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My Spouse Is Selfish and Stubborn, Resisting My Proposals and Ideas!

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A person claims their spouse is selfish and stubborn, refusing to deal with their disagreement by finding a win-win solution. But is the spouse selfish? Or, could the spouse have goodwill but is more fearful than stubborn? 

For instance, suppose there is a disagreement about how they should spend a bonus check and tax return money, both of which exceeded expectations. She requests that they spend the extra cash on five airlines tickets to visit Disneyland in California. He, on the other hand, prefers getting a new leased vehicle. 

After much discussion, he proposes a win-win solution: purchase a good used van, using a portion of their extra cash for the initial payment while reserving the rest to drive to California and go to Disneyland for three days. This seems a reasonable, exciting solution where the family gets both the new car he feels they need as well as the memorable vacation she wants them to experience together. A win-win, right?

However, she shuts down on his idea. Why? At this point, he could be tempted to proclaim her as being selfish. Does she not realize how unwise it would be to spend a couple thousand dollars on plane tickets when he seems to be tinkering under the hood of their ten-year-old car more and more these days? What is she thinking? he could be asking himself. We’re not made of money! Why is she so stubborn that she won’t accept what I think is a perfect solution?

But could there be more to the story? Is she truly being selfish and stubborn, or has he given her reason to fear that he might change the agreed-upon solution midway? Two years earlier, she proposed a similar win-win approach when they received extra cash from an inheritance left by her aunt. He wanted to build a fireplace with a barbecue pit, using Fondulac stone and hiring a stonemason. She, on the other hand, wanted to buy a high-end above-ground pool and a Jacuzzi. They compromised by deciding to put the above-ground pool in for the kids and not use stone on the fireplace. They realized they could do both projects. Win-win! 

However, the husband changed the plan in the spring, beginning with the fireplace. He gave the money they had set aside for the pool to a stonemason to put Fondulac rock on the fireplace. The husband was convinced he was getting a raise at work and would have the extra cash later to put in the pool. However, what the company promised about profit sharing, fell through. Consequently, even though she knew her goodwilled husband was not being deceptive, for he truly did feel the money for the pool would be there, he still DISAPPOINTED her, giving her a valid reason to not trust entirely that future win-win solutions would go as planned. 

So, she paused on his win-win proposal this time because she feared he might spend more money on a van than he originally proposed, which would prohibit the Disneyland trip. She felt INSECURE about him altering the win-win solution since he did that before. Though she knew he had goodwill, she could envision him getting excited about the purchase of the van and spending more than he should or succumbing to the sales pitch on a lease for a new vehicle. She needed reassurance that his proposal would stick. She wasn't being selfish or stubborn, as he may have initially thought at her resistance, but fearful. In light of the past event with the stone mason, he would need to take more time with her and together establish some guidelines concerning the van purchase so that the Disneyland trip would not be compromised. 

You’ve heard it said that there are two sides to every story. This includes the ones of our pink and blue differences with our spouse. Before we report that our spouse is refusing to cooperate with what we believe is a perfect win-win solution, we need to make sure we are telling the rest of the story, given there is information about our earlier conduct that best explains why our spouse resists our proposal. 

Is our spouse truly being selfish and stubborn, or earlier did we do something that ignited their fears and gave them reason to not trust us entirely? As most of us should probably be able to say that our spouses are goodwilled and loving, we should be extremely slow to play the “selfish and stubborn” card.

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. How have you given your spouse reason to fear the end result of your next win-win proposal?
  2. How can you address that today and begin to build up their trust in you for the next time?