How to tell your husband he’s smothering you

My husband texts me several times a day, comes grocery shopping with me, and plans his weekend around my availability. I love him, but it’s driving me nuts. How can I tell him I feel smothered?

How to tell your husband he's smothering you

Source: Best Health magazine, Summer 2014; Photo: Thinkstock

There is a big difference between someone smothering you and loving you. Smothering is driven by insecurity and selfishness. Loving is driven by confidence and generosity. Smothering is based on fear and the need to be together. Loving is based on a healthy wish for connection and the enjoyment of shared time. Smothering is about your partner getting what he needs: ‘I want to spend every minute together.’ Loving is about both partners giving each other what they need: ‘Have a wonderful time with your friends tonight, sweetheart. I’ll see you later.’

You say you feel smothered. That allows for the possibility that it is you, not him, who has the issue. Here are questions to ask yourself: Is he overly needy and controlling, or is it that you are uncomfortable accepting connection and intimacy? It can feel scary to explore deep emotional moments: Do you like to hug and hold eye contact with him, or does that make you feel awkward? Are you able to speak words of love, or do you make a nervous joke because you feel anxious when it comes to deep connection? If his loving behaviour seems to be healthy yet is more than you can handle, you will benefit from opening up and trusting him to lead you through your resistance to the passion underneath.

An alternative is that you and hubby may simply differ in how you seek intimacy. What makes each of you feel close, connected, witnessed and understood? Some of us thrive on physical affection; some connect through conversation; and some revel in sitting quietly together looking at the stars or watching a movie. People also differ in how much quiet and space they require. If his style is to spend time together to unwind at day’s end, and you need some alone time before you can open up, you may find his sweet attention annoying. If this is the case, you must find time for yourself so that you can show up for your man with a happy heart.

It is also possible that your husband has deeper insecurities and the problem is his, not yours. Are his texts loving check-ins to wish you a great day, or does he demand to know where you are at all times? Does he accompany you to the store because he likes hanging out with you, or because he is jealous? Does he want to spend the whole weekend with you because he values and prioritizes your free time together, or because he refuses to let you spend time with anyone but him? If he fears abandonment, he will try to keep himself emotionally safe by dictating your every move. This is unhealthy behaviour. Professional help may be needed to heal any betrayals in his past and teach him to trust your marriage.

Be honest and ask yourself where the problem really lies. A relationship is like a blanket: It can leave us struggling for air, or enfold us in a warm, safe embrace. Profound connection takes courage, since an open heart is a vulnerable heart. Once you’ve differentiated smothering from loving, you can invite your husband to snuggle up and experience the joy of two individuals creating a sacred union’with plenty of room to breathe.

This article was originally titled "Ask a sex and relationships therapist" in the Summer 2014 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!