My wife and I are seeing a therapist regarding problems in our marriage. Basically, I’m an upbeat person, and my wife’s negative.
Though her mother was often moody and withdrawn, during dating and engagement my wife seemed a happy, well-adjusted person, while not as enthusiastic generally as I am.
After our first child was born, she changed. She breastfed the baby and cared for her but was rarely joyful. I, on the other hand, would come home and swoop up our daughter and do everything to make her laugh.
I privately asked the doctor who was a long-time friend of my wife’s family if he thought she was having a post-partum depression, but he said no, it was just her personality, like her mother.
Ten years later, he’s been proven right. There’s always a negative slant to her outlook. Our daughter’s school grade is never good enough, “she can do better,” is what’s said. A birthday gift from me is “excessive.”
I often don’t want to go home after work, knowing she’ll bring me down with her half-empty view of everything that I see as half-full with room to get better.
But I can’t leave my wife because it might mean having my daughter grow up with more of the negativism and less of my influence the other way.
So, how do I deal with the therapist’s view that my “overly-enthusiastic” attitudes are part of what drives my wife to react in the opposite way?
Can being positive really be a detriment to a happy relationship? Is the therapist just taking my wife’s side instead of helping our marriage?
Your therapist is trying to show you another view of your marital relationship. You are definitely a positive person, see yourself that way, and are proud of it. That attitude comes naturally to you, and you mean well with it.
It seems to me that the therapist is suggesting that your wife, not being as upbeat in attitude, feels she has to bring a reality element to your life together - that life is not all rosy and fun.
Perhaps this therapist’s method is to shine a spotlight on how one partner’s behaviour pointed in one direction makes the other partner’s behaviour become the lesser and considered wrong.
If this were a true picture of your marriage, then obviously what would be needed is a meeting of minds and ways... something you’d both have to agree to try.
Example: when your wife says your birthday gift is excessive, you say she’s worth it. When she’s less enthused about your daughter’s school report, you say, “Mommy and I can help you with your homework. We know how smart you are.”
It’s partnership, understanding and compromise. Not easy after 10 years of seeing it only as a divide, but when marital counselling “clicks” with a couple, there’s hope for the future.
Check this out with your therapist... and, if it feels okay, give it a try.
Readers Commentary “Everyone I know is Covid-weary and I don’t blame them. It’s not over but what makes it worse is how we’re all grumpy. Parents are impatient with kids, grandparents are scared, singles are restless.
“But when people say they’re fed up with wearing masks they’re just making it worse for all of us in the age groups that won’t be vaccinated for months ahead.
“I just wish everyone would understand that it won’t be over until we all get through the hard slog until we’re safe.”
FEEDBACK Regarding the “self-defending” mother and her strained relationship with her adult son (February 25):
Reader #1 – “From my personal experience, I would also question the relationship between the Mother and her daughter-in-law, not just between the mother and adult son.”
Reader #2 – “In my case, to “support” my wife I distanced myself from my parents. It was a big mistake. Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to correct that error before my Father passed away. The guilt will go to the grave with me.
“What I’ve since understood was that my wife was narcissistic. Even after I’d distanced myself from my parents, my wife’s complaints and criticisms continued.
“I have now come to the end of an extremely acrimonious divorce. At least I’ve been able to repair my relationship with my Mother.
“How much is really going on involving the daughter-in-law? OR it’s the son who actually needs major help himself.”
Tip of the day:
Not every marital relationship conflict is as obvious a problem as it seems.