One way signs going in perpendicular directions.

How To Communicate With Your Stubborn Husband (Or Wife)

Mention “stubborn husband” to anyone familiar with black-and-white TV, and Archie Bunker will probably come to mind. Opinionated, hard-headed, grumpy, sarcastic – stubbornness may have actually been one of his less offensive traits! If you’re a woman wondering how to communicate with your stubborn husband, you might get some helpful tips from Edith. But you’ll probably get some better ones here….

If “Grrr” is the guttural utterance filling the word bubble above your head when dealing with your stubborn man, the following may surprise you.

(Then again, it may not.)

For all the frustration that accompanies communication with a stubborn male, there just might be some science behind the annoying trait.

A cleverly designed study found that people with higher testosterone levels (i.e., men) tend to think they’re right, even when they’re wrong, more often than others.

Subjects given a testosterone gel made wrong choices more impulsively, took longer to make correct choices, and rarely checked their work in comparison with the placebo group.

Remind you of anyone?

No, it doesn’t excuse anything. But it may shed some “behavioral light” onto a familiar tendency.

And it might provide an informative backdrop for how to communicate with your spouse without fighting, given that stubbornness can be so provocative.

Here are some essential guidelines for how to communicate with your stubborn husband:

  • Understand gender differences in communication.

    We could focus on this one topic for days. We wouldn’t change the reality or marvel any less at it, but we might come away with effective ways of navigating it.

    Deborah Tannen’s 1990 groundbreaking book You Just Don’t Understand spoke like a fly-on-the-wall to communication between men and women.

    The underlying takeaway of her thesis was (and may always be) the “different world of words” in which men and women live.

    Whatever catch-phrase you use – Mars-Venus, won’t-ask-for-directions, doesn’t-get-it – the reality is that gender realities are different.

    Again, no truism is a justification for disrespect, unkindness, control, or abuse of any kind. But lowering resistance to “it is what it is” can open the door to mutual understanding and mutual benefits.

  • Strategize your conversations.

    Communication in any context always benefits from sensitivity to factors like timing, setting, body language, personal accountability, and emotional preparedness.

    Dealing with a stubborn partner makes these factors especially important. You’re trying to get through to someone who is resistant and, as insensitive as he may seem, actually “ultra-sensitive.”

    Think about what makes your husband calm, relaxed, less “on-edge” and guarded.

    There is, for example, a lot of truth in “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” A conversation after dinner can have very different results than a conversation before dinner.

    Prepare a space and time without interruption from phones, TVs, and children.

    And pay close attention to the next point….

  • Tackle small segments at a time.

    Learning how to communicate with your stubborn husband is, in large part, about learning how to pick your battles.

    At the very least, it’s about learning to break down issues of concern into smaller, focused “morsels” that can be digested without creating bigger issues.

    As a woman, you are naturally gifted in your ability to multi-task, multi-think, multi-communicate.

    Your husband?

    Not so much.

    This isn’t about one way being better than the other. It’s about two natural proclivities being different – and complementary.

    Men tend to be single-focused. Just the facts/fax, M’am. Throw them into a conversation that is about or involves emotions, and you might as well be throwing their brains into a centrifuge.

    Remember your endgame. What are you trying to accomplish – in this moment, in this conversation – when communicating with your stubborn husband?

    When in doubt, reel it in.

  • Validate him.

    I know, I know. It feels as if you’re the one doing all the work.

    You’re having to make all the adjustments to what your husband can’t or won’t do, and stubbornness is a maddening obstacle to intimacy.

    But hear me out.

    Relationships aren’t about competition. They aren’t about losing a piece of your soul if you validate and uplift the other person.

    It may feel that way if you’re not getting what you need. But learning effective techniques for dealing with stubbornness can help you change that.

    Remember that men need to feel validated. They may not emote in the same way that women do, but their deepest needs really aren’t that different from yours.

    If necessary, go back to what you fell in love with in the first place.

    Did you feel safe with him because of the way he stood up for his convictions – and you?

    Did you feel hopeful and secure about your future because of his focus and determination at work?

    Did you admire his ability to go the distance and do whatever was necessary to achieve a goal?

    Don’t lose sight of the gifts that sometimes express themselves through his stubbornness and need to always be right.

    Validate what is true for you. And word it in a succinct way that will communicate to him exactly what you value in the context of the issue at hand.

  • Resist the temptation to tell him he is wrong.

    Nothing will put a roadblock into communication like telling a stubborn man that he is “wrong.”

    No one likes to hear words like “wrong” when sharing a feeling, opinion, memory, or idea. That one careless word will shoot like a bullet through all the best intentions.

    It reeks of entitlement, self-righteousness, control, disrespect, and belittlement.

    And yes, the temptation can be exacerbated by a stubborn man who has no problem telling you that you are wrong.

    Remember that you are working through a “stubborn pattern” of communication. The process isn’t going to be without frustration or hiccups.

    But this is where you can bring your gifts of emotional intelligence, nuance of understanding, and knack for finesse in wording to the table.

    Chances are you aren’t trying to prove him wrong – or yourself “right.” You really want to be heard and have your thoughts, feelings, needs, and ideas treated with value and respect equal to his.

  • Keep your cool.

    Let’s acknowledge the obvious: Trying to communicate with someone who is stubborn and always thinks he’s right can be maddening. It’s certainly exhausting.

    But nothing will pose a challenge – and a license to “up the stubbornness ante” – like losing your cool.

    Take deep breaths. Stay in the moment. Keep your goals small, focused, and succinct.

    And remember that part of self-care is not allowing someone else to steal your peace.

  • Try to find merit in his viewpoint…and ask him to respect yours.

    Assuming that love, respect, and commitment are the touchstones of your marriage, the communication challenges you face are likely about each of you feeling heard.

    They’re also likely to be about feeling safe and confident that your needs can be met.

    Listen deeply, attentively, unguardedly. Listen between the lines for messages that he simply may not word in the same way you would.

    Perhaps your husband’s stubbornness is rooted, in part, in a feeling of heavy responsibility to provide for his family so you can pursue a personal passion.

    Perhaps he fears having a “weak” image among his work peers and doesn’t know how to separate his work life from his home life.

    Whatever viewpoints underlie his stubbornness, listen for what you can value and validate.

    Demonstrating this measured, self-controlled willingness to be open to his way of thinking will give you the platform on which to ask the same from him.

Communication is a lifetime learning curve, even in the best relationships. 

But communicating with an angry spouse, a stubborn spouse, or a spouse lacking in self-awareness poses unique challenges.

Hold onto the precept that marriage is not about competition. 

Neither of you has to “lose” in order for the other to “win.”

Intimacy is created when you can both patiently, lovingly, even sacrificially find within your differences the seed of unity that sustains your common vision.

Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer private couples retreats. To learn more about working with Mary Ellen, contact her here.

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Mary Ellen Goggin

Mary Ellen is a highly skilled and intuitive relationship guide. She brings over 35 years’ experience with individuals and businesses as a lawyer, mediator, personal coach and educator. She received her J.D. at University of New Hampshire Law School and a Master’s Degree at Harvard University. Mary Ellen co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Jerry Duberstein — and they were married by chapter 3. Mary Ellen brings a unique blend of problem-solving, practicality, and warmth to her work. She’s a highly analytic person, with geeky and monkish tendencies. She’s a daredevil skydiver, a voracious seeker of knowledge, and an indulgent grandmother. Her revolution: helping people become the unapologetic rulers of their inner + outer realms. Read more about the retreats