My husband has extremely annoying social behavior that tends to turn people off. I have tried to start friendships with other couples that seem promising until they meet my husband, then the friendship fizzes. What can I do to help?
It must be discouraging and disappointing to love your husband, to know that he has strengths and when you’ve tried to help him have him reject that help. The good news is that your husband has expressed that he wants friends. At the outset, realize that you will not be able to change your husband’s behavior, so giving up that notion and releasing responsibility for that will be helpful to your emotional, mental and relational health.
You say you’ve tried to talk to him but he gets defensive and angry. Unfortunately, that is a common male response to a wife’s loving attempts to “help” her husband. For some reason men are less likely to take advice from their wives than women are from their husbands. Another man might be able to say the same thing to him and he would receive it. Before you get too upset at your husband, you should know that most men follow this pattern. I think that it is in part because many men can be threatened by anything that looks like criticism that makes them feel inferior or inadequate.
Recent research tells us that men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence.
We’re sad to say that having that significant information doesn’t help a man magically change his behavior pattern. Given this male tendency, your direct attempts and “helping” him may not be the most productive. However, you have nothing to lose by bringing up the subject again with your husband but perhaps in some different ways. Ask him what he enjoys about friendships with other couples. Ask him what he enjoys about his friendship with you. Take his side and discuss how the “two” of you could get more “successful” at developing friendships.
If your husband gets angry, understand that the anger is probably coming from hurt and he feels a need to defend himself. Listen to his feelings even if they don’t make sense to you. With time, he might become more receptive to a discussion around friendships. How you interact with his irritating behavior may begin to shape his behavior in ways that might eventually be helpful to him.
If he’s like most people there are times when he is a little bit better with people than others. Perhaps a more effective approach might be to notice what’s different about the times when people respond a bit more positively to him. In other words, work on catching him doing it better. Does he do something different during those times? Is it with certain people or while discussing certain topics? Is it in a certain social setting? Look for every opportunity to reinforce any positive, or at least a little bit more positive, relational behavior. Become a Barnabus to him. Encourage him in what he does well.
Does he have any male friends or acquaintances, perhaps your pastor or a men’s group leader at your church, who might be willing to talk with him? If they have any kind of a relationship with him and have personally experienced his obnoxious side, they might have the courage to “speak the truth in love” to him. Frequently, a man will be more likely to hear something from an objective third party than he is from his spouse. We would also encourage you to pray for him and pray with him and when you pray be sure to give God thanks for the strengths he does have.