Does your husband undermine your confidence, parenting decisions, and efforts?
In this article, we’ll give you actionable steps to stop the undermining behaviors.
We’ll include examples of undermining when it comes to parenting, in-laws and more—and what you should do when your husband undermines you in these areas specifically.
If you’re crunched for time, here’s an overview of the general steps to take when you’re being undermined:
- Discuss with your husband specific instances of undermining, focusing on your feelings
- Ask for your husband to share his thoughts and concerns to build empathy and understanding
- Set boundaries and have logical and appropriate consequences when crossed
- Lead by example
- Take care of yourself, too
If your marriage is threatened and you don’t want to go down the path of divorce, it’s critical to wipe the slate clean and re-learn how to relate to each other with techniques like Dr. Lee Baucom teaches in his best-selling Save The Marriage Program.
Click the link above, or implement the strategies below, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing boundaries that will positively impact your life together.
Table of Contents
What Are Examples of Undermining in a Relationship?
Undermining can be a subtle form of manipulation and sabotage in a relationship.
Without a doubt, it will create an unhealthy dynamic in a relationship, leaving you feeling vulnerable and inadequate.
Here are a few examples of undermining behaviors that you might recognize in your relationship:
- Undermining your parental authority: In a parenting context, your partner may be constantly contradicting your rules or decisions, leading to a lack of respect for your authority.
- Putting his mother first: Your husband always takes his mother’s and/or father’s side and puts their opinions and feelings first over yours, regardless of how this affects you.
- Belittling your achievements: Your husband may downplay your accomplishments, making them seem less important than they truly are.
- Questioning your decisions: Constantly second-guessing your choices can create doubt in your abilities and make you feel insecure about your decisions.
- Dismissing your feelings: Ignoring or invalidating your emotions can make you feel unimportant and disregarded in the relationship.
- Criticizing you: Your partner may frequently criticize you, lowering your confidence and self-esteem.
- Influencing others against you: This passive-aggressive behavior is when your partner talks negatively about you to friends and family, creating a biased and unfair perception of you.
- Sabotaging your goals: Intentionally hindering your progress by withholding support or engaging in other actions to slow down your success.
- Creating dependency: Discouraging your independence and trying to control various aspects of your life, making one partner reliant on the other for validation and support.
Read Next: Signs of a Disrespectful Husband
Why Your Husband Undermines You
If your husband is undermining you, it’s not necessarily on purpose—but then again, there could be some deeper issues at play.
Here are reasons why your spouse undermines you.
- Insecurity: If your husband has insecurity issues surrounding his parenting skills or his self-image, this will work against your collaborative efforts as a couple as he’s always attempting to compensate for his insecurity.
- Not knowing how to handle differences of opinion: Plain and simple, many people struggle to create space for someone else’s values and opinions when they contradict ours—even a spouse’s.
- Believing he’s being helpful: Your husband may be under the impression that he’s helping you out or doing things “better,” not realizing he’s working against you.
- Failing to recognize boundaries: Perhaps your husband undercuts your authority with your kids or shares embarrassing details of your married life with your friends because he’s not aware that he’s crossing any boundaries.
- Narcissism: A narcissistic husband undermines his spouse in various ways, from cutting you down instead of praising you for your career advancements and pulling antics to remain the center of attention.
Once you know why your husband is undermining you, it becomes clearer how to handle it.
For example, a husband who unintentionally crosses your boundaries may need more clear communication, vs. a narcissist who may respond better to swift consequences and potentially even therapy with a licensed clinical social worker.
If you want to stop undermining now and also learn techniques to rebuild your relationship stronger and more loving, we highly recommend checking out Dr. Lee Baucom’s game-changing method in Save The Marriage.
How to Stop My Husband from Undermining Me
Once you’re aware of the problem and the reasons for the undermining behavior, follow these steps to address the situation:
1. Open Communication
Initiate a calm and direct conversation about your concerns.
Discuss specific instances of undermining behavior, focusing on how it makes you feel.
Pick a time when you both are relaxed and not preoccupied with work or other responsibilities.
In your dialogue, use a non-threatening tone and focus on expressing your emotions.
Provide examples without accusing or pointing fingers. This could include phrases like, “Sometimes, I feel invalidated when you question my decisions in front of our children.”
Talking candidly like this can make your husband aware of things he wasn’t aware of before, fix misconceptions both of you may have about each other and lead to big improvements in your relationship.
2. Address His Concerns and Views
Take the opportunity to hear his side of things, too.
Encourage your husband to share his point of view and any reasons behind his behavior.
Listen attentively to your spouse’s thoughts and feelings, and avoid interrupting or becoming defensive.
This enables you to gain a better understanding of his actions and fosters empathy between you both.
3. Set Boundaries
Establish clear boundaries regarding acceptable behavior.
Make it clear that you will not tolerate being undermined any longer, and define the consequences of continuing this behavior.
Also, make sure your boundaries are laid out in clear and specific terms, and be firm—don’t hold back because you’re afraid of hurting your husband’s feelings.
This will leave you feeling unsatisfied and can ultimately create feelings of resentment from not having your needs met.
4. Have Consequences for His Behaviors
When your husband is undermining you, let him experience the consequences of ignoring your boundaries.
If he’s being rude to you, calmly tell him, “If you talk to me in that tone, I will leave,” and then do so.
If he decides to give your kids a bunch of candy before bed, let him put them down for the evening.
Consequences are a surefire way to both protect your boundaries and demonstrate to your husband that you mean business.
Bear in mind, when establishing consequences, it’s important to ensure they are fair, reasonable, and reflective of the severity of the undermining behavior.
(They are not meant for retaliation or punishment.)
For example, if your husband interrupts you regularly, a consequence could be gently, temporarily ending the conversation until he’s ready to listen respectfully.
5. Boost Your Self-Esteem
Undermining behavior can take a toll on your confidence.
So, be sure to take part in activities that reinforce your self-worth and surround yourself with supportive individuals.
Try to focus on your strengths and successes, whether that’s through daily affirmations or journaling.
6. Lead by Example
Especially if your husband has insecurities and difficulty emotionally navigating your relationship, it will help him change his behaviors toward you if you approach him with empathy.
With respect to undermining you, that would look like you leading by example and treating him the way you’re asking to be treated.
That is, with kindness and compassion—while also holding your boundaries.
When One Parent Undermines the Other Parent
Parents disagree. But that doesn’t mean they should undermine each other’s efforts when it comes to how they raise children, whom they both love and want the best for.
When one parent undermines the other parent, it can look like the following:
- Good cop, bad cop: Your husband makes you look like the “bad guy” by not enforcing discipline, making himself out to be the friendlier, more laid-back (permissive) parent, and buttering them up with gifts and treats.
- Making you out to be a bad parent: Your husband openly complains about you or criticizes you to your children.
- Keeping secrets: He tells your kids they can have candy, cookies and ice cream and they just won’t tell Mom.
- Negating your rules: When you set limits for your kids, your husband dismisses them and goes by his own rule book without discussing it with you.
- Disrespecting you in front of your children: If your husband treats you with disrespect in front of your children, whether by ignoring you or raising his voice to you.
Here are ways to navigate parenting disagreements and ensure your husband is not undermining you.
What to Do About It
It’s vital for two parents to present a united front when it comes to parenting decisions.
This not only enforces consistency in your children’s lives but also fosters a stronger marriage bond.
In addition to the steps outlined above, take the following measures when your husband undermines you in the area of parenting.
- Have a rational conversation: Using neutral language and no finger-pointing, sit down and express your concerns to your husband that sending mixed messages to your child or children through inconsistent rules, behaviors, and consequences is damaging to them in the long run. Your children will feel unstable, distrustful, and ultimately less secure about their environment and their parents’ relationship.
- Ask your husband what it will take to back up your decisions: Ask your spouse flat-out what it will take for him to stop countering your decisions where your kids are involved. Then open up the floor for him to voice his concerns. This allows him to feel heard, speak his mind and also prompts him to offer some solutions or ideas for compromise. Be empathetic and not antagonistic, but do be clear and straight-forward if you want to get to the bottom of the undermining behaviors and cut them off at the head.
- Discuss parenting techniques and philosophies with your spouse regularly. This way, you can check in and ensure you are both on one page. Or, you’ll discover that you’re not, and then find opportunities to talk about it and create solutions you’re both comfortable with. Remember, compromise is king, while trying to push for your way solely will more likely get you into a battle of wills where no one will feel satisfied.
- Make a pact to handle disagreements away from your children. Disagreements regarding discipline are bound to happen between you and your spouse. The key is to handle these disputes respectfully and away from your children. When disagreements arise in front of the kids, try not to openly contradict each other. If your husband can’t follow this simple rule for the benefit of your family, it may be necessary to speak to a couples counselor or therapist who can help you figure out why your husband feels the need to air your parental dirty laundry in front of your children and come up with solutions.
Undermining You Around In Laws and Extended Family
Besides parenting, in-laws and extended family constitute another area of undermining spouses often experience.
Here are some examples:
- Allowing Grandma and Grandpa to reign supreme: Your husband allows his parents (your in-laws) to disregard rules you set for your children.
- Making excuses for his family’s behavior: This is when your husband downplays your concerns about things extended family members do that make you uncomfortable.
- Disregarding your boundaries: Your husband may disregard your boundaries when it comes to his family, such as inviting them over without your consent or sharing personal information without your permission.
- Allowing his family to disrespect you: Your husband lets his family make rude comments about you or belittle you without defending you.
What to Do About It
- Find out why: It’s important that you find out what principles your husband is operating off of. Does he consider himself as having allegiance to his parents first, and then you? If that’s the case, then this could explain why he’s constantly undermining you by letting them run the show. If not, then potentially, your husband hasn’t thought of things in these terms and will gladly work harder to show allegiance to you by stopping the undermining behavior and putting your feelings first.
- Explain your expectations: Talk to your husband about your feelings when it comes to undermining you around family. Whether he’s letting his family get away with treating you poorly or overstepping your boundaries, it’s important that you make sure he understands exactly how you expect to be treated and regarded by those outside of your nuclear family.
- Stick to your guns: Regarding boundaries you’ve set in place with family, you must enforce them. Don’t worry that you’re going to look like the bad guy. It’s easy to lose your voice in these types of situations when you’re busy trying to please everyone and not step on your in-laws’ toes. But if you do not enforce your boundaries, you will never have them, and this will cost you your happiness and wellbeing.
Encouraging a Positive Relationship Moving Forward
Dealing with undermining behavior can suck the energy out of your relationship.
To revitalize it, consider the following tips.
Fostering Inclusive Decision Making
In order to build a stronger marriage, involve your spouse in the decision-making process.
When making decisions together, consider each other’s opinions and feelings, and work towards finding a common ground.
This collaborative approach fosters a sense of inclusion and respect in your relationship.
Here are some ways to foster inclusive decision making:
- Share your thoughts and feelings openly with your spouse
- Listen actively to your spouse’s perspective
- Develop a habit of discussing pros and cons together
- Find a compromise or middle ground when opinions differ
Addressing any underlying issues of undermining behavior will also contribute to a more open and inclusive dynamic between you and your spouse.
Reinforcing Shared Goals and Roles
Establishing and maintaining shared goals and roles within your marriage can reduce misunderstandings and promote harmony.
Discuss your aspirations as a couple and the roles you both play in achieving them.
Regularly reevaluate these goals to ensure you’re still on the same page with your individual and mutual desires.
Some tips to reinforce shared goals and roles:
- Set long-term and short-term goals as a couple
- Allocate responsibilities based on each other’s strengths and preferences
- Communicate openly about any changes in roles or goals
- Celebrate achievements and milestones together
By practicing inclusive decision making and reinforcing shared goals and roles, you can foster a positive relationship with your spouse and minimize undermining behavior.
This collaborative approach will help build a strong foundation for your marriage and nurture mutual respect and understanding.
Is undermining intentional?
Undermining can be both intentional and unintentional.
Intentional undermining involves conscious efforts to belittle or discredit someone, whereas unintentional undermining may result from a lack of self-awareness or understanding of the effects one’s actions or words have on others.
Regardless of intent, undermining behavior can have detrimental consequences on relationships and should be addressed when identified.
Is undermining a form of abuse?
Undermining can be a form of abuse.
It occurs when someone deliberately weakens or devalues another person’s efforts, opinions, or accomplishments.
Often seen in relationships, undermining behavior can lead to feelings of frustration, resentment, and loss of self-esteem.
It isn’t always deliberate or abusive, but it may be used as a tool for bullying by an abuser in an abusive relationship.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can get immediate help if you call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
What is stonewalling in a relationship?
Stonewalling is a form of communication breakdown in a relationship where one person shuts down, refuses to communicate, or becomes unresponsive to their partner’s attempts at conversation.
This behavior can lead to frustration, resentment, and feelings of helplessness for the person trying to engage in a productive dialogue.
In some cases, frequent stonewalling can be an indicator of deeper issues within the relationship and should be addressed through open communication or professional assistance.
What is the miserable husband syndrome?
Miserable husband syndrome refers to a situation in which a husband feels unhappy or dissatisfied with their marriage and exhibits signs of negativity, depression, or resentment.
Some possible reasons might include feeling trapped, experiencing unfulfilled expectations, or compatibility issues between spouses.
It’s crucial to address these concerns through open communication and, if necessary, seek professional assistance to improve the relationship and cultivate a happier, more fulfilling relationship.
When you’re ready to correct the negative cycles in your marriage and rebuilt its foundation stronger and more resilient, check out Save The Marriage by marriage coach and therapist Dr. Lee Baucom.
In it, you’ll learn what really makes marriages go off-track (and it’s not just bad communication), and the only thing that gets them back on track to happiness and fulfillment
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.