MY HUSBAND YELLS AT ME AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
By Lorin Harrott
I watched my friend Mariah cringe as her husband leaned out of the bedroom door and yelled at her,
“Damnit! You left the faucet in the bathroom dripping again!! How many times does it take to get it through your head that water costs money?!!”
After he slammed the door she looked at me, clearly embarrassed, and said, “Sorry, my husband yells at me sometimes.“
Mariah and I are newish friends, so I don’t know her husband well. But yelling at anyone like that seemed over-the-top and I said as much.
Her response was,
“I know, I hate it when my husband yells at me. I don’t know how to make him stop though. And really, it’s only when I do something dumb. I think it’s pretty normal for a husband to yell on occasion anyway.”
No, Mariah – and any other wife out there who needs to hear it – it’s not normal or okay for a husband to yell at his wife (or family).
If you’re one of the many wives out there who have ever said, “My husband yells at me,” you need to understand a few things.
- You’re not alone
- Yelling isn’t an effective method of communication
- It can be considered abusive
- It can – and needs to – change
Why Does My Husband Yell At Me?
Yelling is a verbally aggressive way of expressing yourself. It occurs most often during times of emotional stress or agitation.
And while yelling isn’t the right way to communicate, it definitely sends a message. Unfortunately, the message it sends has very little to do with the words that are being yelled.
Generally, the message being delivered when someone yells, regardless of the words being used, is:
- I’m upset
- I’m frustrated
- I’m emotional
- I need your attention
- My self-control is beginning to falter
Most of us can relate to yelling in certain situations.
If a child runs into a busy street, for instance, yelling makes sense.
But a husband who habitually yells at his wife or family for any minor infraction is a different story and not acceptable.
One of the ways to get the yelling to stop is to understand why it starts in the first place.
For many men who yell there are underlying factors that create the feelings described above. But rather than find a way to communicate what they feel, these emotions come out through angry behavior like yelling.
Some of the things that lead to this include:
- Dissatisfaction with themselves. When a person feels like they’ve failed or they simply don’t measure up, it can create frustration and anger that may get taken out on those they love via yelling.
- Stress. External stress can create an internal pressure that leaves a man a walking powder keg. One of the ways that pressure can start being released is through a husband yelling at his wife.
- Depression. Men who experience depression often lash out at those they love. If your husband is yelling at you, you should be aware that it may be a sign of depression.
- Midlife crisis. Midlife crisis has a number of symptoms and can be a serious issue. One of those symptoms can be angry outbursts like yelling.
- It was the way he was raised. What children see as they grow up is what they’ll think is normal until someone teaches them differently. If your husband frequently yells at you it could be because that’s the type of communication he was raised with.
These aren’t the only reasons that can drive a husband to yell at his wife, but they are the most common.
Is It Abuse If He Yells At Me?
Understanding the ‘why’ behind your husband routinely yelling at you can be helpful – but it doesn’t make it okay.
No one wants to be yelled at. It’s hurtful, demeaning, and embarrassing. Yelling is also contrary to the good communication needed to maintain a healthy relationship.
But is it abusive?
If once or twice a year your husband raises his voice in frustration and then finds a way to calm down, his yelling is probably not abusive.
But if like my friend Mariah, your husband yells often and with very little provocation, he’s crossed the line into abusive behavior.
That line can be blurry. Dr. Kurt routinely helps couples see it more clearly. When asked about it he had these thoughts to share:
A husband yelling about the sloppy job the plumber did is very different from him yelling and calling his wife ‘stupid’ for overpaying the plumber. Yelling definitely becomes abuse when it’s a personal attack, and includes name calling, cursing, or put downs. Some of us are much more comfortable with yelling than others. If you grew up in a house where raised voices were common, but your spouse did not, then yelling can be something you each feel very differently about. It’s also very different on the sending end of yelling than on the receiving. Does he lack a filter, or is she too sensitive? Could be either, or maybe a little bit of both.”
If you’re unsure of what your husband’s yelling may mean, consider the following questions:
- Do you feel like you must walk on eggshells around him?
- Do you worry about how he’s going to react to things?
- Do you ever feel insecure or bad about yourself because of his yelling?
- Does he frighten you?
Answering yes to any of these questions, and especially more than one, is a strong indication that your husband’s yelling has become verbal abuse.
How Can I Get Him To Stop Yelling At Me?
Getting your husband to change his behavior and the difficulty in doing so will depend on two things:
- The reasons for his yelling. This is where understanding what’s driving his behavior is helpful.
- His awareness of his own behavior and its effects on those around him. In order for him to change, he’ll need to recognize the need for change.
So, as you endeavor to stop your husband from yelling at you, consider taking the following steps:
- Have a conversation about why he yells. Men can have a hard time discussing things that upset them or make them feel vulnerable. Letting him know you’re there and are willing to help him with whatever he’s struggling with can help provide him with the support and relief he needs, and can be the first step toward behavior change.
- Let him know how it affects you (and your family). It’s possible he’s unaware of the consequences of his yelling. Be clear with him on the toll it’s taking and the effect his yelling is having on your self-esteem, relationship, and even social life. And the impact on your kids if you have them.
- Gain his agreement on better ways of communicating. It may be that he’s unsure or out of practice with more appropriate ways to communicate. Discuss what other options for expressing himself look like.
- Set a plan for when he feels the need to yell. You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Having a backup plan for when your husband feels the need to yell at you is a good idea. This might be something like a cooling-off period or counting to 10 before he speaks.
- Be prepared to be patient but firm. Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s likely he’ll falter. So, you’ll need to be patient, but also firm about what’s acceptable and what’s not.
- Consider talking to a counselor. It’s possible that whatever is causing your husband to yell at you so often runs too deep for the two of you to address without assistance. The help of a professional counselor can teach strategies for anger management and tools for more effective communication.
What To Take Away
As Mariah and I talked more about her situation, her sadness became apparent. No wife should have to say, “My husband yells at me” and accept it as just the way of things.
By the end of our conversation, I felt confident that she knew she deserved to be treated with more respect and was going to begin the work needed to get her husband to change his behavior.
If you can relate to Mariah and have found yourself frustrated by your husband’s yelling, keep the following things in mind:
- There are reasons driving his behavior – understanding them will help you help him change.
- Just because there are reasons for behavior doesn’t make the behavior okay.
- Constant yelling is abusive and shouldn’t be accepted.
- Helping your husband learn to communicate in ways that don’t include yelling can take time and patience.
- You may need the support of a counselor to effect solid and sustainable changes.
Finding yourself saying, “My husband yells at me” doesn’t mean you have to accept it as a normal and acceptable state of your marriage. Are you in a situation similar to Mariah’s? If so, you need to know you’re not alone, and that there’s hope for change.