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Joined: Dec 2021
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I might be writing this more so for myself because I've been searching for help and guidance, online, for years.

Evident in the Title, I'm the husband. And in all my searches for articles, for online therapy, through books, and more, every bit of advice stems from what is usually, it seems, the woman/wife's experience. Most content is about dealing with the man/husband in such situations.

I'm seeking help. I've made cries and pleas for help.
About a year ago, I was in private therapy (personal therapy), diagnosed with severe depression. I was having suicidal thoughts (no attempts; this isn't that serious, I've contemplated ending it because I'm blamed for being responsible for it) and I was put on medications to try and manage that. If you've been on such meds, you know it doesn't necessarily help, it deadens you.

I am lost. I don't know what to do. I can't utter a word to my wife without negativity. She's always sullen. Everything is bad. Even positive news or an attempt to just have a nice discussion or explore things we could do, is met not with a "nice idea" or "thank you" but always how we can't.

Let me start with a different perspective on what I'm going through. We've been married 20 years and have teenagers.

For at least a decade, my wife has progressively gone from being very social, positive, and happy, to being controlling, judging, mean, and anxious in social settings.

My kids don't have many friends; people generally aren't welcome at our house. We've gone to others' social events but never reciprocated. We've had long time friends move to the town where we live; she won't invite them or even meet with them as common courtesy might suggest we do. I feel like we're being terrible people for failing to connect with old friends and offer new friends join us for dinner... I'll reach out and chat with them, be friendly and courteous, but I have to make excuses about spending time with my family.

Without any reasonable cause, she'll judge me, and if I defend myself or even simply suggest that my actions aren't a big deal, such as not regarding them as highly as she might, her treatment of me will quickly descend into yelling at me, swearing at me, and then blaming me if I try to remove myself from the abuse.

That decade ago, best I can remember, I started simply hoping to reconcile whatever hell we were descending into, I started just asking my family to "be nice." I started talking about the Golden Rule more. Clearly, it didn't sink in.

In time, I found myself crouching down on the floor, in tears, begging her to stop being mean to people, to stop yelling at me, to stop swearing at me.

Her mother is abusive. My wife was lied to about her father. She was neglected. She was insulted and judged. Her mother has been selfish and rude to my family.
The man my wife thought was her Dad, died in an accident... then my wife discovered he wasn't her Dad, after being lied to.
My wife's brother is a dozen years younger; the son of a different man. He's now nearing 40, he lives at home with mom, doesn't have a girlfriend, and never has as far as I know.

To put it quite simply, my wife is becoming her mother, and I know that's cliché, but that is not the woman I married, to whom I committed my life because I loved her. Think about your life, you probably know that man or woman who just isn't kind to their spouse. Perhaps you know the spouse, a normally social and positive person, except around that partner.

Maybe 6 months ago I stopped talking to her much. It's the only way I can avoid the negativity and abuse. She then started saying around the house that I'm mean. She reached a point where she said she wouldn't ask for my help with the kids anymore. She eventually, on a few occasions, demanded to know what I was talking to my kids about.

I can't talk to my wife. I can't handle the negativity anymore. I can't handle the blame. I can't handle the descent into abuse.

In many ways, I feel like I'm only still in this abusive marriage so that our children don't end up the same way - the same way as her mother, as her brother... as she is becoming. So that they don't have to have live on their own with how she is and what she does to them.

I can be a difficult person, I realize. I draw a pretty hard line on kindness; my own siblings have accused me of being Mother Theresa and saying I am difficult because no one can always be positive and nice to others. Fair. Valid. I know it, I acknowledge it. NONE of that excuses bad treatment and abuse. I can't even conceive of saying a mean thing toward someone else. I wake up every day as positive as I can be. I know that life isn't fair, nor always great, I'm a cancer survivor, but I won't let that cause me to be negative toward others. And I'm dying inside. My chest hurts, literally, not just emotionally, from how much she can be cruel to others, how much I can't even point it out, or beg her to stop, or even say hello or give her a hug, without being treated like crap.

She claims to want to do something about it. She's willing to read Dr. Harley's book and we're looking for a couple's therapist, but I don't know that I can ever recover from this because I can't even fathom how someone can treat others this way, then blame them for their behavior.

Help, please. What can I say?? How do I hope to get this on a healthy path again? Maybe I'm doing it, seeking a therapist for us both, but I know I can't just forgive someone who abuses me, who abuses others, and then blames those she abuses for her being abusive... particularly someone who then doesn't even acknowledge they do that, let alone apologize for it.

I'm here, writing this tonight, because it happened again. After a few weeks of peace, but silence, and my kids clearly being emotionally destroyed because the last time mom yelled at dad, it came up again. She refuses to be around my family for the holidays because she's uncomfortable, because we're unreasonable, and because we made her act this way. She demanded from me examples of what she's done, she started pointing out how treating people that way was my fault, and I stopped talking, I eventually removed myself from the situation, and find myself here.

I don't want my marriage to end. I don't want my wife to be abusive. I WILL not leave my kids in such a situation where they're left to defend for themselves, or be raised by her world view alone. I'm desperate. My family is willing to help, they're willing to do anything, but none of us know what to do.

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Welcome to MB.

I'm sorry, but you are another of our recent, very difficult cases that I don't have the expertise to deal with.

If your wife is exactly as you describe - negative and deeply unpleasant to her family, when they do their very best to act considerately and lovingly towards her, then she needs needs the help of a therapist. Posts from a message board cannot fix this; she needs the help directly.

Please send your post to Dr Harley. You say that you wife is willing to read his work; if so, she might be willing to talk to him. Even if she isn't, Dr Harley has experience working with very difficult cases like yours, and he will be able to advise you.


BW
Married 1989
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Originally Posted by lost_dad
She claims to want to do something about it. She's willing to read Dr. Harley's book and we're looking for a couple's therapist,
This is a very good position to be in. Contact Dr Harley and ask him to be your therapist.


BW
Married 1989
His PA 2003-2006
2 kids.
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Thank you and sorry, I didn't realize this was for requests from Dr Harley; I thought it was a community forum where others would share their opinions and offer suggestions.

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Originally Posted by lost_dad
Thank you and sorry, I didn't realize this was for requests from Dr Harley; I thought it was a community forum where others would share their opinions and offer suggestions.

It is indeed a community forum and we are all volunteers who have been helped by Dr Harley. However, your situation is very unusual. That is why SugarCane is suggesting you get in touch with him. His advice is free and could lead to a solution. We are so sorry for what has happened to you. Please let us know how it goes.

Email Joyce Harley at mbradio@marriagebuilders.com. You do not need to give your full name but tell him that you posted here as lost_dad. He will be able to read what you have written. When your email question is chosen to be answered on the radio show, you will be notified by email directing you to listen to the broadcast. If you would like to consider being a caller, include your telephone number. You will receive a call to explain the procedure.


3 adult children
Divorced - he was a serial adulterer
Now remarried, thank you MB
(formerly lied_to_again)
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Originally Posted by lost_dad
...I thought it was a community forum where others would share their opinions and offer suggestions.
Indeed it is, and contacting Dr Harley is my suggestion, and the best thing, in my opinion.


BW
Married 1989
His PA 2003-2006
2 kids.
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Lost dad, you mentioned that anti depressants were not helping and we’re making you feel deadened. That’s important to report back to your prescribing doctor. There are medications now for ptsd that may be a fit or maybe there is something they can add to the initial prescription to lessen the side effects.

I would repeat the suggestion to write to the Harleys, they saved me years of going in circles. I’ve been the wife in a hostile marriage and what I did was focus on the UA and FC time, getting out of the house as much as possible. Living in that environment for so many years rubbed off on me much more than I saw at the time so taking the kids outside for a walk to talk through any issues help me break the pattern of my own angry outbursts. Likewise with my XH, talking on a walk for a limited period of time about issues let me feel heard and didn’t escalate into a shouting match. And then I would have a safe topic to transition to. So I knew I had given it my best effort.


Me 40, OD 18 and YD 13
Married 15 years, Divorced 10/2010
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Hi, lost_dad,

I've been pretty much right where you are, and lived to tell about it.

What I found is that I had to meet several goals to get to a better situation:

1) I had to get my account in my wife's love bank past the romantic love threshold, to the point where she was in love with me. Only then was she really willing to listen to me.
2) I had to learn to get my complaints across to my wife without making any love bank withdrawals in the process, because that would sabotage goal 1
3) Ultimately I had to win my wife over to this plan for our marriage, by demonstrating how happy it made her when I followed it to the letter, and informatively giving her requests to make changes that would be better for me

That was extremely hard for me, because I am an extremely emotional person.

I can see a lot in what you've written that suggests to me that you're probably making love bank withdrawals without realizing it. So was I!

For example, when you write "I can't even fathom how someone can treat others this way," that may well be true, but it adds a negative emotional value judgment to what you are saying - instead of just giving her information ("It hurts me when you do X") it expresses a subtle judgment on her ("That's a bizarre choice you've made, to do X - how could anyone do that?"). Over time those love bank withdrawals serve to demotivate your wife, so that lessens your chances of ever convincing her to give this a try.

You're going to need to focus on learning to complain only in the ways Dr. Harley suggests, which simply pass information rather than making a disrespectful judgment and love bank withdrawal.

More importantly, you're going to need to focus on learning what things you do that make love bank withdrawals and what you can do to start making deposits, so you can turn this around.

Question: do you ever lose your temper at your wife?

Question 2: do you have the book Love Busters? It's indispensable.


If you are serious about saving your marriage, you can't get it all on this forum. You've got to listen to the Marriage Builders Radio show, every day. Install the app!

Married to my radiant trophy wife, Prisca, 17 years, who is a beautiful angel.
Attended Marriage Builders weekend in May 2010

If your wife is not on board with MB, some of my posts to other men might help you.
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A long time ago I made some notes about ways I had learned I was making disrespectful judgments towards my wife. I was very oblivious to this, but I was doing it all the time. It made it impossible to win her over to the idea of putting Marriage Builders into practice in our marriage.

Here's my list. It was hard to eliminate these, but we made basically no progress until I did.


sarcasm
criticism
judgment: stating that their perspective is wrong
“should”
lecturing / attempting to educate
gestures, facial expressions, body language
expressing surprise or shock at an opinion or feeling or belief
saying that something is “obvious” (in other words, you “should’ realize this or “should” know it)
disrespecting your spouse’s feelings instead of accepting the fact that they do feel that way
guilting, shaming
hyperbolizing
always/never
exaggerated words
scolding
name-calling, labeling
saying or doing something you know your spouse identifies as disrespectful
comparisons: I would never treat you that way; if I had done such a horrible thing as you, I’d be more willing to make up for it
defensiveness
minimizing – “just” – you just say that because … [Translation: I don’t have to address your complaint]
psychoanalyzing your spouse
explaining away your spouse’s feelings or complaints
attributing motivations
blaming, fault-finding
expecting your spouse to read your mind
I statements may help, but are not an excuse for a disrespectful judgment:
“I feel like {insert disrespectful judgment here}” is just as hurtful as saying the disrespectful judgment
I feel unloved (still disrespectful)
I feel like you don’t love me (still disrespectful)


If you are serious about saving your marriage, you can't get it all on this forum. You've got to listen to the Marriage Builders Radio show, every day. Install the app!

Married to my radiant trophy wife, Prisca, 17 years, who is a beautiful angel.
Attended Marriage Builders weekend in May 2010

If your wife is not on board with MB, some of my posts to other men might help you.
3 members like this: happyheart, StarfishKC, Blackhawk

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