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How to Deal with a Self-Centered, Arrogant Jerk

You're married. Usually, you're quite grateful for your husband. Then he says something that hurts like a kick to the gut.

For example, from one self-employed husband whose career is accelerating to his self-employed wife, still launching a business she started well after his:

He: I could use some help this afternoon. I'm under a deadline, and I really need an extra pair of hands.

She: Oh, can't it wait? This is my one day of the week with a block of unscheduled time, and I've been planning all week to work on my ebook today.

He: I need to get this finished to get paid. We need the money! You know your ebook is never going to make any real money.

Ouch! That line is enough to make blood boil.

If this were a blog on how to be a better spouse, I would tell you not to ever say anything like this.

But this is not a blog on how to be a better spouse. This is a blog on how to be a happier spouse. And this blog post is for her, not him.

Of course, I would tell her to Assume Love. It's the first thing to do whenever you feel a kick to the gut. And she would say, at first, "I can't Assume Love; there was nothing loving about that awful thing he said!"

But Assume Love does not mean assume you're wrong and this was actually a loving act. It wasn't. It was a thoughtless act.

Assume Love means assume you could be certain he still loves you as much as ever and he's still the same good man you've known for years. If this were true, how could you explain what he said?

If you're too angry at your own spouse, imagine you're watching a movie, one you know was written by clever writers who understand human behavior. Earlier you saw lots of strong signs of this man's love for his wife. Now you're watching this scene. It doesn't fit with the earlier ones.

You sense you are about to learn something new about him or their relationship. But the movie's on pause. You get to think about what could have caused it.

Point #1 - While he sounds just like a self-centered, arrogant jerk, you know he isn't. A self-centered, arrogant jerk would not have done the things he did in the opening scenes. He's having a self-centered, arrogant moment.

Point #2 - Money's on his mind. He fit "get paid," "need the money," and "make any real money" into a single sentence.

Point #3 - Something feels unfair or illogical to him. He's angrily arguing for, not asking nicely for, making one task a priority over the other. We get angry when we feel mistreated.

Point #4 - He is not necessarily angry about the task at hand, and he's not necessarily angry at his wife. What we argue about or protest when we're angry isn't always the thing we're actually angry about. He might be angry about her failure to see this deserves higher priority than her ebook. He might feel it's unfair he must do the task he wants help with in order to get paid. Or he might be angry because the repairs to his tooth did not stop the pain in it. Once we're angry, even tiny mistreatments get blown out of proportion.

Point #5 - He's out of control. If he were thinking clearly, he would not speak to his wife like this. It would kill him to lose her. If he were thinking clearly, he would not ask anyone, especially not his wife, for help by insulting them. If he were thinking clearly, he would realize that upsetting his wife is going to cut into his time for finishing a critical task.

Point #6 - Being out of control with anger does not "strip away all pretense" and reveal the truth about someone. Research psychologists have put this myth to bed. The craziness is designed only to protect the angry person from any other threats by scaring them away.

So, here's an explanation: this husband is out of control angry about one or more things, one of them is probably a lack of money, and he wants a hand with a bothersome project, after which he will likely return to his usual loving self and might even make amends for being such a jerk.

If she wants to have a happier marriage, what should she do?

If you said just help him, I need to tell you this won't always make the marriage happier. If she helps with a feeling of resentment (it's unfair after supporting his startup that he doesn't support mine, it's unfair of him to ask for something I can help with when he cannot help with what I need to get done, or it's unfair that I have to help him AND get put down like this), it will hurt the relationship more than it helps.

Another thing she can do is help him get back in control. She could just say "ouch" and stay present with him for a moment in silence while he pulls himself together. If she's now angry, too, she can say, "I need some time to cool off," and go for a walk.

If she can stay calm, she can help him vent: "Anything else besides our miserable cash flow projections on your mind? Anybody else besides me that you're angry at today? Anything else you want to say about how difficult today's task will be?"

Eventually, as it becomes apparent he's about vented out, and if he's the sort who can shift from anger to laughter, she can add things like these: "Anything you want to add about today's weather? How are you feeling about the price of gas? And cute cat videos, got anything to say about them today?"

He needs to get himself back in control and she does, too, before she can take the next step.

But then she can say something like, "I want to help you bring in that money, and the next four hours are special and just not available for helping. I have stood by you through the early years in your career, and now I'm sticking by me through the early years of my career, because it's the only way to get to where you are now and to be able to pull my weight when you want to take risks in your career. So, is there any chance the work could wait until after dinner, when we could do it together, or that you could call someone to help, and I'll make us all a great dinner when I'm done?"

That's inviting a Third Alternative, a win-win outcome for both of them. First, she jumps the net and announces she wants what he wants. Then she adds what she needs (the next four hours uninterrupted) and offers a couple of suggestions to get the ball rolling on finding an option that works for both of them.

By the way, just because you found an explanation for what might lead a loving husband to let out this crushing tantrum doesn't mean you must accept it. If what happens next is another nastygram, he might actually be a self-centered arrogant jerk incapable of love. However, if this description is a new one, you might want to get him checked for a brain tumor or addiction, because these are both better guesses than a sudden onset of narcissistic personality disorder.


Comments

So nice to see a new post from you!

I really appreciate your perspective of leading the offended party away from husband or wife bashing, feeling victimized or returning an attack.

I agree -- a generally kind and decent spouse can have an unkind and nasty moment (or two!) and it's hardly a deal breaker.

What puzzles me is that you say this isn't a blog about how to be a better spouse. I think all your posts offer us an option to lead with our best. It's not a blog, thank goodness, about aiming to have a life where we sand off all of our rough edges or expect perfection.

To me, being a better spouse means behaving in ways that promote my well being, offering kindness to my husband, holding the "whole" rather than getting offended by his worst moments.

As always, I so appreciate what you have to say.

Thanks, Winifred! I agree that the methods I espouse are likely to benefit our spouses, too.

But, except for people whose spouse is on the way out the door who are desperate to stop this, I never recommend becoming a better husband or wife as a means to a happier marriage.

It's manipulative. It's making changes with the expectation that then the spouse will be forced to change, too.

I say take the direct route to being happy in the marriage

Patty, I'm so glad to see you posting again!

I once had a temp job with a big utility company. One day I was answering the phone for someone who was on a 15-minute break. An angry customer called and started screaming at me about all the problems she was having and how everyone had been giving her the runaround, etc., etc. She was mean. When she ran out of breath, I told her, very calmly, "I'm going to help you. But you need to understand that I'm just answering the phone and I'm not the cause of your problem. I don't deserve to be yelled at." She immediately took a deep breath and apologized.

Of course, it was easy for me to handle that situation calmly because it wasn't really personal. It's a lot harder when the crazy anger comes from someone you love and who you think loves you. I haven't always handled those situations quite as well!

This is why I appreciate your advice so much. You really help us put things in perspective as we look for new ways to approach relationship problems.

What a perfect example, Rosemary! And thank you for your kind words.

I just came across your blog and I think it just might be a godsend for me. Your pure, authentic advice is just what I need. I will be checking in daily and following your 3 steps to happiness. Thank you!

Welcome, Joanne! I am so glad you have found the blog, and I look forward to your comments.

I think I just found the mirror image of my blog. I am the guy writing to the men.
I can't find a contact form on your site. Wanted to introduce myself.
Enjoyed browsing your site.
Erikmatlock.com

The best way to reach me is by leaving a comment, Erik. I reply to almost all of them personally.

Your blog looks like a great resource, especially for all the men who are still leaving comments on
http://www.assumelove.com/2011/05/should_i_stay_married_for_the.html and
http://www.assumelove.com/2012/04/one_last_stand_before_divorce.html

Looks like you, too, have been there and done that in the foolish mistake department. I am so glad you saved your marriage. I can recommend your blog wholeheartedly, especially to my Christian readers.

Patty,

I've been married 5 years. The first four years, I struggled with explosive anger and was regularly emotionally/verbally abusive to my wife. Even on our honeymoon, I found myself using harsh words with her and shouting because she didn't feel like having sex.
Last summer, she asked for separation, and I began receiving counseling for this issue; in a year's time, I haven't raised my voice or used this type of language , and have been working steadily on improving my mental health and communication skills. We got back together (too soon, maybe, and before she was comfortable with it...a huge mistake) Just two days ago, however, she told me she wants a divorce.
Since January, she says that she's had nothing but feelings of revulsion toward me sexually; she says she likes me, loves me, but has no feelings of any kind toward me, and she doesn't ever think she can. I have failed continuously at speaking her love languages, making her feel loved, cherished, adored, etc.
After some questions, she said she'd be willing to see a "last-ditch" marriage counselor who specializes in these types of situations; we went to counseling only twice back in the Fall and stopped going for some reason; she blames me for that one too, but I always said I enjoyed it and loved the chance to talk with a third party present.
A few other factors: she started a new job a little while back and spends a great deal of time hanging out with those people while simultaneously withdrawing herself from our circles of friends, all of whom are married and have been through these types of situations before. Instead, she's hanging out with people who party hard, cheat on their spouses, and don't seem to care about marriage.
She's said vehemently that she is not seeing anybody else; she's an incredibly truthful person so I believe her.
This is so painful; I know that my past behavior has ruined the relationship. I know that my inability to meet her needs has driven her to this. But I also believe marriages can come back from worse than this. She's wounded and hurt and trying to show me that she is control of her own life decisions. Help?

Luke, while emotional and verbal abuse are enough to kill a marriage, an absence of such abuse is not enough to rebuild that marriage. In addition, four years of abuse and one of recovery means your wife has had five years, I suspect, of fearfulness about raising any problems she might have with your sex life, romantic life, or Love Language differences.

When a woman asks for a divorce and isn't seeing someone else, it's usually because she's unhappy and has already tried everything she can think of to change the situation. You two will definitely need some new options to change her mind.

So, I commend your willingness to find a marriage counselor who can handle cases like yours. I recommend www.DivorceBusting.com. Michelle Weiner-Davis is a wise woman with a strong commitment to avoiding divorce if at all possible. She and the therapists she trains understand the spot you're in and have options to offer both of you. (FYI: Michelle has not paid or even asked me to refer anyone to her. We met at a marriage education conference, after which I read her books, and I genuinely recommend her as a resource in cases like yours.)

Why can't more people just tell self centred jerks to go f*** themselves?
There are usually far better looking men then stupid jerks with better personalities why does the world pander to f***ing Jerks and don't tell me they don't because men have friendships with jerks for years and years but forget this fact when a woman dates a Jerks!!!
I hate jerks and will do whatever it takes in my power to get my backside far away from them as possible I have too many real problems to also date a jerk too and btw most jerks if not all of them have been so f***ing ugly anyway.
Usually some of my woman friends do like jerks and some are so crazy about jerks but then I have a look and think "What is the fuss? You have bad taste in men chick!!"
Also women are always defending stupid jerks for some reason they act like jerks are nice people and I think " F***!! Is this chick thick or something? Did I miss something? What part of jerks are so attractive I can't see anything? They are ugly, yes most men are uglier then women , They only think about their own needs before anyone else's this is not attractive!!!!"
I get so pissed every time other men think all women prefer jerks men its not all women it's only stupid thick, emotionally immature spiteful bitchy women who prefer jerks!!!
Sharp women don't give jerks the time of day in fact they make fun of stupid dumb sexist bitches that endorse such d***h*** behaviour to continue

This blog is not about dating, and this post is not about real jerks. It is about the mistake of letting your knee-jerk reactions keep you from seeing the truth about someone you love and respect.

Hello Patty-

While I am embarrassed to ask someone for input, I'm at a place of incredible confusion.
I married my husband twice. The first time I divorced was due to pornography issues. He says he wasn't cheating, but as soon as I left, he posted a sexually explicit photo of himself on an adult sex site and I was in the photo. I felt like I had been raped. The photo was taken in what I thought was a loving safe marriage. That, with the over-indulgence of his children sent me packing.
I went to school to specialize in my career. My temper had cooled and we were on good terms. At all times, he was VERY good to my son was elementary school aged at the time. When I got a job interview to come out West, he came with me despite my protests. I told him NOT to come with me to the interview. Whilst I was in the interview for 2 days, he bought me a beautiful home.
I was so overcome that someone would love me that much, I married him again 3 months later. We moved out West from the East.
Going a few years forward, his middle child got stopped for no insurance and had her car impounded. She told her father she had an accident and gotten hit...that it was ALL her fault and if his grandchild had been in the car, the baby would have died...it was like a bad soap show. (her friend told me what really happened and I confirmed through the state police)

I told my husband of the lie she had told. Additionally, she was in a wreck with a drunk driver (she was a passenger) and that there was evidence she was getting pass-out-drunk. My husband didn't believe me until he saw the police report.

She had no automobile and he asked me if he could give her my almost new car! He was going on and on despite my objections. I finally told him 'This is the wrong thing to do for an alcoholic. I support your decision, but I am not responsible for whatever happens.' He then brought me my car's title and I signed it over to his daughter. I should not have said I supported him...I have been angry ever since, especially when my own son could not get a car and he graduated with honors.

2 years later, he has admitted to me that he is in 86K of credit card debt. We are re-financing our house. Although I am physically disabled, I must go back to work. I have an autistic son who is a Freshman in college and despite my husband's promises and the bio dad not helping, I am responsible for helping my son.

I feel sick that I made the same mistake twice. I feel stupid and played for a fool by a total jerk. I admit I am very angry at him and his daughter. I am angry with myself. I appreciate your input.

Weezah, that's a really difficult situation you're in. The first thing I would recommend is that you tease apart which of your problems are marriage problems and which are your own problems that will remain yours no matter what happens to your marriage.

You are physically disabled. Not a marriage problem. You cannot afford not to work. Not a marriage problem. You have an autistic son whose bio dad is not helping. Not a marriage problem. You have an autistic son whose stepdad is not helping. Not a marriage problem. You have a son who did not receive a car as a high school graduation gift. Not a marriage problem. Unmarried, you'd still be disabled, still need an income, and still have an autistic son with no car and be getting no help with his needs.

You appear to have a husband with poor impulse control. That's a marriage problem, but not an unsolvable one if you're willing to accept his bad decisions have little or nothing to do with his love for you and that you've been enjoying or aiding and abetting some of his irresponsible acts (accepting the purchase of a house and a new car and perhaps some of the things charged on the credit card, turning over a new car to an alcoholic instead of refusing or selling the car to send her to rehab if you don't need it, agreeing to refinance the house instead of downsizing to pay off that debt, not checking your joint credit report, not working when you were sinking in debt) and now it's time to pay the piper.

If he's someone you love except for the impulse control issues, I would suggest a financial counselor, with both of you participating fully and openly to create a plan that you will monitor. I would suggest a visit to www.moneyhabitudes.com. I would suggest an Imago marriage therapist to help you work out a better balance of responsibilities in your marriage, so that you can feel safe enough to love him. And I would suggest a psychologist for him, to help him master the art of impulse control.

Hi Patty, I've recently freed myself from a very controlling man who played mind games with me and ruined a project we both were working on together. I no longer love him, but I don't want to be cruel when he contacts me asking me to come back and wondering why I had to leave. What should I do?

The situation is intense and convoluted and has gone on many months. Do you do private, paid consultation sessions?

I do at times, Mina, but my schedule is tied up through December.

Controlling people who want you to do something you don't want to do (like come back) are not likely to find you nice or kind or justified no matter which way you choose to reject them. So choose the simplest, most direct one and keep repeating it.

If you have no interest in resuming the relationship, this is all you need to say.

Honesty is not cruel. And explanations are for relationships you want to improve, not for ones you want to end.

And if you are in physical danger, find a strong friend to stay with you, a friend he doesn't know to put you up somewhere secret, or a job in another city so he can't find you to ask about coming back.

Sounds like she's bending over backward for someone who's a self-centered egotistical prick! Kick him to the curb!!

Hi patty, I'm four years marred to a man who, I feel, is constantly letting me down. We never have time for ourselves (3 kids his mine ours) and when we do, something always happens to where I'm left either at home or regretting ever having agreed to try and spend time with him. We have different parenting approaches and I resent him for making me feel like I'm either a bad parent for doing things my way or hating myself for being so hard on them to do things his way. We've discussed splitting up but he claims he doesn't want to lose his family then when I feel he has a chance to redeem himself he again makes the "self-centered" choice and I again feel let down. He doesn't have the best models for parenting and family issues as his parents were dysfunctional so I try to give him the benefit that he tries his best but we can't seem to communicate without placing blame or full on fighting. I guess I just really want to know how to get past resentment or when is it acceptable to call it quits. I don't want to get divorced but I know we're both not happy doing what were doing.

Karla, when it's acceptable to leave depends entirely on you and the people whose acceptance you seek. I deal only with how to enjoy being married until you leave.

I've probably got some good suggestions for how to avoid getting left at home or doing something together that you regret, but it's not clear how you end up deciding to stay home or what you dislike about your activities together. Tell me more. I would love to help.

One suggestion I would give everyone is to do what Martin Seligman (author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish) calls a Strengths Date. It's an activity chosen specifically to let each of you shine at your top character strength (http://www.viacharacterblog.org/in-marriage-recognizing-each-others-strengths-is-win-win/), whether that's playfulness, creativity, spirituality, love of learning, justice, open-mindedness, or any of the other 18 strengths the viacharacter.org site tests for.

The other suggestion I offer you has to do with those parenting styles. None of us gets enough education on how to raise children before we have to do it, and do it with someone who disagrees on how to do it based on just as little information.

I read a great book when our son was just a few months old. It's out of print now, and you can grab a used copy on Amazon for the cost of shipping. It helped me identify my natural parenting style (quite unlike my parents') and see how it affects the odds for various good and bad outcomes in childhood and young adulthood.

While there are a few toxic parenting mistakes, our general styles of parenting are neither good nor bad. They just change those odds for our kids. There's a quiz to identify your style and a lot of research into how it affects kids and the adults they turn into. It's called Parenting: Four Styles in Child Rearing, by Samellyn Wood, Roger Bishop, and Davene Cohen, 1978.

I hope it will give you more respect for your husband's choices and less emotional ways to support your own as you two navigate the very difficult waters of step-parenting.


Hi - I am in need of a huge amount of help, guidance, and advice. I have been with my husband for 7 years and married 2. I have had the same job the entire time while he bounces around. He finally landed a great job with more responability than he knew. He also started his masters. When he started working there he slowly began to go out after class and on weekends with his coworkers. I was not a fan of seeing him less and not being involved. I raised hell about it and he told me I need to accept it and change. So I did. He still was not happy.

He started to become mean, nasty, and stopped showing me any signs of love or affection. No more texts or calls only if I engaged first. However he still slept in the bed and wanted to be intimate with me. My husband used to be the sweetest more loving man and now he will barely look me in the eye.

5-6 weeks have gone by and I started seeing a therapist. For the last month I have been calm, cool, and supportive. He still is nasty and unloving. It is almost arrogance and cockiness. My husband and I have sat down several times in the last month and he says he can't handle all
Of the responability in his life and wants to be "selfish". So therefore he wants to divorce and sell our home.

I am devastated. This came out of nowhere. He says this is about him not me. He says he isn't smart and need to focus on his career and school in order to survive. This isn't the marriage he envisioned. However everything was fine until he started this job and school. Also, during the last 5 weeks he brings up things from the past and blames everything now on me. Past fights, how he was never really happy with our wedding, money, and things that are crazy!

He has yet to tell anyone what is REALLY gong on. Lastly after 5 weeks of giving my all and unconditional love I left. I packed up my things (4 bags full) and told him I am leaving bc I'm giving him what he wants and I can no longer handle his behavior. Was this the right thing to do? I am hoping he will wake up and realize this is a huge mistake. It's almost like a mid life crisis at 30. Help please!

Let me suggest a book that may answer your questions, Sally. The title is "Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men," and the author is Lundy Bancroft.

I recommend it because it sounds like he stopped being sweet when (1) he had married you and (2) no longer had to depend on your dependable income. Also because he says this isn't the marriage he expected and he's arrogant and mean to you. If the book does a good job of describing the changes in your husband, it will also provide you with some excellent and expert advice. Please don't go back before you have a chance to read it.

Of course, what she describes may not fit what you're experiencing, but it's the first thing to consider, for your safety. If if doesn't, another possibility is that he's reacting (poorly, of course) to your raising hell about his spending time with his new coworkers, if that's not to avoid you but rather to go along with what's done by others at this new job and make sure he can keep it. In that case, he might perceive your complaints as a no-win situation: he finally gets a good job worthy of your respect but he if he does what it takes to keep it, he loses your respect and gets hit with the extra stress of your demands while he's also taken on the extra stress of going back to school.

A lot of women faced with a husband who's behaving badly for no obvious reason offer him unconditional love. It seldom does the trick, because what men want and need is respect. Without it, no amount of loving will get you very far. And we're not talking "yes, sir!" respect here. We're talking trusting his judgment about what his new job requires, appreciating the new income and security and the prospects of a better future when he gets the degree without adding that "but" right after it because you want to see more of him.

If any of this sounds like what you're facing (and you're not also dealing with what Lundy Bancroft describes), you might want to check out compassionpower.com and/or Emerson Eggerichs' book "Love and Respect."

I hope things all work out for the best, Sally.

She is the self centered arrogant jerk getting all upset over an inadvertant admonishment. Pin and needling every word of his into some kind of warped minded manifesto. Its sick minds like this that are trully the worst people to deal with.

Nushahgfre, I believe you must have had someone else in mind as you wrote your comment. There is nothing sick about taking offense at hearing her husband say her ebook project won't succeed, and she said nothing to her husband after hearing it. Instead, she wrote to me for some advice.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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