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Why Your Husband Is Mean and Disrespectful

There is no single cause or cure for a relationship with a mean and disrespectful man. The place to start improving your marriage is determining why he is this way.

mean and disrespectful husband
Which of the four reasons accounts for why your husband is mean and disrespectful? 

Is your husband mean and disrespectful? Do you know the real reason why he is behaving this way?  Some men have always been this way, while others have only become this way recently.

You need to make a careful assessment of the reasons your husband is this way if you want to know how to start improving your relationship. This article discusses reasons your husband may be this way, mistakes for you to avoid, and what you can do to start making things better.

No one size fits all answer

There is no single reason that makes a man mean and disrespectful. That is true for the other problems in relationships as well. There are multiple possible reasons for his behavior. They can make you feel like your husband doesn’t love you or even hates you. I have helped many women who felt hated by their husbands to reconcile and have good marriages.

Because many counselors do not know how to help people to reconcile in this situation, they often lead their clients to divorce. Others people may recommend things that worked for them, but may not apply to your situation and lead to a bad result and make you discouraged. That is why you should be very careful when getting recommendations online and don’t be quick to think a counselor is your solution.

The most common thing I hear from women about their counselors is that their counselor is supportive, but never gives them any means to improve their relationship.

As a relationship coach it is not my job to validate you for feeling bad. Instead, I want to help you do better. Let me help you learn how to create a better situation, starting with . . .

Four reasons why your husband is mean and disrespectful

There are four general reasons why your husband may be mean and disrespectful. Your husband probably doesn’t fit neatly into any one of these categories. Considering them will help you to start to have more structure in how you deal with this problem.

(Before I coach someone, I want to make sure that I understand their situation clearly and customize their coaching package to fit their situation and needs. Even if you are working on your own, you still need to understand your situation clearly so you can customize your approach. Never just do what worked for someone else unless they were married to your husband!)

1 He is mean and disrespectful because he has a personality disorder

Lack of empathy

All husbands who are mean and disrespectful are going to have a lack of empathy for their wives. However, if your husband has a lack of empathy for others as well (children, friends, coworkers, or people in general), it is time to start seeing your relationship problems as something about him rather than about your relationship.

This is particularly true if he has had this lack of empathy for others as long as you have know him (except for that initial period when he was on his best behavior).


Impulsivity is when people react without giving much thought to future consequences. It causes relationship problems. This is a psychological issue and may cause your husband to do things which he later regrets. If he has always been this way, it is a personality characteristic that is not likely to be changed.

If it is only recent, then this behavior may result from stress, life dissatisfaction (as in a mid life crisis), medical condition, or as a result of a drug or alcohol addiction (which lower inhibitions). These are not personality disorders.

What you can do

If your husband has a personality disorder, you are not going to change it. Nor is he going to be motivated to work on it in therapy. You can make your relationship work by learning to deal with his disorder. You do this by having good boundaries which prevent you from being a victim, while also helping him to enjoy his relationship with you.

This combination approach will help you get the best behavior from your husband that is he is able to have. Neither boundaries nor connection skills alone will create a good result. You must do them both to have good results.

Counselors have a tendency to help clients to get out of such marriages. Relationship coaches are better for learning skills you need to cope with him and enjoy him. In any event do not try to improve your relationship by talking with him about relationship problems. You can’t talk a person out of a personality disorder.

2 He is mean and disrespectful because he is stressed

You or the kids are his scapegoat

Some men are better at coping with problems than others. Highly successful men recognize and admit to problems, seek solutions to problems, and then get to work eliminating the problems. Men with poor coping deny having problems, blame others for their problems, avoid reminders of their problems and become angry with anyone who points them out.

Internally they know they need to do something, but feel inadequate to the task. This self loathing can be projected onto others. This releases built up anger either in bursts or slow leaks. However, because their problems are still not resolved, the anger continues to build.

Seeks to self-medicate or avoid his problems

Alcohol, drugs, sex, video games, and any other stimulating activity can help these men to avoid their stresses temporarily. Although he blames his problems on you, he would still have the same problems were he married to someone else.

What you can do

You must avoid personalizing his problems and seeing them as something wrong with you. You are not the cause of his problems. Nor are you the cause of his behavior toward you. Allowing yourself to be his victim or being codependent for an addictive behavior will just lead to his problems, and your relationship, becoming worse and worse.

You will need to:

  1. Use good boundaries to protect yourself and your children,
  2. learn how to deal with your husband’s anger,
  3. use an intervention to help him face his problems.

Only when he is forced to own up to his problems will their be hope for him to resolve his problems. (Here is an article for more help on building a relationship when your spouse has addiction).

3 He is mean and disrespectful because he feels rejected by you

Too little affirmation

Sometimes wives are rejecting toward their husbands. This can happen because of the same types of issues which make men act out. It can also be because their wives have unreasonable expectations about marriage which their husbands cannot meet.

Husbands of such women don’t feel good enough. They receive very little affirmation and although they initially try to make the relationship work, eventually they become disrespectful and distancing as a kind of emotional self-preservation.

High conflict

All conflict deteriorates marriages. There is no such thing as helpful conflict. Although avoidance of issues is unhealthy coping, the solution is never conflict, but rather constructive actions which stop damage and build the relationship.

If you try to improve your marriage by criticizing, complaining, or arguing with your husband, you will get rejection rather than improved behavior. He is much more likely to criticize you back or avoid you rather than admit to his faults. The longer this goes on, the more disrespectful he will become.

What you can do

In order for your relationship to build, most of the time you spend with your husband needs to be enjoyable. Reducing conflict will make a relationship less negative, but not necessarily enjoyable. For example, not fighting and keeping distant is less conflicted, but not enjoyable. To be enjoyable, you must be relaxed and friendly, as well as validating.

If he is negative or rejecting, you remove yourself to minimize conflict, but then return to being friendly and validating in your next encounter. You do not argue, criticize, blame, or discuss problems. If you do, you will see that will only make things worse. Learn from experience.

love lessons for wives
Help him to enjoy talking to you again

Cooperation is not something you talk him into–it’s something you attract him into. What changes do you need to make in yourself to get your husband to enjoy talking to you, being with you, making love with you, and to make him feel like you really love him the way he is? (More help on getting your husband to love you). Get to work on those things and you can have an improved relationship.

4 He is mean and disrespectful because he is unfaithful

Conflict in the absence of real issues

If your husband picks fights or blames you for really petty things, those are not likely to be the real issue. Fighting or complaining about minor things is an emotional distancing behavior. It is very common with both men and women who are in some way preparing to leave their relationship–emotionally, physically, or both. An obvious indication that you need to take action is your husband saying he needs space or time to think about what he wants.

Men only say they need to figure out what they want after they already know what they want.

Some men can maintain a good emotional connection with their wives while pursuing other women, but most can’t. Unfaithfulness is more likely to be the case if he seems to be normal with everyone except you, and you have no real issues in your relationship with your husband. (Learn more about intentional argumentativeness in the absence of real issues).

Reluctance to have a good time with you

Men who are unfaithful or preparing to be usually avoid doing things with their wives which would actually make their relationships with their wives better. He may no longer like you cooking his favorite food, having sex with you, or going on a date with you to do something that he always enjoyed before. It’s not that he doesn’t like those things anymore; it’s just that he doesn’t want to have a good time with you as that would make it harder for him to be unfaithful.

Avoiding you

In addition to treating you badly, if your husband is unfaithful or preparing to be, he is also likely to avoid being with you. At home, he may stop eating with you, sleeping with you, and even being in the same room with you. He may start to leave his cell phone turned off so as not to get calls or texts from you. If you ask him why, he will justify his behaviors rather than give you any sensible reason.

Secretive behavior

If your husband starts to carry his cell phone to the shower, suddenly password protects his electronic devices, and comes home late or leaves early for work without any good reason, unfaithful behavior is a likely suspect. This is particularly true when combined with avoiding you and treating you badly for petty reasons.

What you can do

Confronting your husband for being unfaithful is not going to either get him to admit to being unfaithful or to make him more faithful.

People don’t admit to secretive behavior.

He will instead blame you for your untrusting behavior. Yet, unchecked, his unfaithfulness will continue and get harder and harder to deal with as time goes on. The earlier you can learn how to deal with his unfaithfulness, the more chance you have for preventing or ending an affair.

Multiple steps are required for implementing correct boundaries, then building your relationship, while also maintaining respect. You will have to avoid letting him have his cake and eat it too, while also avoiding doing extra damage to your marriage. Coaching is likely to be helpful to deal with these complexities, but if you are too emotional to be strategic, you will need individual counseling rather than coaching.

(Coaching provides skills whereas counseling provides emotional support. Be honest with yourself about what you need before choosing a professional for help. If you know what to do, but can’t bring yourself to, you need counseling. If you are emotionally okay, but don’t know what to do, you need a coach. If you can’t do either, then start with counseling).

Use the appropriate skill to deal with each of these reasons

Two typical pieces of advice for women in your situation are to divorce or go to marriage counseling. Neither of these ideas will actually lead to improvement. He will not be motivated to change his behaviors and a counselor won’t motivate him.

To improve your relationship, you will need to learn how to:

  1. Get his respect,
  2. deal with whatever situation is causing him to be disrespectful or mean, and
  3. learn how to build your relationship.

Trying to get him to work together will frustrate you and make you feel like giving up. However there are a number of things you can do to improve your relationship without his cooperation.

An easy way to start is to get a book I wrote, called What to Do When He Won’t Change: Saving Your Marriage or Relationship when He Is Angry, Selfish, Unhappy, or Avoids You. Many women have been able to turn their relationship around without further help than this. If your situation is dire or you make some improvement and then get stuck you need to get professional help.

If you get stuck because you keep getting upset, then get into individual counseling to work on your emotional self-control. If you just don’t know how to get further or something you are doing is not working, then get coaching just for you. I offer a coaching package that many women get for restoring love with difficult spouses.

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