Over the weekend, I received some correspondence from a wife who had noticed her husband acting cold and distant all weekend. He seemed to be picking fights, was clearly on edge and was showing body language and postures which indicated that something was very wrong. Of course, the wife asked him what was bothering him and he proceeded to answer with phrases like “nothing,” or “it’s just a bad day.”
The wife was not happy with these responses and continued to press. The husband proceeded to withdrawal and act defensive. Finally, after the wife continued to follow him around and nag him, he angrily blurted out “can’t you see I’m miserable with you? If it weren’t for the kids, I’m not sure if I’d even want to be married to you.” The wife later regretted her response (which was to tell the husband that being married to him was no picnic either.)
Later when they both calmed down, she asked him if he really meant what he said. The husband took a deep breath and said “I really don’t want to hurt you, but yes, I’m just not happy. I don’t know if it’s healthy for either of us to remain married.” The wife wanted my advice as to how she should proceed or act around him as he was clearly determined to sulk and complain. I will tell you what I told her in the following article.
Determining What Responsibility A Wife Has In Her Husband’s Misery: The wife admitted that things weren’t perfect in her marriage. In fact, she had felt a distance growing in her marriage for some time. However, she would have never guessed that her husband was as miserable as he said he was. She suspected that he was projecting some disappointment and misery in other areas of his life and from his work onto their marriage.
She may well have been right. This is actually quite a common occurrence. Much of the misery that he was feeling may not have initiated with her, but what was more important than it’s origin was the fact that he was equating his negative feelings with her and with the marriage. This may well be very unfair and even quite inaccurate. But, like it or not, this was her reality today and even she admitted that the marriage could use some improvement.
So, while much of this may not have been her fault, there were certainly areas that she could address and improve. In a marriage that is working well, the spouse who is having issues with his job, his life, or his family will typically find solace and comfort in his spouse – rather than blaming her for the problem. The fact that he was doing just that indicated that there was a lot of room for improvement.
So while the responsibility for the husband’s misery very likely did not lie totally with the wife, there was some opportunity to provide support and to let him know that she was there for him, willing to listen, and willing to help him in any way that she could – which is probably exactly what she would want for him to do if the roles were reversed.
Beginning To Make Improvements In Your Marriage When You Husband Wants To Remain Alone In Being Miserable: When I explained some of these things with the wife, she was a bit resistant. She said that he was moping around so much that he might trip on his bottom lip. Granted, it can be hard to approach someone like this. But, she had pretty much been either ignoring him or trying to convince him either that he wasn’t as miserable as he thought, or that, if he was, this was his fault and not hers.
Although this strategy is understandable, it’s not usually the most effective. The first step would be to calmly bring this out into the open and say your peace in a positive way that doesn’t continue to encourage or elicit his negative emotions. She might start by saying something like “I’m very sorry that you’re so unhappy right now. I love you and want for you to be happy. If there’s anything that I can do to help with this, I’m more than willing to do that. I can listen. I can offer support. I can make some shifts and changes if that’s what you need, but I can’t read your mind. Are you willing to talk about this so that we can come up with a plan to make this better?”
I had no way to predict how the husband was going to react. I can tell you from previous experiences that some husbands will continue on with the negative act and say things like “it’s too late,” or “there’s nothing that you can do now.” Some men, though will begin to meet you half way even in the beginning. No matter what reaction you get, it’s very important that you respond in a positive manner. If they lash out, reply that you’re sorry to hear that and again offer your support. Eventually as you remain calm, supportive, and positive, it will become harder and harder to remain negative when you refuse to engage them.
If they do tell you some things that might help, by all means meet them half way and do what you can to make things better. Although not all of this is your fault, it will only benefit both you and your marriage if you can lighten the tension, begin to identify and work on the issues, and to be the spouse that you would want your husband to be to you if the roles were reversed. If you can do this, it’s highly likely that all of the “ending the marriage” talk will begin to eventually lessen also.
My husband told me that he was miserable several times before he began to withdraw completely. Thank goodness I didn’t let that stop me. I kept right on working on the marriage (by myself, since he wasn’t interested at first.) Eventually, (though commitment and lots of effort), I was able to not only save the marriage, but make it stronger. So, it was very much worth the effort. You can read a very personal story of how I saved my marriage on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com