Identifying and Owning Your Problem

Morning friends,

Lately, we’ve been talking around the topic of responsibility and ownership. The R- Step of my CORE strength teaching. Too often as wives and mothers, we have over functioned, taking ownership and responsibility to fix or solve someone else’s problem while ignoring our own. Today’s question is another example, that I’m sure many of you will relate to.

Today's Question: I so love your YouTube videos and biblical sound advice. One area that I haven't come across in your teachings is when a husband is addicted to attention, particularly to attractive young women, and comes off as being the nicest guy in the world. Plus he thinks boundaries are a joke!

I have been married to my husband, who is in his mid 60's (which he acts like at home), for nearly five years. Yet, to the public, namely young attractive females, he is extremely charming and acts like he is in his 30's. He comes off as being the nicest and most caring guy in the world.  I'm often told how lucky I am! These young women eat up his attention and vice versa. He will go out of his way to be noticed, finding a reason to be standing by them and making conversation. He is very empathetic (which he never shows me) when they have problems, especially to his daughter-in-law that he hangs out with when he visits his son back east.

I have watched him numerous times scan a room using his peripheral (I call it shifty eyes) and then set out to make his move. One time in a store, we were walking along and then I realized he was no longer walking with me. I looked back and, sure enough, there was an attractive lady coming down the aisle and he had stopped to pretend like he was interested in an item on the shelf, while I could see him looking at her with his shifty eyes. Even when caught in the act, he will deny to the hilt and tell me I am just paranoid! The reason it's so obvious to me is his whole character changes, his body movements increase, and he acts all giddy.

My husband exhibited these behaviors numerous times with a young gal who he knows has a sexual addiction. I mistakenly told him early on in our relationship as a warning of her condition, thinking he would say something like, “That's too bad, we need to pray for her,” or “Thank you for letting me know, I'll be sure to be on guard just in case.” However, he used her addiction to his advantage (and even exchanged phone numbers to join her fantasy football game, to which he responded to me, when I found out, “What's the big deal…it's just a game! You have issues you need to deal with! She is a nice person… you are just jealous of her!” Not only was I shocked that he had her number, but I also found out she had come on to him just prior to our conversation. I'm actually still in shock that I didn't bolt then! Plus, I realized, later on, he saw no problems interacting, exchanging phone numbers, or hanging out with young women. This is when all my boundaries popped up that he despised but, for the most part, stopped crossing.

To give you some idea of what I am talking about how he is at home, he is often condescending, argumentative, dismissive, and acts like he is the king of our castle who is not to be questioned about anything or he will shut you down. He undermines me with our grandchildren and becomes very childlike in his behaviors. He very rarely compliments me (maybe 5 times in our marriage of 5 years), except when it comes to his meals…he is always grateful and will say how good each one is. He very rarely looks at me when I talk, but he looks at me when he is talking. He calls me baby doll and will talk all day long to me about facts and figures, TV shows, and anything else that doesn't involve an emotional connection. Sometimes I'll ask him a question and he will be so dismissive and instantly say he doesn't know. For example, “What day are you running the race?” His response will be, “I don't remember,” (using a tone as if I am wasting his time) and will switch subjects as if my question was not important or even asked. His great qualities at home involving grocery shopping, doing the dishes, outside chores, all of which he never complains about. Plus, he is ALWAYS nice to me on the phone, like he's a different person.

I have tried to approach him gently, yet at times I have flown into a rage when he throws stuff back at me. He's used gaslighting and has told me I'm crazy more than once (which a couple of times he was probably right after was at my wits end!). When trying to gently talk to him about it, he will instantly cut me off and put it back on me. I get so wounded feeling like I have no feelings at all.

Basically, I married my stepfather who was verbally and emotionally abusive. My mom and his step kids were there to serve him and honor him as king.

Answer: You didn’t really ask me a question about your situation, but you described it so well, I thought it would help other women know they aren’t crazy or paranoid or abnormal as they see themselves and their husband in a similar situation to what we see happening to you in your marriage.

One of your questions might be, “Can a man be “addicted” to attention from young pretty women?” I don’t know if it would officially be called an addiction, but certainly, you have seen your husband crave the attention and admiration of pretty young females. In his mind, it’s harmless friendliness and you are overreacting, exaggerating, and paranoid. You are not. You see what you see and it isn’t pretty from the perspective of the wife watching her husband behave like a fool.

So let me help you gain some clarity. Your husband enjoys talking to pretty young women and gaining their respect and admiration, even if it’s at your expense. He will go out of his way to do this, and when you’ve tried talking to him about “his problem” he says it’s “your problem.” And there is some truth to his statement. His behavior is not a problem for him. He likes it. The young women seem to like it and he is getting what he wants/needs from their interaction. There is no “problem” for them.

The person who doesn’t like it is you. I don't blame you. But here’s why you haven’t heard me talk about his problem on YouTube. His problem and your problem are different. You cannot fix your problem by trying to fix his problem; a problem that he doesn’t even admit to or agree is a problem.

You have a problem and it’s that you don’t like feeling like your perspective doesn’t matter in your marriage. You don’t like being told that having appropriate boundaries around interactions with the opposite sex is ridiculous. You don’t like feeling like you do when you watch him so animated, excitedly interacting with pretty young women at a social event. And, you don’t like the way he treats you most of the time in your marriage. Although he speaks kindly to you on the phone and is helpful around the house, much of the time you feel invalidated, dismissed, and gaslighted by him. So even without you asking, I want to give you some things to think about regarding your problem.

Here’s where it gets confusing for many women. We think, “Well if he would just stop this behavior, (whether it’s flirting with other women, watching porn, drinking too much, being verbally abusive, or financially irresponsible) then I wouldn’t have my problem. And you’re right.  But as you have already seen, you are absolutely powerless to change him or make him take ownership of his problem.  

I’m not saying at the beginning of seeing a hurtful pattern or behavior a wife shouldn’t have a conversation with her husband about what bothers her. And, in a healthy marriage, when she does (or visa-versa a husband expresses what bothers him) –there is respectful listening with some adjustments that make the relationship feel safe and loving for both. However, when you see again and again that talking about what bothers you doesn’t work, your focus must change. 

If you continue to spend your energy trying to convince him that he has a problem, you are wasting your energy and will eventually become depleted and sick – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Therefore, at this point, you must switch gears and work on your problem. You don't like living this way. Now, what are your options to deal with “your problem.” Click To Tweet

This distinction is crucial because it now gives you clarity and it gives you back your own personal power. Do you separate? Do you choose not to go to social events with him because his behaviors embarrass and disrespect you? Do you choose to ignore his adolescent foolishness and build your own life with other friends? Brainstorm all of your possible solutions to your problem. He may not like boundaries for himself, but you can have them for your own self.

You may not like this approach because it’s so much easier to fix his problem, but you can’t fix his problem, only your own. This is the key difference between learning to think like an owner (how am I going to grow, problem-solve, and deal with my problem here) or getting stuck thinking like a victim (there’s nothing I can do, I’m helpless and powerless in this situation).  

It’s tempting to stay in the complaining but powerless position. Don’t do it. It hurts you and deforms you into someone you aren’t proud of and damages the woman God called you to be. You’ve already gotten a taste of what that looks like when you feel and act crazy because you see how helpless you are in making him stop doing what feels so horrible to you. He is not going to stop, so now what do you need to do to keep yourself from being a repeat victim of his disrespect and indifference?

I’m going to be doing a free webinar on December 3 on how to move from having a victim mindset to an owner mindset. You can sign up here.  

Friends, I asked this last week as well, but I think it’s important. When did you wake up and stop trying to fix him and start taking ownership of taking care of you? What was your ah-ha moment, or what strategies did you use to own and solve your problem?


  1. Janice D on November 4, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Excellent post as always,Leslie! My aha moment was a rereading of “ Necessary Endings” by Dr Henry Cloud after years of learning from this site and Patrick Doyle as well.God was kindly preparing me along the way and “ something” clicked after reading Dr Clouds book for a second time.I know it was Gods wisdom through the Holy Spirit guiding me and I made the difficult decision to move out after 26 years of marriage two years ago.It was crucial to my healing and desire for clarity and I am so grateful for all the help I received along the way.Keep the faith and carry on,Leslie.God is mightily working through your ministry!

    • Dianne Wible on November 6, 2020 at 10:10 pm

      Janice, OMG… you made it!… Your voice filled my situation to a ‘T’. My husband is part Mid-Level Narcissist and Part FOOL! after 41 years of somewhat marriage, I became the fool- victim! Even my 2 sons won’t have anything to do will me or my “Enabled” husband. I have no money, not much saved either. but, believe God will help me somehow! I can’t change or fix him, nor care to, because my life is so broken now, and I need to learn how to SELF-LOVE, SELF-CARE for ME now! Dec.3 I signed up for Lesley’s webinar. Thank for books titles to read…I’ve heard of Patrick Doyle too! Keep sharing your story!

      • JoAnn on November 10, 2020 at 11:43 am

        Dianne, continue to look to the Lord and get to know Him, and He will direct you how to go on. He will open doors that you never knew could open for you. He cares. Trust Him.

  2. Carolee on November 4, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    I can’t say if I had a particular aha moment. From Leslie’s books as well as Patricia Evans, Lundy Bancroft and Don Hennessy I have gradually been given wisdom and clarity. If the Lord had given it to me all at once I don’t know if I’d have “gotten it”. Recently I have discerned why He hasn’t just pulled me out of this very destructive marriage of 28 years. I’d probably keep making the same mistake. I still fall into thinking my h can be “fixed”. He’ll never see it because he doesn’t think he’s wrong. I have tried to explain consequences and he absolutely refuses to get the idea. Not treating me well and yet expecting my “unconditional favor” is punishment on him not consequences. Detaching is the biggest challenge for me. It is an uphill battle but I’m learning. I use meditation and mindfulness and an attitude of praying without ceasing. God is so good and Romans 8:28 has been my verse to think on. As well as Ps 10. Blessings and thank you Leslie.

  3. Lesli on November 4, 2020 at 3:40 pm

    I feel for this woman. Her husband sounds almost sociopathic. I hope she finds peace in setting boundaries for herself.

  4. Kimberly on November 4, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    Thank you for this post…it described my marriage in a way that I couldn’t….to the tee. I have to do something. I have time because I think that he has changed until the next time…..

    • Aly on November 5, 2020 at 9:18 am

      I’m sorry for what you are going through. If there is a next time like you have added, then change hasn’t occurred and this is part of the dance/cycle. Please don’t let him think he has changed (even if it’s a short duration).

    • Nancy on November 7, 2020 at 5:03 pm

      Good question. For me this was not one ‘moment’ but a long slow journey that I understand a bit more with each step that I take.

      I set boundaries to protect myself from others’ bad behaviour or attitudes towards me. It was self protection and was sorely needed.

      Now I ‘reveal my boundaries’ and see this as a gift of communication I am giving the other person. I am letting them know who I am, where I stand etc…. I no longer need the other person to respect my boundary. That’s because I respect them and I trust myself to respond appropriately.

      Love comes out of freedom. Says dr. Cloud.

      First the freedom is established, then we can learn to love.

  5. Autumn on November 4, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    So, help me understand, why are you still married to him?

  6. Roxi Hmr on November 5, 2020 at 8:05 am

    I am so grateful I found this blog today. So timely for what is happening in my life. I don’t want to be a victim! I am 4 months out of a relationship with a man who constantly surrounded himself with single, younger women. I called them his groupies. I thought for a long time that there was something wrong with me, but he simply doesn’t care about my feelings in regard to these women. I can stay hurt and offended or I can shake the dust off my shoes and move on. I am excited for the webinar.

    • Autumn on November 5, 2020 at 6:47 pm

      Have you heard the term “flying monkeys?” It refers to people a narcissist surrounds themselves with to either collaborate in an abusive plan or to feed his fantasy persona. In this case, it seems you are his abusive target. Good job getting clarity and leaving this man. Google flying monkeys and watch some educational videos on narcissistic behaviors. I think you will get even more understanding of your situation.

  7. Aly on November 5, 2020 at 9:07 am

    I think this is a great discussion on clarity and gaining the power one does actually have to make choices about.
    You wrote: “ You have a problem and it’s that you don’t like feeling like your perspective doesn’t matter in your marriage. You don’t like being told that having appropriate boundaries around interactions with the opposite sex is ridiculous.”
    To me, it seems many of us caught in destructive relationships marriage or other types, find this similar attitude or posture of our perspective not being valued or mattering to the other person.
    My ah ha moment was accepting the truth of someone else not caring or valuing my feelings or experiences, but that did not my mean that I had to also! I could care about what I felt and value what mattered to me.
    If the husband cared about his wife then he would be caring and getting help for his problem especially how he treats his wife behind closed doors.

    • Nancy on November 8, 2020 at 8:29 am

      I like this, Aly: ‘but that did not mean that I had to also! I could care about what I felt and value what mattered to me.’

      This is taking ownership of your feelings, and of your value. Instead of trying to change his perception of your value, you took ownership of it yourself. So often we get our value from what others think of us (especially loved ones), but that’s idolatry.

      What matters is what God thinks of us! When we begin to really internalize our true value, that’s when our world begins to turn upside down and we get the privilege of experiencing His upside down Kingdom.

      • JoAnn on November 9, 2020 at 4:15 pm

        Yes! Knowing and appreciating who we are in Christ changes everything!

    • Leslie Vernick on November 9, 2020 at 5:48 pm

      Exactly. well said.

    • Barbara B on November 9, 2020 at 11:30 pm

      Aly, I agree with Nancy, this is such a good insight: “accepting the truth of someone else not caring or valuing my feelings or experiences, but that did not my mean that I had to also! I could care about what I felt and value what mattered to me.” I think the church’s teaching on submission might make it seem like it is not okay to go against your husband’s beliefs (some churches, not all). If you believe the husband is always the spiritual leader no matter what, then it would take a real revelation from God to achieve freedom to value something the husband says is wrong. In this case, valuing your own feelings, beliefs, and reality. I’m always amazed and brought to tears when I see it happen, because I think it is miraculous intervention by God! Aly and others – how wonderful! You are living breathing miracles!

  8. Nancy on November 8, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Hi Leslie,

    R is the area of CORE where I slip the most. You asked ‘when did I wake up and stop trying to fix him and start taking ownership of you?’

    For me this has been a gradual place of growth. When I discovered ’Boundaries’ it was life changing because I was reading it as I was being led to The Lord. Realizing that guarding my heart had to be a part of my faith journey, I did so.

    What relief to recognize that if there was a bad reaction to my boundary setting, it was THEIR problem!

    Lately I’ve been led back to doing some boundary work and I find myself in yet a different place. Now, I don’t ‘set’ boundaries, I ‘reveal’ them. It’s simply a part of good communication in a relationship.

    I read recently, ‘ Boundaries always deal with myself, not the other person….I’m not even demanding that the other person respect my boundaries’

    Screeeeeeech! WHAT? Boundaries have always been about me gaining respect. How can that be?

    ‘Accepting someone and respecting their choice to be that way and giving appropriate consequences is the better path’

    Where I am now is that I reveal my boundary and trust MYSELF to respond to the other person’s reaction or response. This is me choosing to accept THEM (giving up control of them) and respecting THEIR choice.

    So boundaries are indeed about gaining self-respect. But it’s not about forcing others to respect me, it’s me learning to respect both myself AND THEM. (Respecting them does not mean accepting an ounce of bad treatment, it simply means that I recognize that they are an image bearer ofGod and free to make their own choices.)

    Love comes from freedom, says Dr. Cloud.

    I think the first part of my journey was about gaining freedom, now I’m learning to love. At least, that’s where I think I am.

    • JoAnn on November 9, 2020 at 4:12 pm

      Nancy, those are some powerful insights. I particularly like that you said, “So boundaries are indeed about gaining self-respect. But it’s not about forcing others to respect me, it’s me learning to respect both myself AND THEM.” Thank you for sharing this.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 9, 2020 at 5:50 pm

      Exactly. It’s saying to yourself, “I respect and honor my boundaries even if someone else does not.” But when and if they do not, that tells you a whole lot about the relationship or lack thereof.

    • Debi on November 10, 2020 at 11:24 am

      Thank you Nancy, what you have stated is very beneficial. I have recently started to walk this out in my life also.

  9. Debbi on November 20, 2020 at 7:06 am

    I believe being physically strong will help you be emotionally strong.. hit the gym, get a trainer, workout and play a sport daily. This will help you be stronger to own your emotional and spiritual issues. This has helped me tremendously

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