After you’ve been with the same person for quite some time or are comfortably married, it’s very normal to feel like your spouse has changed a bit. This makes sense if you think about it. No one stays exactly the same throughout their lives. And many of us know our spouses when they were much younger than they are today. So they can seem full of life, rebellious or adventurous when we first meet them. But then, many years later, they may be settled and somewhat more conservative. This is the natural order of things and does not always cause problems.
But it can be problematic if the changes in your spouse particularly worry you or if they remind you of something (or someone) that causes a negative reaction.
You may hear someone say, “I grew up in the same neighborhood as my husband. I’ve known him for most of my life. When we were kids, we used to play together because our moms were really good friends. So, I went through a lot time in his childhood home and I know his parents very well. I have never liked his father. He is stern, old-fashioned, pompous and very critical. Just his tone of voice irritates me. I used to avoid my husband’s house at night because he knew that was when his father would come. And then the atmosphere in the house would change. The laughing would stop. And everyone would get so much more tense. One thing I always loved about my husband was that he looked so much alike. to his mother who is gentle and kind.His mom always laughed and loved to invite the neighborhood kids over.So I figured my husband was going to be a husband and father much like his own mother.I used to be that.When we were newlyweds and young parents, my husband was exactly l what i anticipated But, in the last five years or so, I’ve seen more and more of my husband’s father in him. Lately, he always acts like the world is out to get him or rip him off. He is impatient and critical. Worse yet, when I hear my husband’s voice, that screeching tone is the same as his father’s. He drives me crazy and it’s a big turn off. I know the great irony of this is that I am complaining about my husband’s critical personality while criticizing him. But I guess I’m very disappointed because I always really disliked his father. And now I feel like I have a father’s version of him living in my own house.”
What you are seeing is normal: There is an old saying that eventually we all become our parents. I don’t believe this. And I really hope it’s not true because I would never want to be like my mother. I love my mom, but her view of her life is very negative, and as a result, people often feel tense around her. Still, sometimes when my reserves are low, I hear something come out of my own mouth and it literally stops me because she sounds like my mother. I’m always disappointed in myself because for years I vowed never to be like my mother.
But when you think about it, how could I not, at least in some way, echo what I grew up hearing? My mother was my same-sex role model for almost 18 years. When you grow up seeing that person and experiencing how they live their lives and handle everyday problems, then at least a little will rub off on you, even if you reject much of their personality.
I suspect this is the case with your husband. This does not make him a bad person. It doesn’t mean that he identifies with her father and has a similar personality or even similar beliefs. In fact, I would doubt it since his previous personality reflected his mother.
But it’s all too easy to resort to negative patterns and examples in times of stress, even if that’s the last thing we want or intend to do. I would suspect that her husband’s father comes out on him when he’s anxious, scared, or angry. Her husband may have a stronger mental image of her father in stressful situations, as her mother was not often in stressful situations, she being the kinder and more optimistic of the two.
Understanding this is important because it helps you at least feel some empathy. And it can help you understand that your husband isn’t necessarily a bad person and suddenly doesn’t necessarily have the personality of his father. He hasn’t become his father. He’s just seen this behavior for much of his formative years, so he can’t help it from coming up sometimes.
Think for just a second if you have ever sounded like your own mother. I think we all have it, even if we don’t realize it. I’m not saying this to suggest that it’s okay for her husband to act like her father. I’m just saying it’s natural and very common.
Ending this in a positive way: But the real problem is how to stop it, or at least tone it down a bit so it doesn’t continue to erode your marriage. The first part of my suggestion would be to not sound judgmental when you bring this up. The last thing you want to do is get mad and say something like, “Do you hear yourself? You sound exactly like your dad. And he drives me crazy. You know I hate your dad.” My husband does something in this situation that is quite effective and does not deteriorate our relationship. He brings this to my attention in the form of a joke. My mother is a worrier who always sees everything as a borderline disaster. In some situations, I can be like that. When this comes up and he’s driving my husband crazy, he addresses me using my mother’s name. He will say: “yes (my mother’s name), everything is horrible.”
That’s her way of telling me I’m sounding like my mom. But she says it jokingly. I understand the message. But neither of us is angry. She can try a similar approach and insert her husband’s father’s name when she behaves like him. So if her husband was impatient and her father’s name was Bob, she would say, “Wait Bob, it’s not as bad as that.”
Is there something else?: Finally, if this doesn’t help and you don’t feel relieved when you use humor, ask yourself if this is really the core of the problem. Maybe the voice is just a trigger indicating anger towards her husband for something else. But you can’t fix it until you address what it really is.