How to Deal with a Stubborn Partner

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Subtle segue, eh?


One of the reasons you are looking for ways to save your relationship may be because you are dealing with a very stubborn partner.  Granted, we all can be stubborn at times – after all, it’s human nature to want to hold on to and protect the things (whether values, ideas, notions, etc.) to which we have a strong emotional attachment.


And it’s that attachment (and often the fear of losing it) that is at the core of stubborn behavior.


Being married to or living with a stubborn person can really challenge your patience.  This is particularly true should conflict arise.  No doubt you often feel like hitting your head against a brick wall or tearing your hair out.  Your partner is most likely an expert at unwavering (and very irritating!) resistance when you want something from him, whether it’s to consider a different perspective or to do something for you.


And if the thing you really want him to do is change, heaven help you!!  


But don’t throw in the towel just yet.  There are effective ways to deal with a stubborn partner.  It doesn’t have to turn into such a power struggle that you finally give up or give in.  In fact, those two approaches will only serve to reinforce your partner’s stubbornness.


Instead, you must change your approach….

And here are some tips to help you do that:

  • Avoid power struggles at all costs. You won’t win, and you will end up exhausted, exasperated, and infuriated.  It’s not worth the stress.

Remember the old saying in this situation:  “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”.  Okay, it fits only loosely but the basic concept is still the same.

You must find something to agree on or some common ground.  This is hard to do when your partner’s stubbornness makes you want to push him to talk or defend your stance more than ever.  When you feel that urge, it’s time to stop, back up, and take a deep breath.

  • Rather than become more polarized, try to understand your partner’s point of view. It probably does have at least some validity to it.  Find any points (no matter how miniscule) on which you both agree, and acknowledge them.  This will likely help your partner realize that this doesn’t have to be a battle.  And as a result, he may relax a bit and be more open to working with you instead of resisting.
  • Talk openly about how you feel. Your partner can’t read your mind, and he may be tuning you out or resisting your requests because what you really want is not clear to him.  Learn to verbalize your feelings in “I” statements.

For example, rather than getting angry at him for constantly leaving his dirty clothes strewn all over the bedroom when he gets ready for bed, say something like, “I feel disrespected and unappreciated when you do that.  I’m exhausted at the end of the day and would be so very grateful if you would help lighten my load and put your clothes in the laundry basket rather than leaving them on the floor.  Be sure to say it calmly and gently, without begging or pleading.

Since he was expecting an attack, this approach will likely disarm him.  Don’t repeat yourself, or you will defeat any progress you just made.  Sit back and listen to his response.  If he remains silent, ask him to share his thoughts so you can better understand him.

  • Never attack or blame. This will only reinforce his stubborn attitude.
  • Give him some space after you’ve let him know how you feel. Sometimes it takes a little time to sink in, or perhaps he doesn’t immediately have a response.  Patience is important, as impatience only fuels the stubbornness.
  • When he does respond, ask questions to gain clarification and to show that you value his thoughts and feelings, and genuinely want to understand where he is coming from. Listen! Don’t
  • Don’t be confrontational or antagonistic. Again, you will only reinforce his stubbornness.  You must make the interaction feel “safe” (i.e., non-volatile) for him, so he will be more willing to participate rather than retreat or put up walls.
  • Don’t nag – ever! It will never get you the real results you desire, because even if your partner finally gives in to your nagging, he will resent you.
  • After your partner has told you his point of view, ask him to listen to yours as well – relationships are give and take. Let him know you would like (actually you deserve it, but if you use that word it will probably backfire on you) him to listen to you as well.  And proceed calmly!

If all else fails and your stubborn partner is simply not willing to bend (or if you are having a difficult time following these tips without getting angry or frustrated) then consider couples therapy (or therapy for you alone if your stubborn partner won’t go with you).  A trained professional can help you see what’s not working and help you find ways to be more effective.


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