Why Does He Criticize the Way I Look?

Dear Edahn,

After I had my baby, my husband started to criticize my body. I got into shape, but he still puts me down. He constantly tells me that I am not his perfect girl, and describes what his perfect girl is like. I've become very jealous and insecure. I can't put this behind me. How do I forget what he said and put myself back together? How do I forgive him?

What he's doing is a form of abuse and torture. By reminding you of your deficiencies, your husband is teasing you and repeatedly subjecting you to feelings of worthlessness and inferiority. That's his way of keeping you dependent on him while he grabs all the power in your relationship.

If you want to repair this situation, your husband needs to take responsibility for what he's doing and see that “I’m just being honest” is not a justification for hurting someone. Ideally, he should see how his actions are motivated by his own fears of being powerless, confused, and abandoned. In the meantime, it's enough that he cuts this out permanently.

As far as you're concerned, you also need to make a few changes. You're approaching this situation from the mindset of someone who is terrified of standing up for herself and afraid of what will happen. That's not going to work because (1) you'll always be needy and afraid and (2) your husband will never listen to you or respect you. If you want respect, don't ask for it politely. Demand it. Why the fuck not? Regardless of whether he's afraid or needy or jerky or even not attracted to you, he still needs to respect you and not treat you like a possession.

It's scary to ask for respect, to be upset, and to vocalize your disappointments when you're not used to it because you risk losing someone you've become dependent on. But even assuming that happens, wouldn't you rather live alone with dignity and honor than be in a relationship with someone who treats you as an accessory?

Get up, get angry, and start drawing some boundaries. You could try saying something along the lines of: "Yeah, well guess what. Your penis isn't that big, but I still love you and I don't remind you of it everyday. How does that make you feel knowing that? How do you think I feel? Stop saying that to me because I feel unwanted and inferior. I don’t care if it’s true or not. I respect you and your feelings and demand that you respect me in return. I will not put up with this anymore. Wake up." Give him a little time to feel a little healthy guilt. If he’s truly remorseful, you can show him that you still care for him and go do something nice together. If he feels bad about your comment, then you can tell him that you said it to prove a point and not to hurt him, and that you really do love him just the way he is.

If it happens again or something else close to that happens, speak up! Be firm and tell him to knock it the hell off. Speak with conviction and confidence, even if it doesn't feel natural yet. It will. Don't put up with any more nonsense. You should never compromise your dignity and honor and you should never put up with abuse.