I was recently married again, my first husband having passed away some years ago. This is also the second marriage for my new husband. We have two grown children each and a number of grandchildren. My new husband and I are compatible in many ways, but there is one problem that I can’t seem to work with. That is, he is always right!
At first, I admired his knowledge and authority as he took charge of matters, from planning outings to ordering food for both of us; it seemed so charmingly gallant and “old world.” I did feel cared for. Increasingly though, when I express my own wishes, or offer a different idea or opinion, he immediately disagrees and insists his way is best. As he sees it, he is right and I am wrong. I’ve come to feel constantly judged and stupid! What am I to do?
I have found that those who regularly take a position of being right often mask a deep sense of inferiority. They may become “know-it-alls” to compensate for a time when they themselves were regularly subjected to oppressive authority: perhaps a parent, an older sibling, or a person in a position of power. As a result, their behavior is a learned response for survival. So “I don’t know,” or “What do you think?” are, to them, expressions of weakness.
Troubled, I see your task now to train your new husband in how to have a balanced relationship, one in which each partner listens and responds equally. Success depends on taking certain steps. The first step is to approach him at a “neutral” time and place, in which he may listen to what you have to say. I always suggest a public area, a park or restaurant, not in the home where roles have already been established. Gently, but directly, bring up your concerns about this issue of his “being right,” and how this makes you feel. The point you are making is that this is not an issue of right and wrong, but a relationship in which you feel judged and inadequate. You can expect him to be defensive at first; after all, he has developed his strategy of communicating over some years.
If your husband continues to disagree with what you have to say, simply drop the subject for the time being, with the intention of revisiting it at another opportune time. You have planted a seed and given him something to mull over. Your job, then, is to patiently, over time, chip away at his defenses.
However, should your husband be open to what you have to say, he will also be open to change. The second step, then, is to help him to be aware of when he is making you feel inferior. You may have to remind him after the fact, and never in the presence of others. Again, he may be irritated that you’ve brought this up, but it will give him pause to think about his behavior. You might even suggest your signaling him with a “secret” word or gesture in the company of others, as a reminder for him to be aware of and change a particular conversation or behavior. I advise you use this word or gesture sparingly to preserve its influence. Use it only when you feel that his comment or behavior has gone too far.
If all your efforts fall on deaf ears, you must seek the help of a third party. Express to him that, together, you need to see a marriage counselor. (If you do need a counselor, I can help you with a referral.) Hopefully, he will come to understand that you can no longer continue to feel inadequate. If he can’t understand and won’t change, the final choice of staying with him or leaving is yours.
All the best in your efforts,