18: How to Give Your Husband Responsibility for His Own Life

Podcast Episodes
October 2, 2022

The Authentic Wife and Mom

Beth Rowles | The Conscious Marriage Coach

When your husband complains, gets defensive or angry, or seems to be blaming you for his problems, there’s a good chance that you don’t really know how to give your husband responsibility for his own life. Like we talked about last week, maybe there’s some part of you that benefits from him depending on you, but you’re realizing how that’s no longer working now.

In episode 18 of The Authentic Wife Show, you’ll learn 3 ways to give your husband responsibility for his own life. Of course, I highly recommend that you’ve done YOUR inner work first, and would love to see you in my Happily Ever After Marriage Coaching Program.



I’m happy that you’re here. Today, we’re going to talk about how to give your husband responsibility for his own life. And I’m going to give you three steps, three ways to start. One of the most common complaints that I get from my clients or people who are interested in working with me. Is that their husband gets defensive. He gets critical, but he’s not really taking care of anything. He has projects that he starts and leaves them finished. He’ll start something and then move on to something that’s more exciting, and not come back to the thing. And he will basically blame other people for his problems, for his experiences.

And then that can turn into maybe like gaslighting, maybe what sounds like emotional manipulation a little. Twisting stories, just being very defensive. And he could even go to anger or something. So my experience and what some of my clients experience is that they tend to have either a fear response or they feel incredibly guilty, for example, for holding boundaries. And for not fixing things for him. And they don’t really know how to get out of that pattern.



This Is Common If You’re Married to a Husband Who Has ADHD

As someone who’s married to a husband who has ADHD, this way — like I talked about in last week’s episode — this way that we mother them. The way that we, first of all, attracted them to us because we were like mothers, we’re usually really like… is high-functioning the word? I’ve never really looked up the definition of that. Like we are, we tend to be really organized or be good planners or seem to kind of have our stuff together, even though sometimes we don’t necessarily. We’re trying. We’ve gained all the skills in an effort to overcome what does not come easy for us, what is hard for us to do. So sometimes, we have some of those ADHD traits ourselves.

But. You know, ADHD is sort of like you’re stuck at a certain level of development, and you have time blindness, you have poor emotional regulation/self-regulation skills. Poor executive functioning or course goes along with that. And so it’s much easier for them to choose somebody who seems to have it together and seems to take care of them so that those challenges aren’t disruptive to their lives.

But the problem is when we don’t allow them to take responsibility. They don’t actually get the tools, the support, the resources that they need. Sometimes they may need medication. Whatever they need to be a functioning adult. We are kind of the crutch that they lean on instead of pursuing those things and that doesn’t serve anybody.

It’s frustrating to us. It could eventually be a burden to our children. It’s frustrating to them. They’re not happy. It’s not fun to continually live kind of behind the eight ball and feel behind on everything and feel frustrated.

They don’t know where stuff is or they haven’t tended to this little problem and now it’s become a big problem. And it’s frustrating to have lots of projects in the air. It’s overwhelming. Like we get frustrated when they don’t prioritize things that matter to us because they’ve jumped into their own new fun.

But they’re frustrated too because they’ve got all this mental load of, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve got 50 things going.’ And there’s no completion. It never feels good. Like they can never rest in something being done. Because it’s more fun that way, for them to continue to go have more stuff to do.

So whether your husband has ADHD or not, today will probably apply to you, especially if you find yourself mothering your husband. And again, please listen to last week’s episode. Because it was all about that and it’ll help you start to change it.

But now I’m going to give you three specific ways to change the current dynamic and to give your husband responsibility for his own life.

I’m specifically thinking about the moment when he’s putting his problem on you. When he’s blaming you for his problem. He’s going into a story about this problem and you are starting to feel either feel bad. Or guilt. Or like, he’s never going to get you or understand

(Sorry. I’m a little distracted because we bought a cat this weekend. And I can hear her. She’s got a little bell on her collar. I can hear her under my door trying to get in, but she doesn’t like it in here. So she’s in for a minute and looks around and she doesn’t want to really be snuggled. And she doesn’t just like curl up in a bed like my dog used to. So she’s out there wondering what I’m doing, really wanting to be in here and I didn’t want let her in and have her be trapped. Plus I hear my husband is on lunch break and he could play with her So she’s good, but we are so excited about our new kitty.)

All right. So these are for that moment. For that conversation. I don’t want you to get hooked by his fear in that conversation.

Step #1: Stop Buying Into His Stories

So the very first thing you’re going to do or the first thing that you’re going to want to do is to stop buying into his stories.

Stop making whatever he’s telling you feel like I feel like something that you have to defend yourself against. Something that is an attack on you.

Whatever they’re saying, it’s not about you, They are trying to work out what is happening for them. They’re trying to feel better. They’re trying to push any pain away they don’t want to feel any discomfort. And discomfort that they feel they want you to take it from them. It just really has nothing to do with you.

So if you can stop buying into the stories, stop getting hooked by his fear, then this is going to go much easier for you. There are other things you need. To do, but first of all, just stop. Stop buying into it. Don’t worry about how he twists information. He blames you for his problems. These are his stories.

Get Off The Drama Triangle

Another thing that is very important for you to remember is that you don’t want to jump on the Drama Triangle and play the role of villain, victim, or hero. Drama is based on these three roles. So if you imagine this triangle, somebody’s the villain. Somebody is the victim. And someone’s the hero. You can be more than one at a time.

And so he’s trying to say that he’s the victim and you’re over here, like, but I’m the victim. And then maybe at a certain point, you start to feel bad enough for him that you jump into the hero. And try to save the day. You’re in drama. And drama is exhausting and it’s not real life. It makes a good story… or makes for a good movie.

But most of the time, in our day-to-day boring Midwestern lives or wherever it is you live, you’re not in a drama. There’s no true villain. There’s no true victim. There’s no true hero saving the day. I can’t even– like maybe currently right now, a hurricane is in Florida. Yeah, there might be some real villains victims and heroes down there. The villain is the hurricane, right?

But In your marriage it will be a very rare occasion that either of you are involved in a real drama. And that you both are playing some role in it, right? Like you wouldn’t be against each other. You’d probably both be the victims. Or both heroes saving somebody. You wouldn’t be against each other. So just don’t jump on that drama triangle to begin with.

Are You The Hero?

If you see yourself trying fix him, save him, you’re trying to play hero. So refuse, just refuse.

Are You The Victim?

If you see yourself feeling defensive or feeling depressed or feeling like he is the bad guy, you’re playing victim. Refuse.

Are You The Villain?

And if you see yourself start to get mean and fire stuff back at him and try to wear him down or insult him, you’re playing the villain. So refuse, just do not get on.

Reflect His Stories Back Instead

So, what you do instead is you’re going to reflect back to him these stories that he’s telling and that’s going to help him process what’s happening. Reflect back means literally be the mirror, help him hear what he is saying. Say his words back to him.

Now it’s an art, empathy is absolutely an art. You can’t do this from a place that isn’t genuine. If your Energy is on the drama triangle, your words don’t matter, what you were saying to him, will still come across as like cold or unkind or mocking or whatever. So it’s a really, really important thing that your energy is right first, that you’ve healed and done all the work first, which is why we don’t talk about empathy until month five in my program, Happily Ever After.

You can still, though, just reflect back. Just help him hear what he’s saying. Use the last two or three words of what he says and upward inflection. And a smile on your face, if it’s appropriate. Whatever matches the situation. Repeat a little bit back. When people hear what they’ve said, then they feel understood.

And the more they feel understood, the easier it is for them to find safety, and the more they find safety, the more power they have to enter executive functioning and solve problems themselves.

You’re Just Reading The Story

I like to remind my clients, like you’re the observer. You are paying attention to what he’s saying.

You’re remembering what he’s saying. If it’s hard, take out your phone or grab a note pad or something. Jot down what he’s saying. And that’s what you need to do to be able to reflect at least a little bit of it back.

Remember when we were kids… I love old animation. I know there are times where I’ve seen people jump into — maybe it was like Reading Rainbow or something — people jump into the story, right? Like imagine that when he’s talking. And refuse to jump into the story you don’t have a role in it. Just let him tell the story. You’re the reader flipping the pages. ‘That’s so interesting. Oh, then what happens?’

Maybe not say that to him, but it’s like, you’re… I want you to separate yourself from this story. You are watching it happen, you are observing it. It’s in his mind. It’s based on his experiences. It really has nothing to do with you. He’s just reading it out loud to you. So really separate yourself and step back and stop buying into his stories.

Okay. That was step one.

#2 Stop Taking Responsibility For His Feelings

And the second thing is to stop taking responsibility for his feelings. You are not responsible for his feelings. You did not cause his feelings. You did not create his feelings. You did not invent his feelings You did not cook his feelings, like you didn’t have a recipe and create it.

You are not responsible for other people’s feelings.

Whatever they’re feeling, it’s their responsibility, whatever they’re feeling is based on their history, their experience, their perspective. Most of the time, what they’re feeling, especially in just the beginning of this work, is an old repressed emotion that has been triggered by whatever event has happened.

So, for example, if there was a time they felt very shamed by a parent when they were six and something has just transpired that has triggered that shame, ’cause they didn’t process it when they were six, because they were being shamed by a parent, then it’s still in them and they don’t know how to process it. So it has absolutely nothing to do with you.

It’s coming back up and asking to be processed. If you are skilled at empathy, you will help them process it. But in any event you would not cause it. You’re not responsible.

Let me also add that if you have spoken in a shaming tone, If you have violated their boundaries. If you I have been rude and condescending, that is your work to do. We do want to speak in a different way. We don’t want to ever intentionally really hurt somebody, most of the time. If we do that, we’re behaving unconsciously just based on patterns that we learned. We just speak to others in the way we were spoken to by our parents or family. But that is your work to do.

But it’s still his responsibility to protect his boundary and say I will not let you speak to me that way. So, for example, my husband could shame me right now. And I would walk away from it. ‘It’s not okay to talk to me that way, sorry.’ I wouldn’t go into the emotion of shame because he did that, I would just protect myself. So the same thing for you, you don’t take responsibility for his feeling ashamed. But if you did play a role in triggering it, you absolutely need to look at your tone and the way you’re communicating and the way you’re dealing with your own feelings. We never violate somebody else’s boundaries. unless it’s self-defense.

After they move through any repressed emotions, then they can be feeling an active emotion that’s telling them to take action in the present moment. So it could be something real. Um, if your husband’s angry about something that happened with another person or even with you, and it involved a boundary violation. So, for example, somebody taking their intellectual property or taking their money or taking advantage of their time and energy. It’s their job to then set a boundary, to know how to set the boundary, how to set expectations, all of that work. So he could have something that he’s feeling in the present moment that’s telling him to take action.

Most of the time it’s probably not going to have to do with you, unless he does need to hold a boundary. Unless he does need to say, look, ‘I won’t let you speak to me. I’m going to walk outside until you’re ready to talk aggain.’ Or, ‘You let me know when you’re ready to talk in a more respectful way.’

So most of the time it will be action that he needs to take with something else in his life. For example, he could not be taking care of himself and need to sleep more. He could be ill and in pain and actually need to just go rest, or take pain medication or see a doctor, whatever. He could be hungry. He could be hangry. In that case, you know, feel free to shove food in his face, or just say, you know, it seems like you’re hungry. You know,  maybe you just need a snack.

Are They Tired, Hungry, or Ill?

And by the way, if you are a mother, this is something that’s really good for you to do with your children. When you know that there’s not something obvious going on, but they are telling you lots of stories and having big feelings, check to see if they are hungry, tired, or ill. One of those things are those sneaky self care things that can go unnoticed all day long, and then they can come home and be starving or realize they’re actually in a lot of pain or have a headache or something. When you’re just really confused, say like, ‘It seems like maybe you’re hungry, do you need a snack or it almost seems like you don’t feel good. Is everything okay?’ You know, go there.

They’ll stop their storytelling if it’s true and go, ‘You know? Yeah, actually I am.’ So then you know what to do and then once they refill their cup and have done that self care, then the stories will stop. And they’ll come back to like their normal selves.

Like that Snickers commercial, there’s so much truth to it. You’re really not yourself when you’re hungry. So pay attention to that.

So the second way again, is to stop taking responsibility for his feelings. So we’ve stopped buying into his stories, now we’ve stopped taking responsibility for his feelings.

Okay? Neither of those things have anything to do with you. It doesn’t serve you to get defensive. Don’t go into your room and cry about it. Don’t start thinking about divorce. This has nothing to do with you. This is their problem.

Your role can be,to again, give them responsibility for their own life, to use empathy to help them process something because you do love them.

Um, and that’s about it. But like, that’s the extent of it. Which brings us to our next step.

#3 Stop ReaACTing To His Discomfort

The last step is to stop reacting to his discomfort. Notice the last part of that — and sorry to my English teacher, I forget what it’s called. Re- is prefix. Acting, action, acting. Stop reacting to his discomfort. Stop taking actions based on his thoughts and feelings.

I think this is a Tony Robbins thing. I’ve heard somebody in my coaching experience say it. It goes, thoughts, feelings, actions, results. It’s TFAR. He says if you don’t like the results, check your thoughts, check your feelings, check your actions. It’s basically the process we’re going through here.

So you, if you like unconsciously buy into his thoughts and feel responsible for his feelings, and then you do the action so that he experiences a more comfortable result, then he’s not actually going to grow. It’s just going to continue to happen over and over. You are jumping in, playing God and enabling him by trying to save the day and fix it for him. (Stop being a hero!)

If he doesn’t like his results, he has to take ownership of all three things. He has to own his thoughts, he has to own his feelings, and he has to own his actions. What we do right now when we are unconscious, is we re act to his discomfort. We try to fix it and make life comfortable for him.

He’s Capable of Taking Action

So maybe he’s been complaining about his glasses being broken and you make the doctor appointment for him. Maybe he’s complaining that he doesn’t have any pants that fit and you go in and end up buying pants for him. Maybe he’s complaining that he can’t find something in the house and you go find it for him. Maybe there’s something broken in his car and you go make the appointment for him. Maybe you cooked a meal that isn’t to his liking; his is too hot, too cold, to brown, too white, too whatever. Or not spicy enough, too spicy, whatever it is, you don’t need to fix it. You already did the job. If he doesn’t like the meal, he could take different actions to make a meal himself. Or he could have done something different. Or he can share his preferences long before you sit down to make the meal, whatever it is, you do not do the action for him.

Unless like you have made some agreement based on his challenges. This would be a thing that you would take over for him. Honestly, I think it’s pretty rare that there would be something that you should take over. There might be things that you do together. But most of the time, he’s a grown man. He can call the doctor. He can get on a website to order clothes. Trust me when they want to buy something, they sure know how to buy something. He can call and make an appointment, whatever it is. He can put it in the microwave. Food’s too hot and you can put some ice in it or like wait for it to cool down. He can do the thing. I promise you.

I know he’s a smart man. I know he’s capable. He probably does things that seem super human sometimes. Like he can fix anything. He’s got brilliant ideas. He’s top at his job, whatever it is. He’s a very smart, man. Just like you are an incredibly smart and capable. Just like you have figured things out in your life.

He is capable of figuring things out in his life. This is also important when it comes to our children. If he’s going through the stories and big feelings about the way the kids are being, he needs to learn what actions to take that change the behavior or whatever it is. Like, perhaps they are hungry. He needs to learn how to recognize their hunger signs and feed them regularly or give them a snack. Perhaps, they just need some loving and some empathy.

He needs to see that if they are over stimulated, like you’ve had a busy day and they haven’t had a lot of rest. He needs to see that, ‘Okay, when we stay out all day, then they’re really tired and that makes this hard.’ So now I need to recognize that if I want to keep them out all day, I’m going to have to deal with this later. This is the result or consequences of those actions. He needs to be present to whatever the results are. And take responsibility for the actions that got him there.

One of the things I learned way back when I was an engineer was, you know, the phrase, ‘Your poor planning does not constitute an emergency on my part,’  ‘Poor planning and your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.’ That’s what it was, we used to have people who would, put things off to the last minute or do something wrong and then they would want us to jump and, you know, work all night or whatever to fix the thing. It’s the same thing with your husband… if he has not put his clothes away or set up an organization system for where he’s going to put his keys and stuff…. If he hasn’t dealt with a small problem, that then becomes the big problem.

That’s not your emergency. His actions do not create an emergency for you. Of course, sometimes they will. Sometimes you will be involved in the how to do something, but most of the time, let it be his emergency because once he feels that, then he will figure it out. He’ll put all his clothes away. He’ll find a place to put his keys. He’ll organize it. He’ll do whatever he needs to do differently. He’ll make the oil appointment for the car. He’ll pay attention to the planning that he does need to do so that this doesn’t become a big overwhelming thing.

But if you go in and rescue. If you buy into his thoughts and buy into his feelings, take responsibility for them and you do the actions to prevent him experiencing the results that he should get from what he’s doing, he’s not going to grow.

You want to give him responsibility for his own life, not just for your peace but for his peace as well.

And the way we get stuck is when we rescue.

The real way that people get stuck in marriages is that at the story part, at the thoughts part, they get defensive. And jump onto the drama triangle. And everything goes downhill from there, then it becomes a big fight. Then you’ve got two inner children who are just going at it. And rehashing stuff from the past and bringing up a laundry list from way long ago.

And what they really want to say is, I’m so upset that my mom or my dad wasn’t there for me, hurt me, shamed me, put me down, neglected me, abused me, yelled at me, didn’t see me, didn’t listen to me, didn’t comfort me when I was sad. Whatever it is, that’s really what’s happening in that moment.

It’s a call to work out those things that happened to us when we were little.

But the only way they’ll be worked out is through empathy, through skilled empathy, through like a coaching program like mine or therapy. Or you learning how to be a strong, empathetic listener. Otherwise, we just go head to head as the inner children. And it just creates chaos. We go down this drama triangle in our relationship.

And it’s frustrating, and maybe we leave for a little while and come back and it’s on again off again, and they’re good the next day. Of course they are, they come back happy because some part of them knows that it had nothing to do with you.

Some part of them recognizes that it’s their hurt inner child. And their heart closes up once again and they shove those feelings away. And they go about their business.

They just move on because that’s what they were shown when they were kids. To deal with it. Move on. Shit happens kind of thing.

And then they come back and it seems normal for awhile. But all you’re doing is avoiding reality. You are avoiding becoming conscious of all those things that are in you begging to be healed. So again, to give your husband responsibility for his own life:

Stop buying into his stories.

Stop taking responsibility for his feelings.

And stop re acting. To his discomfort.

When you stopped taking ownership of thoughts, feelings, and actions, he will begin to get the results that he wants.

All right. That’s it for today, if this or any of my shows have helped you please share with a friend and help me grow this channel. Point people to my book, The Authentic Wife. Point them to my website, theauthenticwifeandmom.com. We need to get this message out because our children should not have to pay for their parents being two inner children who fight all the time.

Our children should not have to grow up to become a participant in a relationship where their two inner children fight all the time. Let this cycle stop with you. Thanks for being here and thanks for listening and I’ll see you next time.

To learn more about having a conscious marriage, click here.


Or, to begin learning how to improve your marriage, you can take my masterclass Authentically Grounded, where you’ll gain the 6 necessary skills of all healthy relationships.




Beth Rowles
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I'm Beth Rowles, Hi!

I help driven moms use the conflict in their marriage as a feedback loop to grow in self-awareness so they can create the marriage they, and their kids, deserve without leaving the one they're in or waiting for their husband to evolve.

I'm the author of The Authentic Wife: Uncaging Yourself Through Marriage and host of The Authentic Wife Show podcast & YouTube channel.


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"Your partner is ultimately a mirror of how you feel about yourself, and your relationship will call on you to get into integrity with earlier wounds and negative life patterns."

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You and your kids deserve a marriage that brings your light to life. That may seem far away right now, but I’m proof that it’s possible and in your power to create! Stop worrying about what your kids are learning from him and let’s figure out what they can learn from you, mama!