If your wife has no idea what she wants, but it’s not you, here’s how to show you love her without putting too much pressure on and pushing her away.
A reader writes…
Read ILYB after my partner told me those words after 14 years of marriage.
Background: Married 1996, emigrated to Australia 1997. I thought we were relatively happy until very recently. However, prior to returning to UK in January of this year, we had moved out of Sydney after the collapse of our business and for economic reasons and lived in the Blue Mountains.
During the last 2 years, I became the house husband and increasingly miserable (wouldn’t actually claim to be depressed) and full of woe to the point that I was regularly telling my wife that she’d be better off without me and I’d be better off dead. Probably said this once too often, but believed that my wife would sympathise and support me while her job became increasingly more powerful and she found herself more and more involved in marketing industry. I think this made me more angry with her and unhappy with myself – while she was working hard, I was taking the children to/from school and getting more lonely. My wife had to commute 2 hours to/from the city most days and I found myself more and more isolated. When she came home at night, she’d be exhausted and I’d be upset. I felt like we’d lost the ability to communicate with each other.
Cutting this story short, in October my wife was offered a job back in the UK and we both jumped at the opportunity to be back with our families. My wife says that shortly after she got this job, she began to have doubts about our relationship and says she also thought that it might be a way for her to get out of the marriage because I would have the support of my family. Arrived back in the UK on 19th Jan and on 20th Jan, my wife told me ILYB as I asked her to tell me why she kept making excuses for me not to even touch her any more. I was truly devastated, and even though it’s getting on for 10 weeks since she told me I still feel sick to my stomach. It’s like someone else took over her body once she told me how she felt.
My reaction since had been to read your book and a few others, to contact Relate and to attend guidance sessions. My wife has attended the sessions, but constantly says that it’s over and she doesn’t want to try anything to try to fix our marriage. I don’t understand – I thought going to these sessions might help but I feel that we just go along each week and feel worse after.
Last week, my wife repeated to the counsellor that she just wants the marriage to end and the counsellor has now said we need to discuss an amicable separation. What is really strange, to me at least, is that wife wife says she has no idea what she wants, only that she doesn’t want me. At the same time, she is happy for me to carry on sleeping in the same bed as her, to continue to live with her and to go on indefinitely like this which we are forced to do anyway at the moment as I am unemployed and she is the breadwinner, so I’m back to being the house husband.
What can I do? I’m at my wits end as I try to avoid getting upset and not telling her how much I love her as she says this puts too much pressure on her and which, from reading your book, I know is the wrong thing to do. Other times, I just get so angry that I just seem to get into a childish rage and then promise her that I’ll be ok and she can have everything. I’m trying to work on myself, but because she doesn’t want to read any of the books I’ve got and the counsellor doesn’t make any suggestions about really exploring our relationship (which I think is what I really expected from the counselling) I’m truly heartbroken. I think I would prefer it if she had had an affair, or if she disliked me for something that I’d done, but it seems to be simply that she doesn’t want the label of marriage any more but wants me as a friend and father.
What can I do? I really don’t feel that I know this person any more as how she is behaving is totally out of character with what she’s always said and done in the past? I almost feel that she is hiding something and if she could let it out, we could move on and resolve this together but I can’t even get her to talk to me about it without her just falling back onto ‘it’s too late and I just know that I don’t want you’. Is it too late to save our marriage?
It sounds like you’ve lost all respect for yourself and I’m afraid that your wife has lost all respect for you too. Now what I’m going to say is going to come across as a sweeping generalisation and a little bit sexist, but I think it’s best to be honest – especially as it’s going to give you an insight into how she is thinking.
Women like strong men. It makes them feel protected (in a pretty scary world), looked after and special. Even women who have high powered jobs and can navigated their own way through the world (and possibly especially those because it is exhausting to be in charge and responsible all the time). Many taller women tell me that it is such a turn off to go out with a shorter man – because they feel less feminine and less looked after. Do you get the picture?
Now here comes some more painful home truths, it’s OK for women to earn more than men. It’s fine for men to stay at home and look after the children. However, the woman has to feel that the man is contributing something. He’s great at fixing the car and building a new barbecue. He does something she really respects – like creating beautiful gardens or furniture – or he’s an actor and does great work (even though he’s paid peanuts) or teaches kids in school. Whatever, he does makes her feel proud. What she doesn’t want after a hard day at work, two hour commute and feeling guilty that she’s neglecting her kids is to find that she’s got to be an unpaid coach to her husband too! No wonder, she’s angry, upset and exhausted. To be frank, what’s in it for her?
Only one more nasty bit to go – sorry. Don’t think, she doesn’t know what she wants or that she might change her mind. She probably has a very clear idea and is just getting up her strength for asking for a divorce. And whatever you do, DON’T WISH FOR AN AFFAIR. These things have a horrible way of turning into a reality. Would blaming her for the subsequent break-up really makes things better?
By this point, you’re either going to feel completely overwhelmed and helpless or I’ve given you the wake-up call to sort out this sorry mess. If it’s the first, you probably are depressed and should go and see you doctor. If it’s the second, you need to shape up…. pretty quick. Firstly, you need to apologise to your wife for how you’ve been recently. (No tears please, just clear eyed and determined to make things better). Secondly, you’re going to make a commitment to get a job and get your life back in gear again. (Don’t ask for guarantees that she’ll stick by you, just get on a do it). No more angry outbursts, I know that life has been tough but they just drive your wife further away. Thirdly, continue to see the counsellor on your own – for a couple of sessions – and use her as a dumping ground for all your misery. It must, repeat, must not be shared with your wife. When we love someone we can be their companion through life. We should not be expected to carry them! Sure they can help us over a fence – but you wife’s back is breaking from all the weight she’s been carrying.
I hope my books can help. Start with ‘Learn to love yourself enough’ it will help you work on yourself and get back that self respect. Look at ‘Help your partner say yes’ and in particular TA so you stop using CHILD mode and switch into ADULT. (There is more about being assertive in Resolve your differences – which sits along side this idea).
So now I’ve got the bad stuff out of the way, I’m sorry again that I’ve been tough. However, I believe that you’ve got it in you to be the sort of man that you used to be. The man that your wife fell in love. Go out and find him again and who knows what the future holds.