Here's how you hold him accountable.
One of the number one questions women ask me is why men lie and cheat. The answer, in one word is — shame.
Now you're probably asking yourself, "Dr. D, how in the hell does someone who lies and cheats do so out of shame?"
From your perspective, cheating comes across as caring only about one's own self, one's own activities, and not giving a damn about the rest of the world. But the truth is ... beneath it all, the exact opposite is driving his cheating behavior. Such behavior is merely a mask.
Beneath it lies a very insecure man (or woman) who fears rejection, criticism, and abandonment.
Now don't think for one minute that I don't understand how you feel. More than likely you think the self-centered jerk who lied to you, broke your heart, and made you feel like a fool over and over again has no clue of what "shame" is. Herein lies the conundrum. How can a person operating with such a lack of emotional intelligence, a high degree of false pride, and an over inflated ego be ashamed of anything? Put simply, he doesn't know any better.
Here are a few signs of a man with a serious shame problem:
Everything he does is someone else's fault
He gets mad and defensive when you correct him
He over inflates his abilities on a consistent basis
He over promises and under-delivers
The behavior outlined above is that of a man who ultimately feels inadequate. And, let's face it. Who in their right mind likes to feel inadequate? Nobody! Not even you.
When people feel inadequate and ashamed of themselves, it has rippling effects. When men, in particular, experience this toxic emotion, they often project it outward, by taking it out on you (treating you poorly or making you feel responsible for his actions) and by seeking external relief from shame (by hiding out and numbing out in an affair). In order to protect the ego, people (especially men) come across as narcissistic.
Making matters worse, women involved with men like this often enable the bad behavior. More than likely that's exactly what you've done or are doing if you're dealing with a man who has shame related behaviors/issues. Here's why — you're projecting on him the nurturing and attention you desire for yourself. By the time you realize what's going on, it's too late. You're caught up in a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship.
To begin the process of fixing this, you must first understand what "shame" is — shame is a painful feeling that's a mix of regret, self-hate, and feelings of dishonor. Here are a few powerful things you can do to help pull him out of shame (and protect yourself along the way):
1. Use the word "we," not "you." More than likely the man you're dealing with grew up in an environment latent with criticism. By using the word "we" you're fostering a team dynamic in your relationship. This helps him feel accountable for his contribution to circumstances and situations, without having him feel like he's being ostracized. Saying "we need to get back on track" achieves an entirely different outcome than saying "you need to get back on track."
2. Lower your voice. Don't shout or raise your voice when confronting him. In other words, talk to him the way you would a little boy. After all, it's the little boy inside of him who needs reassurance and understanding. It's the wounded child within that keeps sabotaging his interpersonal growth.
3. Use negative reinforcement to get his attention. As with most people, "punishment" such as cursing a man out, hitting, or threatening him, only adds to the problem. Negative reinforcement, however, allows him to see healthy natural consequences of his behavior. It involves you holding your boundaries, allowing him to see the positive things his selfish behavior causes him to lose.
4. Lead by example. Just because he's an adult doesn't mean he always thinks like one. By nature men are competitive, use this to your advantage. Meaning, as you pull your weight following through on responsibilities and obligations, demand that he pull his.
5. Stop accepting mediocrity. Make clear your expectations, while being that which you seek.
6. Lastly, never use the phrase "a real man." This is one of the most shaming phrases men hear. "A real man" would do this, or "a real man" would never do that. Coming at him with this phrase will only lead to a useless confrontation. It's the equivalent of him comparing you to your mother.
On some level, we're all a work in progress ... including you. Just because your man seems broken now doesn't mean he's incapable of fixing himself. Your job is to make sure that you empower him, not enable him. Trust me, when he knows better, more than likely he'll do better.