Dear New Shrink,
I have been married for five years to a kind and honest man. While I know he loves me a lot, he is emotionally unavailable. I am his opposite; I am open, passionate and outgoing. This passive marriage is making me lonely and bored.
He came from a conservative family and small town. Like a strict parent, he seems to thinks it’s his job to reign me in. Our marriage is like a parent-child relationship.
When we have important issues to discuss like selecting a home, he will ask for my opinion but it seems more a courtesy than a true desire for my input. All he wants is an affirmation of his choice. A big problem is that we don’t see eye-to-eye most of the time. So, we end up arguing because he is so eager to point out how wrong I am.
I retaliate by either ticking him off or be completely indifferent. Anything else would be a complete disaster for me. I can never tell him that there is something wrong; not even if there is a stain on his shirt. He retorts very sharply, I can’t even tell him that his driving scares me. We have fought over his driving but it almost broke up our marriage.
When he feels challenged, he simply turns into a “bully.” It simply doesn’t matter what the issue, he is never wrong!
When I tried to express my unhappiness, and my thoughts that we should seek marriage counseling, he said it was “my” entire problem. He thinks that I am unhappy by nature and no matter what, cannot be content. This could not be further from the truth and any of my friends would verify this.
I feel so alone in this marriage but obviously he is happy, he makes the rules.
I know he loves me but I hate to think of living the rest of my life this way. In fact, I honestly do not think I can do it. No matter how much he loves me, I think I am going to walk. But I need to know that I have done everything and am not being hasty.
Dear Sole Curious,
I must say that this can be looked at and addressed from several perspectives.
It definitely sounds like you are in a power struggle, not uncommon but very bad for marriages. There needs to be mutual respect, cooperation and compromise for a marriage to be healthy and happy.
You say he makes all the rules and becomes a bully to enforce them. There should be “room for two” in any relationship. Without this, one of the two has to suppress their real self and you end up with a lot of resentment. As I have said so many times, nothing puts the flame out faster than resentment.
Generally when a person tends to think in all or nothing terms and has difficulty admitting to being wrong, it is because they are deeply insecure. Controlling behavior like you describe in your husband is usually a function of intense anxiety about the attachment. It may be something that is just in your relationship but it is also likely that there is a problem with attachment in general.
But there is a bigger picture here. Let us not forget that there are two of you. As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” One question I have for you is how do you know that he loves you? You say it over and over again but I am wondering how you know this. Is it his words, kind gestures, what you want to believe since he married you; what or how do your know? Is there a good part to your relationship? Why did you marry him and what keeps you there?
You mention a parent-child relationship; what is that about? What part do you play? Is their any equality in the relationship? Is there any reason that he would feel you are so depressed or discontent? How did you become the child? Why have you let him make all the rules if you do indeed know that he loves you? Does he abuse you? Are you afraid? If that is the case, you had best get help in a hurry.
But you say he is kind and gentle and loves you. If this is true, you must start to think about your part in this marriage. You will not have done everything you can until you do so. Anything short of this will be hasty.
Some good news is that if you start to work on yourself, there is a good chance he will follow. Make an appointment; start the process of introspection. You might just be pleasantly surprised.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and a licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Feel free to give her a call or e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions and responses are strictly anonymous. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.