I am married and have two young girls. My problem is with my wife. She blames me for everything, uses foul language all the time, will leave abusive messages on my voicemail when she’s upset—she texted me 15 times the other day calling me an ***hole—and she refuses to go to counseling. I admit that I have not been the most emotionally aware guy in our marriage. But I have been working with a counselor for over a year. I do my best to make changes, to be thoughtful, and to be an example to my girls. I think I have made real progress. But nothing seems to change my wife’s behavior. She says she does not even like me. I don’t want a divorce. I just don’t know what to do.
Dear Beaten Down,
Your problem isn’t your wife. Your problem is your lack of self-respect, your inability to take a stand for yourself and your girls, and in not knowing instinctively what is acceptable and utterly unacceptable.
Before you can deal with the history between the two of you, before you can expect to discuss current family concerns effectively, you have to draw a line regarding inappropriate and abusive behavior and language. Until you are willing to take a stand, don’t expect anything else to change.
You may be frightened by the prospect of getting a divorce. I don’t blame you. No one wants to see that happen, especially the children. But that fear is paralyzing you, allowing you to continue to accept the unacceptable from your wife. Although it may feel counterintuitive at the moment, the courage to confront your wife’s threats of divorce (I’m guessing the threats are part of her arsenal) and to face her predictably unpleasant response to you taking a stand, is exactly what you need to demonstrate.
She feels the absence of a strong, confident, loving and dependable man, so she feels the need to assume that role. The less masculine you are, the more masculine she becomes. And that means the less feminine she feels.
Rather than feeling the security of having a man who can care, lead and love, she feels insecure. All of this leads to a lack of respect. With this can come sadness, a sense of betrayal, resentment and anger. And right now, you’re feeling all of it!
Your next step is to become the man you’ve always wanted to be. You do that by reading my book, finding a circle of men to help you develop the vision of that man you want to be, and maybe find a different counselor or mentor who understands your struggle as a man and who can support you in this masculine journey.
Making this shift is a tall order. But you have to begin. It may not save this marriage, but it’s what you must do to save your life, and to be the very best example possible for your girls. Remember, if you remain that doormat for your wife, you can rest assured your girls will treat their men the same way.