How to Set Boundaries with a Disrespectful Husband in 5 Steps

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Dealing with a disrespectful spouse is both challenging and emotionally draining. But you know you have to do something about it, or it will never stop.

Here are the things you must do if you want to set boundaries with your husband:

  • Identify the harmful and destructive behaviors in your relationship
  • Communicate your boundaries clearly and calmly
  • Set natural consequences and enforce them when your husband oversteps
  • Connect on your shared values and beliefs to reinforce respect for your boundaries
  • Lead by example and demonstrate the respect you want to receive

If you don’t want your marriage to suffer anymore, you can take action now and rewrite the way you relate to each other with the techniques marriage coach Dr. Lee Baucom teaches in Save The Marriage.

Click the link above now, or keep reading to learn how to set your boundaries and ensure that your husband respects them.

How to Set Boundaries with a Disrespectful Husband

close up of a woman sitting on a couch with clasped hands and a man in the background yelling

1. Communicate Your Expectations

When setting marriage boundaries, you’ll need to use clear communication with your partner.

Spend time discussing your needs, values, and expectations in the relationship.

Identify your non-negotiables and what hills you’re willing to die on.

Open dialogue creates trust, respect, and a solid foundation for a healthy relationship.

  • Talk openly about your needs and feelings
  • Use “I” statements to express your experience
  • Listen actively and be open to your partner’s perspective

Read Also: Signs of Poor Communication in Marriage

2. Limit Harmful Behaviors

Address any harmful behaviors within the relationship.

Establish rules to protect each other’s autonomy and well-being.

Setting limits can include deciding on appropriate communication methods, managing time spent together and apart, and identifying specific behaviors that are off-limits.

Remember, boundaries aren’t meant to control your partner but to create a safe environment where mutual respect can thrive.

  • Clearly define unacceptable behaviors
  • Decide how to address transgressions
  • Commit to upholding and respecting the boundaries

3. Values and Beliefs

Discuss your core values and beliefs, and how they impact your boundaries in marriage.

Your relationship’s foundation must align with the principles both you and your spouse uphold, especially when it comes to financial and parenting-related boundaries.

By establishing boundaries that reflect your values, you create a strong connection built on trust and shared beliefs.

Be prepared to negotiate, but stick to your core principles when setting these critical boundaries.

  • Identify individual and shared values
  • Discuss values with your partner
  • Find common ground to align your boundaries

4. Lead by Example

If you want respect for boundaries to sink in, demonstrate the behavior you want to see in your husband.

That is, if you want to be treated with respect, it’s important for you to also show respect to him.

This includes being considerate, kind, and supportive in your interactions.

It sounds like a simple solution, but it’s easy to forget in our daily interactions with our spouses.

If you’re not sure whether you’re doing it right, you can use Dr. Lee Baucom’s 3 step program to change the way you speak to and treat each other in Save The Marriage.

5. Protect Your Boundaries with Natural Consequences

When dealing with a disrespectful husband, make sure you understand the concept of natural consequences.

Natural consequences are the inevitable outcomes that occur as a result of someone’s actions, without any intervention on your part.

By allowing these consequences to occur, you can provide your spouse with an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions.

For instance, if your spouse refuses to cooperate in a household task, resist the urge to step in and complete it yourself.

Instead, let the task remain undone and let your husband experience the discomfort that arises from an uncompleted chore.

This can encourage him to reconsider his behavior and understand the importance of cooperation and respect within your relationship.

Recognizing Signs of Disrespectful Behavior

man arguing with a woman while she folds her arms across her chest and ignores him

Have a hunch you’re being disrespected, but not sure how bad it is?

Below are common signs of disrespectful behavior from a husband towards his wife.

For a full list of signs of a disrespectful husband, read our article Signs of a Disrespectful Husband.

Passive-Aggressive Actions

Disrespectful behavior often manifests as passive-aggressive actions, making it more difficult to tell whether it’s respectful or not.

These actions may include giving you the silent treatment, creating a hostile environment through a negative attitude, and not meeting your needs on purpose.

Your husband may go so far as to intentionally agitate you or “get back” at you instead of directly addressing an issue.

Put-Downs

Another major sign your husband disrespects you is through negative behavior like put-downs, insults, and jokes and your expense.

This can include constant criticism, making fun of you, comparing you unfavorably to others, or demeaning you in front of friends and family.

Your spouse might also belittle your accomplishments, making you feel inadequate or unimportant.

Don’t take bad behavior like this lightly, as it can signify emotional abuse.

Not Respecting Your Space

Disrespect can also surface through not giving you personal space.

Does your partner ignore your space by continuously invading your privacy or rummaging through your belongings?

Does he not give you the time alone that you need?

If so, it might indicate a lack of respect for your boundaries.

Not Respecting Your Decisions

A disrespectful partner may not respect the choices you make, whether big or small.

They might argue with you about your decisions, disapprove of your choices, or act stubbornly to get their way.

By not acknowledging your right to make your own choices, they show a lack of respect for your autonomy.

Making Decisions Without You

If your spouse routinely makes decisions that affect both of you without consulting or involving you, you probably feel disrespected.

And rightfully so.

Marriage involves teamwork and communication, and by not including you in the decision-making process, they undermine your role in the relationship.

Undermining You With the Kids

A lack of respect can also be apparent if your spouse undermines your authority or parenting decisions when it comes to your children.

Disregarding your rules, contradicting your opinions in front of the kids, or encouraging them to disregard you makes your role as a parent harder and disrupts the balancy in your family dynamics.

Infidelity

Infidelity is a severe form of disrespect in a marriage.

Cheating on you breaks the trust and commitment that you both agreed upon and can cause serious emotional pain.

Not only does infidelity betray your trust, but it can also damage your self-esteem and make you feel undervalued.

Read Next: How to Stop My Husband from Undermining Me

Types of Boundaries Couples Set in a Healthy Marriage

couple hugging and pressing noses together lovingly

Many people know they need boundaries in their relationship, but they’re not sure what boundaries to set or what they might look like.

So let’s talk about healthy boundaries every marriage needs.

Maintaining these boundaries can help you and your spouse navigate challenges and maintain a respectful and loving relationship, where both partners feel valued and heard.

Personal Boundaries

  • Privacy: Establishing a balance between sharing personal information and maintaining a sense of personal space, such as respecting each other’s need for alone time, private conversations, or access to personal devices.
  • Physical affection and intimacy: Communicating about personal boundaries concerning physical touch, affection, and sexual interactions, ensuring that both partners feel comfortable and respected in these areas.

Social Boundaries

  • In-laws and family: Setting limits on how often you visit in-laws, how much personal information they should know about your marriage, and the role they play in your own lives.
  • Social interactions: Deciding on how much time you spend with friends and family, both as a couple and individually, as well as the types of activities you participate in together or separately.

Practical Boundaries

  • Financial matters: Defining clear expectations regarding financial contributions, budgeting, and decision-making to ensure both partners feel respected and valued.
  • Household responsibilities: Splitting up chores and duties to maintain a clean and organized home, ensuring that both partners contribute equally to the upkeep of the household.

Emotional Boundaries

  • Emotional support: Agreeing on the acceptable ways of expressing emotions, the level of emotional support each partner provides, and how to handle disagreements or conflicts in a healthy manner.

Relationship Boundaries

  • Time management: Establishing how you allocate time to spend together as a couple and what activities you prioritize, aiming to balance work, personal hobbies, and quality time spent together.
  • Decision-making: Defining how to make decisions as a couple, including what may fall under the category of “no biggie” decisions each partner can make for themselves, and the process for coming to an agreement that both partners can support.

Obviously, boundaries will vary from person to person.

When setting your boundaries, consider the various aspects of your relationship and what’s important to you.

Maintaining Healthy Relationships and Fostering Mutual Respect

couple sitting on a couch with a man putting his arm around a smiling woman

Intimacy and Trust

Giving and receiving respect requires building a healthy connection with your husband, starting with intimacy and trust.

Establishing your boundaries is step 1 as boundaries, trust, and respect all go hand-in-hand.

But you will also need to give your husband some leeway.

After establishing your boundaries, give him time and patience.

Give him the benefit of the doubt instead of jumping to conclusions, and try talking through disagreements and conflicts to find out what’s happening from his perspective.

A strong foundation of trust will help you set and respect each other’s boundaries.

As trust grows, both partners tend to feel more secure and respected.

Strengthen Your Communication

In order to foster trust and respect, work together on improving your listening skills and encourage emotional support by being open and understanding of each other’s feelings and concerns.

Communicating openly and honestly with each other can help you avoid misunderstandings and foster a safe space for both of you to see each other’s point of view and work toward change.

Practice active listening, which means being attentive and not interrupting when your spouse is speaking.

Make a conscious effort to share your thoughts and feelings with your husband, too.

Likewise, ask for his and listen to your husband’s perspective.

Learning productive communication patterns can open up doorways for you in terms of getting your husband on your side as you’ll gain his empathy and make him feel seen and heard, too.

Quality Time

Without a doubt, spending quality time with your partner is vital for maintaining a healthy connection.

Make it a priority to regularly engage in shared activities and experiences.

This can include hobbies, outings, or simply setting aside time for deep conversations.

In addition, make sure to:

  • Engage in new activities or experiences together
  • Share your thoughts and feelings openly
  • Listen and respond thoughtfully when your spouse shares their feelings
  • Prioritize having regular, uninterrupted time together

Quality time will help foster a deeper connection, making it easier to set boundaries and work towards a healthier relationship.

Individuality

Maintaining a sense of individuality is paramount in any long-lasting, successful relationship.

Encourage personal growth and respect for yourself by valuing your individual needs, desires, and interests.

This may involve setting personal boundaries or carving out time for your own hobbies and personal development goals.

Have Regular Check-Ins

Setting aside regular time to check in with each other can go a long way in preventing feelings of being taken for granted or disrespected.

Regular time means once a week, twice a month, or as often as you can.

Pick a time and place where you and your husband can relax and have an honest conversation about how your relationship is going without distraction.

Bring a list of questions you want to ask and things you want to discuss.

For example, you may ask each other:

  • What have I done this past week that made you feel respected?
  • What am I doing that makes you feel disrespected?
  • Am I overstepping your boundaries?
  • How can I give you more support in the coming week?

By asking each other these questions, you ensure that both partners can express themselves.

And by revisiting these questions frequently, you can focus on events of the past week—or two weeks, depending on how regularly you have these conversations.

This helps prevent issues from becoming overwhelming as you try to cover months’ worth of issues in a single conversation.

Recognize Each Other’s Efforts

Acknowledge the hard work and contributions your husband makes to the relationship.

Express gratitude and appreciation for what he does, as this can reinforce positive behaviors and help him feel valued.

It can also encourage him to feel and express more gratitude toward you.

Maintaining Self-Respect

close up of a woman walking through a sunny field

Maintaining your own self-respect when dealing with a disrespectful husband is crucial for your well-being and the overall health of your relationship.

Make sure you don’t skip the following steps.

Practice Self-Care

Make time for activities that nourish your mind, body, and spirit.

Prioritizing your physical and mental health will empower you to handle any disrespectful behaviors from your spouse.

Remember to take care of yourself during this process by doing things that bring you joy and taking time for reflection and self-growth.

Self-care also means taking the time to acknowledge your feelings.

It can help to practice mindfulness, meditation, or other relaxation techniques.

Journaling is another great way to nurture self expression—this can be a very therapeutic technique that can help you reveal feelings you didn’t realize were there.

Communicate Assertively

Be honest and direct when discussing your feelings with your husband.

Explain how his behavior affects you, and express your needs without holding back.

However, it’s important to avoid reacting defensively.

When your spouse is being disrespectful, try not to let your emotions take over. Stay calm and collected, and remind yourself that you deserve respect.

Hold Your Boundaries

Be firm when it comes to your boundaries.

As you both learn to navigate a more respectful relationship, it will become second nature holding your boundaries and enforcing them with love.

Seek Support

Your support system is invaluable in a situation like this.

Sometimes talking with a trusted friend, family member, or professional can provide perspective and help you develop a strategy to address your husband’s disrespectful behavior.

No matter what, maintain a supportive social network outside of your marriage.

Connect with friends and family for emotional support, and seek out support groups if you don’t have a good network to lean on close by. 

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Recognizing the signs of a toxic relationship is crucial to help you know what to do and also if you need to end the relationship for your own well-being.

If you notice a pattern with the following toxic behaviors, take steps to protect yourself.

  • Making you feel unworthy: Toxic partners may make you feel unworthy or inadequate, which can be damaging to your self-esteem.
  • Jealousy: A disrespectful husband may exhibit excessive jealousy, leading to controlling behavior and mistrust.
  • Incessant negativity: Constant negativity and criticism from your partner can leave you feeling drained and unhappy. One person may often belittle the other, diminishing their accomplishments and bringing up past mistakes.
  • Self-centeredness: If your partner is always focused on their needs and wants, it can create an imbalance in the relationship. Healthy relationships involve a balance of give and take, so a self-centered partner may be a sign of toxicity.
  • Criticism: Constructive criticism is essential for growth, but a disrespectful husband might take it too far. Constant, excessive criticism can harm your self-confidence and happiness.
  • Demeaning behavior: One sign of toxicity in your relationship is if your partner regularly demeans or humiliates you. This can cause self-doubt, self-blame, and emotional pain, which is not healthy for any relationship.

In order to protect yourself from the harmful effects of a toxic marriage, it’s essential to identify these signs and address them.

Remember, you deserve a loving and supportive partner who makes you feel valued and respected.

Protecting Your Safety and Well-Being

Your safety and well-being should always be a top priority.

In cases where a disrespectful husband is a bully and/or psychologically or physically abusive, you will need to take further steps to protect yourself.

When setting boundaries, it is crucial to consider how these boundaries will impact your personal safety and emotional health.

If your spouse’s behavior severely affects your ability to feel secure and emotionally stable, you may need to take these additional measures:

  • Enlist support: Reach out to friends, family, or a professional counselor to help you navigate this situation, provide emotional support, and give you a safe place to express yourself and make decisions for yourself and your well-being.
  • Develop an action plan: Devise a plan in case your spouse’s behavior escalates. This can include setting up a safe space to go to or knowing who to call for immediate assistance. If you are being abused, you can get help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233.

Seeking Professional Help

If your husband is being disrespectful and you’re finding it difficult to set boundaries, it may be time to seek help from a licensed marriage and family therapist.

These professionals are trained to work with couples to address issues like disrespect and help you build the foundation for a healthy relationship.

They can provide guidance on managing conflicts, improving communication, and aligning your beliefs.

A marriage therapist can give you tools to:

  • Identify and address the root causes of disrespect in your marriage.
  • Establish and maintain healthy boundaries.
  • Improve communication to ensure that your feelings and concerns are heard and understood.

The Bottom Line

When you have a disrespectful husband, you need to set boundaries and enforce them consistently if you want to see positive change in your marriage.

This is not an overnight solution, but when it comes to improving a relationship, it never is.

It’s important to realize, too, that toxic patterns that run deep in a relationship and are not responding to you setting boundaries may need professional help.

Or, you may need to decide whether your marriage is worth the cost of your mental health.

Hopefully, you can turn things around and open your husband’s eyes to his bad behavior while also building healthy ways to relate to one another.

Be sure to keep your support network close so that you are never alone in your fight.

Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.

If you’re ready to tackle this issue right now, you can get therapist-created techniques to build a healthier marriage foundation and change the way you and your husband relate to each other in Dr. Lee Baucom’s Save The Marriage Program.

Click here to check it out.

Marlene Davis is an experienced blogger with a focus on interpersonal relationships. Her dream is to help improve people's lives and relationships through sharing of practical knowledge and evidence-based practices.