Never Good Enough

Note: This situation is not gender-specific. But I will describe what seems to be the most common scenario.

From my reading, observation, and conversations with many divorced women, it seems there are many women frustrated at the apparent apathy of their husbands in relation to the marriage. And I understand that frustration and disappointment.

Typically, most or all of the blame goes on the husband. But much of what people say and do is a reaction more than a conscious choice of action.

It is good for a spouse to vocalize their emotions and struggles. But, sometimes, even with the best intentions, the message received is very different from what we wish to communicate.

A person who repeatedly communicates about their frustration with a spouse may gain a reputation as a complainer, criticizer, and someone who discourages more than encourages. The person on the receiving end can easily get the message that they are not "good enough".

If good faith efforts get the response "not good enough", the person questions their own efforts. If they eventually come to the conclusion that whatever they do is "never good enough", they will give up hope. If the effort won't satisfy the complainer, why try at all? So they quit trying.

Then the wife gets frustrated with the apathy and may even initiate divorce because of it. Seldom does a woman recognize that the apathy was at least partially a response to their own words and actions. Each person is responsible for their own actions. But our own actions can strongly influence other people to choose apathy or some other negative attitudes and actions. A relationship is two people interacting. We must take responsibility for our own role in a relationship and how we influence the reactions of our spouse.

On the Receiving End

And what if you are on the receiving end of this scenario? It is obviously going to hurt hearing the message that you are never good enough. And it hurts all the more from someone you are supposed to trust, someone who is supposed to faithfully honor and respect you and help you feel loved. How do I react to the pain?

One first step is to examine your own actions and see if perhaps you have communicated the same message to your spouse. Sometimes messages with good intentions are received negatively. Is it possible you have communicated that "never good enough" message at times?

Secondly, if the comments are about one particular area, that is probably something that is important for your spouse. To some extent that topic is probably related to their love language or top emotional needs. And maybe you actually could do better in that area with the right help and motivation. So consider the possibility that you could bring joy to your spouse by doing a little better in that area. Perhaps they can help you too.

Third, communicate with your spouse. Try not to preface it with "You ...." and try to phrase it as "I feel...". Many times the easiest thing is to simply say "That hurts" when they say something negative. Then at least they are aware of the pain. And perhaps you can discuss it some. If you discovered some situations where you have done the same, then you can discuss it as "We both slip in this area. But we can help each other do better."

Fourth, you may have to filter out some of those negative comments. And just let go of the potential offense, the resentment and the bitterness. Don't let them steal your joy. People who hold on to bitterness mostly hurt themselves. You have value - even if nobody communicates that to you. God loves you just as you are today and wants what is best for you in the long run. So you are loved. Show respect for yourself. Do what is right and honorable. Live without regrets.


You may wish to read about the related topics of love and respect.

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Copyright © 2006 Ronald G. Hedberg. All rights reserved.