasing, etc) so that she is empowered to invite a different conversation to occur if possible.

      • Connie on July 20, 2023 at 2:49 pm

        I think I came across as rude, and I’m sorry. I was focused on, ‘he keeps my stomach in knots’. I don’t think good guys do that. The body keeps the score. And his telling her that he is crazy about her means nothing to me after two abusive marriages. They all say that, in fact if they have to say it that way I wonder. I think these personality tests are often used as excuses to sin. “That’s just how I am.” If mine comes out negative, that’s a clue to go to God and change. I guess many of us have said all those things to our hubses many times and gotten nowhere. Yes, I’m a tad jaded. Thanks for what you are doing.

        • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 7:56 pm

          Connie, thanks for that. One of the secondary things I want us all to experience on this blog is to have healthy conversations with one another even if we disagree or don’t understand or question someone’s comment. In our world we too often see division, demonizing, polarizing when we don’t agree. We see someone who has to be right and someone who has to be wrong, a win/lose dynamic to all conversations. What happens next? There are no healthy conversations between people who have different points of view or perspectives, different convictions, or even read the Scriptures a bit differently. And if we can’t have healthy conversations unless we are 100% in alignment with one another, then we can’t learn, grow, or change and we won’t have relationships with anyone who isn’t exactly like us. How sad.

  7. Anne Parsell on July 20, 2023 at 1:20 pm

    The Sacred Enneagram has been very helpful to me to see how God given personality traits can be unhealthily expressed when one is not resting in their identity in Christ. It has helped me to understand and accept that I was made differently than my husband —not better or worse. We.both have to allow God to show us the ways in which we act/react defensively or critically. This reveals specific beliefs we hold that run contrary to God’s Truth—areas where we’re not trusting and resting in the value He gives us in Christ.. It has helped me to see the best way for me to “come home” to Him and the healthy, effective way in which He wants me to walk.
    It expounds on the sacred practices of spending time in stillness, silence and/or solitude that our fathers in the faith used to meditate on the Truth of God’s Word. When we allow God’s Word to confront and transform our distorted beliefs, we find ourselves thinking and relating to ourselves and others in healthier, more effective ways.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks Anne, that’s how I have seen it used as well. But healthy conversation around our different ways of “seeing” things can also be useful as long as we listen respectfully and dialogue with curiosity rather than condemnation.

      • Terri Okamoto on July 20, 2023 at 3:29 pm

        My husband and I are very similar to the gal in this blog question. I actually stayed too long in an unhealthy pattern as my husband got to the point where he refused to resolve , stayed In unforgiveness and ultimately “pushed” me out / away with gaslighting, bully tactics, financial betrayal, and parent alienation techniques. I was so physically and emotionally fractured, I packed and left, even without the adult children age 17 and 19. He says it gave him the kick he needed, and asked me if I do believe he can change. What is a healthy response to give him when I know his character now is deeply wounded and he also says “I don’t remember doing or saying that “ when I am specific. I do believe he can never really change enough to create a healthy relationship. (The girls are also angry with me for thinking of divorce. I have to accept the potential lose of more contact with them in going forward with divorce. ). Thank you!

        • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 7:51 pm

          Terri, you asked, “What’s a healthy response to give him….when you know his character is wounded, he doesn’t remember, and you don’t see any real hope of him changing.” It’s such a good question to ask yourself. What is a healthy, loving response to someone who is sick, and doesn’t really want to do the work to get well – or worse, doesn’t even recognize that he’s sick in the first place? What do you think Jesus would say to someone like that? Maybe like the “rich young ruler” who told himself he was doing everything right until Jesus gave him the task of giving up his money. Then what happened? He didn’t want to do that, and it says, Jesus loved him and let him go. Is that a healthy response? Is that a loving response? To give someone their agency – “you chose”, love them, and let them go and be/do what they want to be/do?

  8. Hyun on July 20, 2023 at 3:46 pm

    I am an enneagram 9 and my husband is an 8. Initially, the enneagram helped me understand myself and him. I realized that in order to keep the peace in my marriage I betrayed myself by enabling his unhealthy behavior and lost my voice. A lot of this is also my own childhood trauma and how I dealt with danger. I was permissive of really bad behavior. After 13 years, I couldn’t take it anymore and I just blew up and asked for a separation. Of course, that blindsided him because in his mind, this marriage was like any other marriage. In reality, I was being bullied, demeaned, belittled, cursed at, I was the over functioning default parent, carried the financial load, personal chef, and housekeeper, and I just thought this is what a Christian marriage was to forebear, be submissive, be that “quiet gentle spirit”. The minute I truly shared my heart and hurts, I was blamed. I had daddy issues, I took things too personally, I have a mental illness, I’m going through a mid-life crisis, God is against divorce. We did weekly marriage counseling, intensive marriage counseling, and despite the counseling pastor saying it’s in HIS court to change his behavior for this marriage to work. Not much has changed. I took the bold step to ask him to move out and now we are seperated. The day before he honored my request to seperate, he called me mentally ill and basically called me “satan” and told me to get behind him. It’s really sad that he can’t take responsibility for his bad behavior. I was willing to make this marriage work if he was truly repentant and working on himself, but alas it seems he is enjoying not having any responsibility and even stopped showing up for the kids on his weekends. I was hoping this separation would be a “wake up call” of sorts, but I know I can’t change him. I am working on own wellness, working through my anger/resentment, and God has wrapped his arms around me and the kids. Only God can change hearts. I do still care for him and his well being. He says he’s a Christian, but I haven’t seen fruit in his life. I hope one day he would be able to bring all his brokenness and pain to the Lord and experience God’s embrace. I am not divorced yet, but just praying through next steps…

    • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2023 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks Hyun for your comment. You said, “to create peace I betrayed myself.” I hear this often. In our desire for relationship and belonging we sacrifice our own voice, our own needs, and authenticity…and sometimes even believe it’s virtuous and God’s will. I am so glad you are now working on your own healing and wellness.

  9. Caroline Abbott on July 21, 2023 at 10:43 am

    Leslie, I like that you describe how each type has a healthy and an unhealthy range. There are many things that people can do to become the healthy version of their Enneagram type. In general, I find that people marry their opposite, so it makes sense a 2 marries an 8. Your husband may be a challenger, but that doesn’t explain him taking the opposite stance of you on everything. That sounds pretty unhealthy and just plain mean. As you become healthier, you will be able to discern if he desires to become more kind, or if he is simply a bully.

  10. Enneagram type 9, the Peacemaker, with a “ one- wing”, the Dreamer on July 23, 2023 at 1:08 am

    Leslie, your answer above, “ But healthy conversation around our different ways of “seeing” things can also be useful as long as we listen respectfully and dialogue with curiosity rather than condemnation.” spoke to me. I desperately wish that described my marriage, even on a rare occasion, and I’ve tried everything in the book to make it a reality. But as you have said, you can’t create a healthy marriage by yourself, there must be mutuality, reciprocity, and personal freedom.

    Several years ago, I had hope when my husband agreed to go to a Christian counselor. She utilized the Enneagram and Imago communication ( active listening) techniques. Unfortunately, while I feel I’ve gained clarity, my husband declared counseling a failure. Now, I have a wonderful Christian counselor who has helped me a great deal. My husband insists he “ already knows” what a therapist would say, and won’t try individual therapy.

    At this point, there are several extremely difficult circumstances in my husbands’ family of origin. To keep with the theme: He’s a 3, the achiever, for whom feeling successful and worthy is a core need. I’m a 9, the peacemaker ( or peace keeper/ peacefaker, until recently). I feel I’ve been as supportive and empathetic as possible. He uses “ my family’s problems “ as the all-purpose excuse for any selfish, thoughtless, or just mean behavior. One time he said, “ I want to hear your feelings “. Amazing, I thought! He finally gets it! Facing my fourth type of cancer, I said, “I really don’t want to deal with another cancer”. His response: “ You just want a pity party!” ( and after 30 minutes of talking about his wants, yelled, “ I listened to you! Doesn’t that count?!”… no, it didn’t.) Now one of his family members is facing a very serious cancer ( mine was quickly healed), and he does everything he can to be supportive to all of his family members. It’s one of those situations where people would describe him as considerate and caring, yet to me, that emotional care is not existent. I don’t even try to get him to listen anymore, but I try to extend grace, be kind and supportive, and ask for nothing.

    My question: at what point does “ Grace” become “Enabling”? I have created boundaries…I don’t agree with his insults, or wait around to hear more. I just say, “ I have a different experience “, or nothing, and go on with my day. I don’t share my creative business ideas with him, after hearing, “ Why would anyone pay for that?” one too many times.

    The situations with his family members will not be resolved any time soon. While I think I’m a very patient and tolerant person ( type 9), and have worked on my personal growth, ( although I’m still very conflict adverse) , do you have any thoughts on whether it makes more sense to continue being support staff, or not? One of the things he has done many times is to say something cruel, then the next day, if I say, “ I felt hurt when I heard you say….”, he’ll respond, “ Why would you make that up? That doesn’t sound like something I would say!”… enough times that I wonder if he’s experiencing disassociation. So then I think, “ He’s feeling so much stress with his family. I don’t want to add to it…”
    So there’s this family stress; the fact that he won’t listen/ I’m afraid to ask again; and his continual denial of his behaviors/ refusal to take responsibility for himself.

    Thoughts? Is there anywhere to go from here, in a positive direction, or is a “ holding pattern” the kindest way to be a wife right now?

    I’ve learned so much from your work, Leslie and everyone! Thank you so much for continuing to care, to grow, to teach, to dialogue. Blessings to you!

    • Leslie Vernick on July 24, 2023 at 2:53 pm

      Dear Peacemaker, you asked for my thoughts so here are a few. You, as a peacemaker (9), you have a long tolerance for inappropriate/sinful/mean behavior to keep the peace. I’ve been thinking about something and this may be helpful. In our desire (as women) to connect and belong (which are God given needs/desires) we often sacrifice our own authenticity. What happens in a marriage when you cannot be fully you, and have a safe, healthy relationship with him? It becomes depreciative, unhealthy, toxic. Why? Because he doesn’t want to know you or hear you or help you or validate you. He’s demonstrated that over and over again. That’s behavior is not necessarily indicative of a 3 on the Enneagram, but it does show the traits of narcissism. It seems to me that you, as a separate image bearer in this relationship, don’t matter much to him as long as you do what you’re supposed to do in your role as wife and mom and don’t criticize him. The (3) on the Enneagram fears shame the most and they may be tempted to lie in order to not feel shame. However, not all narcissists are 3’s but if a narcissist is a 3, that spells an even more challenging dilemma to have any kind of authentic relationship. I have a few more thoughts that I’m going to express in this week’s blog about your question “When does Grace become enabling?” I’d encourage you to read Lysa Terkeurst’s new book Good Boundaries and Goodbye.s. Lysa is a 9 on the Enneagram and she shares her journey of waking up to her own peace/faking ways and enabling destructive behavior. I believe grace can slide into enabling as forgiveness can be misinterpreted as permission.

      • Peacemaker on July 26, 2023 at 12:09 am

        Leslie,
        You hit it on the nose. You are absolutely correct in your interpretation of who I have been in my marriage. I will definitely look into Lysa’s book.
        The phrase “ long tolerance” really resonates. Day after day, I’ve thought, “if I just do more, or do it more perfectly, he’ll see me and my needs as valid…” but no. I look forward to hearing your additional wisdom., especially on the idea that “ grace can slide into enabling as forgiveness can be misinterpreted as permission.” Absolutely. Thank you.

        Ps…last summer I participated in the “ People Pleaser” ( as in, how not to be one) workshop. In my small group, not only did I receive so much encouragement, another participant and I discovered we live in the same County! What a blessing! She is now a dear friend, and we continue to support each other. I think the new, more “ boundaried” me has been a source of frustration for my husband…but a source of growth for me. I would highly recommend any of your courses…and have!

  11. Type 9, the Peacemaker, with a 1 “ wing”, the Dreamer on July 23, 2023 at 2:46 pm

    Leslie, I hope I’m not taking too much of your time here, but after more reading I had a thought…here’s a theory:

    Shame vs Guilt: shame says you ARE bad, worthless, etc; guilt says you DID something wrong, not that you are any less a worthwhile person.
    It seems that if I “ complain “ about my husband’s hurtful behavior, no matter how carefully, kindly, and delicately I frame my words, he hears” shame”, “ you are a bad person”. And since he can’t see beyond the mirror of his reaction to my experience, he hides behind “ this is just HOW I am”, rather than acknowledging “ yes, I DID that hurtful thing. I understand why you are hurt. Here’s what I will do now to avoid hurting you that way again…” And then denies his actions, so I can never be heard, and the hurts can never be healed ( why acknowledge something that “ never happened “?).

    While I have tried to explain this concept to him, eliminating all blame and shame in my words ( or trying to share others’ words in articles) he can’t seem to take it in.

    And now, as I mentioned earlier, I am afraid to even try to be heard, because I haven’t felt heard by him in years. He recently “ apologized “, saying he “ was sorry he wasn’t the husband I wanted”. Which at first sounded like either he was again rejecting the concept of a healthy relationship ( which he had declared unattainable) or that he was blaming me for not “ accepting “ his behavior without question or consequences.
    Now I wonder if that was his way of again interpreting my requests for communication, for mutual respect, support, and empathy, as “ shaming” him, vs being an expression of hope for behavioral responsibility and change.

    I would love to have a healthy relationship with him, but I’m afraid to ask for it again: what if I believe him this time when he says “No”?
    I think deep down, he would like to have a good relationship, not just one where I am a constant “ people pleaser” deferring to his wants ( he’s said so in a backwards way, belittling me, calling me a “ 50’s wife”).
    Is there a way to get past his shield of shame, so that he actually sees and hears me?

    Thank you again, for your continued work in supporting women and helping them move toward healthier lives.

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