Self

The Real Reason Your Wife Will Never Say She’s Wrong

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woman that looks sorry

Many men tell me that their wives will never admit they are wrong, and honestly, I see this more than the gender inverse in couples counseling.

Many women struggle with admitting they are wrong, and instead of this being a narcissistic issue (although certainly sometimes it is), it really stems from massive insecurity and low self-esteem.

Many women struggle with depression, and the most common type is atypical depression. One hallmark of this is rejection sensitivity. This means that your wife is so sensitive to being potentially rejected or criticized that she is highly defensive when she feels others think she is wrong. An example of how this manifests is here.

Depending on how fragile she is emotionally, she may or may not be able to admit even to herself that she is wrong, and certainly will not admit it if she feels she is being attacked. If she is rejection sensitive, any comment will feel like an attack. Note that fear of disapproval manifests differently in men; read this on ‘saving face.’

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Other women cannot admit they are wrong because they have tendencies toward Borderline Personality Disorder. People who struggle with this have such deep-seated self-esteem issues and are so terrified of abandonment that they cannot open themselves up to potential loss by admitting they were wrong about something.

They feel that any misstep could push their partner away. Ironically, this refusal to admit being wrong is what actually pushes partners away. Admitting you are wrong shows openmindedness, which is much more attractive to a partner. But admitting weakness is so scary to these individuals that they cannot see the forest for the trees.

Also, women who were criticized a lot as children and had parents with overly high standards will be especially sensitive to criticism later in life. (Especially Highly Sensitive oldest daughters of covert narcissist mothers.)

If these women also have depressive or borderline tendencies, this will be amplified considerably.

If your in-laws are extremely difficult and constantly make passive-aggressive comments toward your wife or even overtly criticize her in front of you, try and picture her as a little girl in the same situation. This will help you feel closer to her and see where her aversion to criticism originated.

Men who understand the roots of their wives’ inability to admit they are wrong will be able to deal with their wives in a healthier way, with less resentment. A best-case scenario would be for men to try and understand what’s behind their wives’ inability to say they are wrong WHILE the woman works on being better able to acknowledge her weakness in this area.

This could fruitfully be done in couples counseling, although often, couples counseling with these women is difficult whenever the counselor tries to say that the woman has something to work on. Over time, as the woman trusts the therapist more, she may be able to eventually look in at her contribution to the marital discord.

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However, many women will reject counseling, or will only stay invested as long as the man’s issues are the sole focus. These women may never be able to say they are wrong, and if the man wants to remain married, this requires an acceptance-based perspective. This is facilitated by a deeper understanding of the origin of this issue. Also, it is necessary to acknowledge your own limitations when accepting your partner’s limitations, and this is what I advise with both genders in most situations.

The men married to these women are not perfect either, and they need to look inward at their own weaknesses to prevent themselves from falling into a Mr. Perfect And His Crazy Wife dynamic. This would be the version where the husband is the “rational” one who says, “Oh, you’re right, I did forget to take the trash out” and his wife is the “crazy” one who defends herself saying it wasn’t full yet.

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Note: Before you read further if you’re a woman who is going to write in about how your husband is actually the one who will never admit he is wrong, just flip the genders and take the advice given.

Remember, I write about what I see, and sometimes one gender does actually do something more than the other in my clinical experience, but there are always exceptions. And here’s something related that men usually do more of in my experience.

Back to the post at hand. You may recognize this dynamic but ask, “What should a man do in a situation where he is expected to admit wrongdoing but his wife never does?” Let’s use the case of the trash outlined above.

Here are a few approaches:

1. Recognize that she has deep shame about forgetting the trash and this is probably due to her upbringing

Leave it alone and ask yourself, “Why do I even care so deeply about calling her out on this? What good will it do?” Interrogating your need to call out your wife may be very interesting on a deep level. Do you usually put yourself into no-win situations like this?

2. Ask yourself whether you are truly admitting your own wrongdoings as much and as openly as you think you are

It is very hard for someone to completely refuse to admit their wrongdoings when a partner is completely open and vulnerable about their own. Maybe you do say, “Yeah, I forgot the trash,” but you are saying it in a rude and sulky way. If this is the case, then really neither of you openly and genuinely admits wrongdoing. 

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3. Ask yourself if you would care so much about this issue if other aspects of the marriage were happier

Maybe some of these will be easier for your wife to work on. For example, she may be a lot better at having more sex with you if you say that’s an issue than she ever will be about admitting she was wrong about anything. Would you be as upset about the trash if other things were better, like your romantic/sexual connection?

4. Try to view yourself as someone who models kindness and love for your kids

In this example, everyone in the home likely sees that Mommy forgot the trash and is mad at herself. Kids aren’t stupid. So if you’re the bigger person in this situation, you are modeling love and acceptance for your kids.

5. However, do not let your wife yell at or berate you for what YOU do wrong

You may be the bigger person but that doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. Note that many women will work on anger and yelling, especially if it is witnessed by the kids, more readily than they will work on being able to admit they forgot something. If your wife refuses to work on her anger issues or calls you names or anything like this, you need couples counseling right away and/or to reconsider the future of this relationship.

6. Also, remember that you are not trapped in your marriage

If you are truly deeply unhappy and your wife refuses to admit her wrongs and they are mounting about important things, like not admitting she treats you and/or the kids poorly, versus forgetting the trash, then you need your own therapy to figure out whether to stay or go.

Hopefully, this post provided you with some alternate ways to view this common marital dynamic, that can give you a wider perspective, cultivate empathy, and ameliorate some of your resentment and anger. Couples or individual work can help you build on these insights and work toward a healthier dynamic in your marriage overall.

RELATED: 10 Signs Your Marriage Is Making You Depressed

Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.