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I make him feel dumb, his prob or mine?

470 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  tausborn
This is a mini issue in our relationship that crops up every once in a while. My dh is a very intelligent man but has incredibly low self esteem. He has gotten better over the years but he still has a long way to go before his self image is any where near healthy.

So, this is the problem, everytime he tries something new I am afraid to give it a go. This could be a video game, a puzzle, a new area of interest, whatever. He says that anything he finds that he is good at I come along and am better and I make him feel like an "idiot" (his word, not mine). I don't brag or even realy mention when I do do better then him, or pick it up quicker, but he notices and it realy brings him down.

I can not help it if I am a fast learner, and I do not want to dumb myself down for fear of hurting his feelings. I also find myself resenting him for making me feel like some sort of super genius freak, or a perfect being that meer mortals can not hope to aspire to (if only....)

Any thoughts on how to handle this without avoiding simular areas of interest for the next 50 years?


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I like the way you say "the next 50 years." You need to let him know that you think he's a smart guy and that you don't want to worry if you are better at something like a crossword puzzle.

I have this problem with my dh. Or I did. I think he got over it. I am a lot quicker than he is: I'm good at languages, I remember song lyrics, and the punchlines to jokes, and I read faster. But, he's a gifted reader of poetry, and of people. He's a good editor. He's meticulous. In short, he's very smart.

There was some moment when his mom was actually saying something about his ability and I explained, at length and somewhat passionately, what a fantastic thinker and reader he is. So that might have helped.

I'm glad you brought this up. I've been feeling kind of down about my relationship with my dh, and this reminds me that at least I got him to understand how much I value his intelligence. I did it by telling him straight out and repeating it in front of his mom. So I don't know if that's your style, but it's one time that being straightforward really worked for me.
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MM--this is a somewhat familiar issue to me... The last area of contention being the tennis court! Oh...and poor DH has never beaten me in a game of Monopoly or Scrabble.

I have to agree that praise of any kind seems to smooth things over. I make an effort to sing those praises in front of his family and mine for little things to bigger work-related things.

One small suggestion is maybe to remove discussion from the who's better at it arena to something different. Even if you do catch on to a new thing more quickly (as do I) praise/thank him for his knack for finding new things for you to both enjoy. It sounds like one of his strengths is (maybe?) looking for new things that interest him. If DH had never encouraged me to take the tennis class I really might never have ever learned to play.

It sounds like he's a sensitive guy and picks up on the differences in ability even when you make the effort to be humble. We're good at what we're good at and I really hear your frustration at not being able to "help" your abilities.

hth a little


edd #1 5/25/04
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Maybe the two of you just need to do your own thing if anytime you do the same thing it will invite comparison. You didn't say whether he asks you to try to do the things that he does, or if you just join in without being asked. I would suggest NOT doing the things that he does if he is so sensitive about it. Sure, in a perfect world you two should be able to work this out, but if it is causing hurt feelings then maybe separate hobbies are in order.
Originally posted by manitoba_mommy
..I can not help it if I am a fast learner, and I do not want to dumb myself down for fear of hurting his feelings. I also find myself resenting him for making me feel like some sort of super genius freak, or a perfect being that meer mortals can not hope to aspire to (if only....)..
I have the same experience with my husband. I believe that we are at about the same level of intelligence, but it manifests quite differently, and I often "seem" smarter because I am more articulate and take to new things very quickly. There are a variety of things that I/we have done that have diffused this sore spot.

Most importantly, IMO, I make it clear that I value his opinion. Even if it's an area is new to both of us, and I did all the 'research,' I still summarize my information, present it to him, and ask for his opinion. Then "we" make the decision. The message being that it doesn't matter who learned what, we are still an equal 'team.'

Secondly, we are constantly reminding his children (average teenage boys with one very snotty little gifted sister than they all resent) that people are appreciated for their character, not their 'smarts.' We often talk about honesty, reliability, kindness, and openness as being more important traits than intelligence. The side effect of saying this over and over to the kids all the time is that my husband knows that I value him for his character, which is more important that how fast he reads a book, for example (yes, I read faster than him).

I think it is very important to make sure that you do not fall into the role of "caretaker of his ego." Part of the issue is that he needs to feel good about himself independent of what you do or say, so I think if you compliment too much or walk on eggshells around him that you may make it worse.

I have also picked a few areas where I don't have much interest anyway that I continue to avoid learning anything about. Those are his domains... Like plumbing, drilling holes, running cables, and our computer intranet maintenance.

He used to cut me off with a "you're just too logical to talk to!" When I finally got to the point where I could say "this is the way my brain works, and there's nothing wrong with ME, so get over it," and stopped letting it get to me, he got better with it. I think they take their cue from us: if we feel guilty, then they figure they should feel insecure; if we feel fine, then they figure everything's ok.

I think it took all of the above to make it a non issue between use: value his opinion, value his character, don't take responsibility for his ego problems, let him have a few specialties that he is expert in, and don't apologize for your own skills.
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