I’m 51, married to my wife for 27 years. We’ve had a good relationship through most of it.
Though we occasionally faced tough challenges from our jobs or our children, we supported each other, discussed any differences and usually felt closer from it.
I thought we were very lucky, with our two kids grown and gone, for us to be so compatible together.
There’s a recent change, however. We’re arguing over what I think is small stuff but seems to be getting magnified by my wife into big stuff.
I’m not saying it’s all her fault. What’s worrying me is that it’s been happening more often, and her reaction is quite harsh.
Even when we both clean up after dinner, she’s now picky about it and insisting that I handle various tasks exactly the way she does them.
In the car, she’s started doubting the direction I’ve chosen to drive and insists that she’s right though I know that area well.
She used to be very easy-going. I understand that we’re both older, and there’s an underlying awareness about the coronavirus that could be making her (and me too) more tense.
But she just shuts down when these incidents occur, and there’s an uncomfortable tension left between us as well. The air even feels heavier, with her going silent and stomping off, and me left feeling both bruised and confused.
What do you suggest I do - try to discuss it even though, so far, she just defends her position and talks over me, or let it pass and try to avoid differences?
Tough choice. If you believe that pursuing the conversation over these seeming trivial differences will further upset her, it seems unwise to go that route. Like blowing on embers to put out fire, only to watch flames increase.
But if you walk away from each of these incidents, there’s still that heavy wedge between you and possibly pushing you farther apart.
My initial go-to for sudden changes in what’s formerly been a partner’s reliable behaviour and reactions, is concern for her/his well-being.
I ponder the no-blame possibilities: e.g. a physical, internal matter that could range from headaches to hormones (men have them too, aka irritable male syndrome).
That’s when the response that’s safest is to show interest that isn’t accusatory, in how your spouse is feeling in general.
If possible, suggesting that it’s time for her annual check-up might be helpful, especially if you also book one for yourself.
If the pandemic plus flu-season have made such doctors’ visits hard to get, so be it. But just raising the matter might get a conversation going about whether something internal and/or emotional is involved.
Speaking of COVID-19, we all have enough reasons to believe that still dealing with its threat may be making anyone jittery.
Again, be caring more than concerned. Consider some tension-easers - more virtual contact with people you enjoy, more entertainment online through beloved favourites among classical and/or popular music, classic theatre productions, absorbing TV and streamed series.
If nothing works over a reasonable time frame (a month, say), mental health help should be considered and/or marital counselling for both.
Reader’s Commentary “I used to work in a seniors’ home. One activity I introduced was reading advice columns and have residents give their input/judgement. Even on your advice. The residents and staff really enjoyed it.”
Ellie - Glad to have been part of it!
My older sister, 56, had a nervous breakdown six years ago. She’s divorced, lives with my mother, 79, and rarely goes out. My mother shops/cooks/cleans for them both.
I finally found a psychiatrist to treat my sister and she’s slowly/surely improving. Neither of my two brothers agreed to help me with driving her to appointments, saying they’re too busy with their jobs and families.
I also work and have a husband and grown kids I could enjoy time with but am too busy as my sister’s helper. The two-way drives and appointment take three hours’ total. What should I do?
Continue as the generous person that you are, knowing that you’re essential in your sister’s treatment progress.
It’s a gift of compassion that makes both you and your sister the better for it.
Your brothers have a real but narrow excuse. Everyone’s “too busy” except those who understand another’s greater need. Lucky sister to have your help!
Tip of the day:
When a normally happy partner turns argumentative, look first for non-blaming reasons of health changes, and/or pressures from the pandemic.