Condescending remarks are sometimes unintentional, while others are out of frustration or disgust. They can be subtle or overt, and may even rise to the level of verbal abuse. These remarks are not productive or healthy in relationships and can harm the recipient's self-esteem. You can acknowledge and address condescending statements by asserting yourself and setting boundaries.
Address the Remark
Confront your husband when he makes a condescending remark. You can do this whether in public or private -- but if you feel that it would be more productive to wait and address the remark in private, make a mental note of the statement and the context in which he said it. It is important to be specific, according to an Edmunds Community College document titled "Conflict Resolution Skills." Reflect the statement back to him and tell him how it made you feel. Use 'I" statements to convey your feelings. For example, you might say, "When you said I was so lazy I can barely keep the house clean, I felt ashamed and incompetent. I work very hard to maintain the home."
Tell your spouse that what he said is unacceptable. Remind him that if he wants or needs to discuss an issue with you, he may do so respectfully. He may minimize the significance of the remark, try to convince you that it was justified or he may try to excuse it -- indicating that he has been under stress as work, for instance. Maintain your stance. Your feelings are valid and asserting yourself demands respect.
Explain the Consequences
Inform your husband of the action you will take if the condescending remarks continue. You do not need to convey this as a threat, but say it clearly and in a concise manner. It is important that you don't "dance around the issue," states Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D., in his article for Psychology Today entitled, "Simple Keys to Effective Communication." For example, if he ridicules the way you manage the household finances, you may decide to separate bank accounts and expenses. If he is continuously making fun of your driving, you can refrain from transporting him anywhere. If his occasional remarks have escalated to verbal abuse, you might inform him that the relationship is in jeopardy.
Commit yourself to following through with the ramifications of which you warned your spouse should he continue to make condescending statements. If you don't, he may perceive your inaction as further reason not to take your feelings seriously. He may even use inaction or hollow warnings as ammunition for such remarks in the future. Furthermore, there is little room for negotiation or compromise when abuse is a factor. Edmunds Community College states it is important to know when to let go. It may be healthier for the relationship to disengage and move on separately.
Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.
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