No marriage is perfect. Every marriage goes through ups and downs. What I am hearing a lot is from Dads that are struggling in their marriage.
They want the marriage to work. They did or still do love their spouse. They believe in marriage. They understand divorce would be a bad thing for their kids. They understand a divorce would even be a bad thing for themselves.
But at the same time, this woman is driving them crazy. This is not who they married. She is making him miserable. Here are some frequent complaints:
· She complains about everything. Always negative. Always critical.
· She is mean.
· She is disrespectful.
· She tears me down and never builds me up.
· She no longer supports my decisions or actions.
· She let herself go.
· She won’t have sex, just lays there, is unaffectionate or makes me feel guilty for wanting it.
· Remembers every flaw
Now — I am hearing from men who are venting to me. They usually are not telling me their flaws, but most admit some responsibility. Not necessary for “starting it” but for continuing it and often fanning the flames.
Many men hide their emotions really well. A lot of men withdraw during fights with their wife, as a defense mechanism. Men are natural warriors- natural fighters. The last thing we want to do is hurt the people we care most for. The people we work hard to provide for. The people we would- without hesitation- take a bullet for. So, for a lot of men, we withdraw and shut down rather than fight, because what we say in the heat of the moment can not be taken back.
We certainly can’t escalate to physical responses. So, the natural response is to withdraw and shut down. It seems devoid of emotion or care, but really, it’s the opposite.
There is a very real reality that those things that you say to your spouse in the heat of the moment can never be taken back. You can apologize, sure. But those cruel remarks (even if they are truthful) will always be there.
I think there is honor in not verbally berating your spouse. I think there is wisdom in not crushing them. I don’t see the value in tearing them down. What you say in those heated emotional moments can alter the trajectory of the relationship. Be careful. Be wise. Most guys I talk to wish they could take some things they said back.
Communication needs to happen. It just needs to be constructive and caring. Ruthless and attacking is a great way to get the other person to dig in and fight back.
Most guys who are struggling with this are losing their faith in marriage.
What’s the point?
They feel they don’t deserve the way they are being treated.
They feel they picked the wrong girl.
They feel they can do better.
They are simultaneously depressed, frustrated, and angry.
Often turning to weed, alcohol, and porn to help numb the pain and try and release some endorphins to feign some happiness.
Now in a blog like this, there is no way to really dig into the specifics of what is going on in each relationship, but it is possible to hit the broad strokes.
A crumbling relationship needs counseling. You can start at your church or call a reputable marriage counselor. The trick is doing this sooner than later because this is how it normally goes:
The wife wants to go to counseling. Husband refuses. His wife checks out and gives up trying. Husband wants to try this counseling thing. Wife is done trying.
Before doing things you will most likely regret at some point, like having an affair, or giving up and seeking a divorce. I think it’s important that Dad steps up and does everything in his power to save the relationship. Which means counseling is a must. Alone or together or both.
Counseling gets crapped on a lot especially by men. It gets viewed as a weakness. In reality, it is just a place to air you’re your crap without it escalating to a big fight. The counselor makes sure emotions do not get out of hand. A counselor makes sure your spouse hears what you mean to say and does not hear the wrong message. They know how to reframe what you’re saying in a way that the spouse can receive it better.
Your friends are not counselors. Seeking the advice of friends is sometimes the worst thing you can do. Because chances are your friends are idiots. The mere fact that they are willing to dole out possibly life-changing advice hearing only one side of the story is proof of that.
If your friends have been married 40 years longer than you then maybe you can take their advice. But I can tell you I have heard some of the worst advice from people that were mom or dad’s best friends. When your marriage is in real trouble you do not go to those rank amateurs for real advice. Go to someone that can actually help.
On top of counseling, I think it’s important for Dad to do something else. Ideally, this is before you turn to narcotics, alcohol, porn, or an affair.
Put the ball in her court. Give her the kiss in the morning, make her coffee, rub her feet, give her compliments, send her away to a movie or bookstore for alone time, do the dishes, knock out the honey-do list, clean the bathroom, buy some flowers or gifts unexpectedly. You know what she likes and wants.
Basically, put yourself in the position where you know that you did everything she has ever wanted and still she did not change. Put the ball in her court.
You need to know you did everything possible to save the relationship. You married this woman…. there was fire and passion and love once. Reflect on those times…. pull strength from those good times.
Chances are this affects her greatly. Chances are this breaks that stupid cycle of denying each other what we crave as some sort of spite game.
That can thaw the ice and allow everyone to unpack what is really going on and start fresh. If you have not had that rekindled love after a tough spot in the marriage sex…bubba you don’t know what you’re missing. Wedding night passion. First-time passion. Better than special occasion luvin if you ask me. I would not recommend trying to force a fight for this benefit…. that’s what we call dangerous territory.
Quit thinking the grass is greener on the other side. In most cases, it’s not all that green over there either. And there’s a lot more upside to staying in this relationship.
Empathy is tough to remember in these moments. Most guys want to solve the immediate issue. But that immediate issue is the surface later. We have to work our way down to the root issue. And often that comes down to how you are making her feel.
That’s where empathy comes in. She probably doesn’t care about you doing laundry. She doesn’t feel loved, and you doing the laundry was just one way she used to know you loved her. It takes intentional effort to get past those surface issues.
There are many great books on marriage.
TreyandLea.com is a great resource. They have a book out there as well as classes. If you have any trouble getting in touch with them let me know and I will try and help. Trey has been on our podcast and we met up in Texas and attended one of their events. https://strongermarriageworkshops.com/Welcome/
The love languages book is a helpful read. The quiz on the link below is a great start. I don’t know them so you are on your own here.
Love & Respect is another good one. And it covers an angle I think a lot of people miss. Men need to feel respected by their spouse. It’s an important component. If finances are a struggle check used book stores and goodwill.
You are not alone in this. So many married men are in the same boat as you.
It sucks. It’s not fun. It hurts. It is crushing. And sometimes it feels easier just to end the relationship.
I beg you to not leave any stone unturned. Make every effort to fix your relationship to what it used to be…if not stronger.
I don’t want you to grit your teeth and deal with it. I want you to be happier than you have ever been. And when I talk to men married 30–40–50 years that raised great families, they are all very glad they decided to push through the tough times.
We get in our own heads. We start focusing on the things that are bad. We ignore the good. We start dreaming of a life free of this weight. I get it. I do. Fight through those thoughts. Put the effort in. Clear your head and make a reunion a real possibility.
Try to see the good things about your wife. See the good things in your life. Nobody is perfect, you’re not perfect either. The more positive things you can focus on the better. That spiral of negativity doesn’t do anyone any good.
In the end, restoring the relationship results in a happier version of yourself. It is a better environment to raise kids. It is worth the effort. Takedown the shields and do what needs to be done. After all, if you have read any of my stuff you know how important dad is to the home. But the home is not complete without mom. It is a really big deal to break up the family and those consequences weigh on the kids most.
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