My wife and I have known each other for 10 years. Since marrying two years ago, there are constant arguments over her “lack of communication” and inability to show that she cares about me.
In turn, I criticize her and it becomes a vicious cycle of mistrust and anger.
We’ve not been intimate in over a year. It’s taking a toll on me mentally and emotionally.
Now she no longer wants to stay married, saying she has “no hope for our relationship” and “isn’t willing to compromise.”
We’ve been to couples’ counselling and now I attend counselling myself to work on my negative critical behaviour.
Her reason for not wanting to be intimate or work on the relationship is because she now wants to divorce, whereas I think if we work hard on our flaws, we can make it work.
Continue counselling on your own, since even if she won’t change her mind, you’ll need to decide how to move on despite your preference to stay together.
Meanwhile, if she sees that you’re working on stopping your criticism of her, she may be persuaded to also see the counsellor again and learn ways to communicate.
Since all this started only after marriage, what changed?
Probe that with your counsellor to see if both of you had unrealistic expectations of marriage.
One of you has to break the cycle.
Since you’re the one with more hope, stop your part in the negative dynamic… that means, NO criticism even if she upsets you.
During this period, try to talk about non-confrontational matters outside of the marriage – e.g. common interests, things you might still do together (a movie, concert, a walk).
Avoid discussing the lack of intimacy, but show some gentle affection without expecting it to advance… a pat on the arm, a compliment.
If you stop participating in the standoff, and try to make progress even on your own, there may yet be hope.
FEEDBACK Regarding the happy “housewife” with a financially stable husband who wondered how to respond to sarcastic comments (August 13):
Reader #1 – “If I were the person saying, "must be nice," it would most certainly be because I do think it would be VERY nice to stay at home.
“A "must be nice" would either imply I was jealous or that I was genuinely excited for that housewife to be able to stay home.
“Her response should be "It really is, I love it!" - said with a charming smile on her face…. And move the conversation along!
“No need to feel defensive or justify it. It's an enviable position and she should relish it….”
Reader #2 – “During a 20-minute break of my government job, I just want to tell this lady that I used to be a mother at home and I was happy but also very busy too... more than I am now with a paid job.
“When people asked me what I did for a living, I replied that I was working at home. And that, if the government would have to pay me, it would be worth at least a senator’s salary since we help human beings become their best people.”
Reader #3 – “I loved that question, because I am also a housewife and people can be very rude.
“My husband came up with the best response.... I am on "eternity" leave!
“It confuses the heck out of people! It makes me laugh every time I say it, and I don't have to justify the choices my husband and I make.”
Reader #4 – “I’m not criticizing this housewife’s life choices. But having had friends who also stayed at home until their husbands suddenly died of heart attacks or cancer, or whose husbands went through a mid-life crisis and left them for much younger women, I’d advise her to make sure she’s able to support herself if either of those things should happen to her (no one ever expects that this will happen to them).
“Some of those friends have told me that they will have to work at low-paying jobs for the rest of their lives because they had no job experience.
“And even after going back to school, as one did, they had to compete with 20-year-olds who had just graduated from the same program.
“Try imagining starting work as a waitress in a fast-food restaurant at age 55.”
Ellie - Fair warning, though grimly pessimistic. Many housewives have skills they may rely on later.
Tip of the day:
Break a negative dynamic by changing your reactions.