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I'm so sick of feeling like I'm married to an emotional porcupine. It's just not enjoyable to be married to my wife. She shouts at the children daily. She explodes at the smallest things I do. She even blows up at the tiniest naughtiness from our dog. When I try to talk to her about her behavior, she shuts down or retorts angrily and refuses to engage. She also appears to be scared of everything: new foods, new experiences, sex, deadly diseases, everything. It seems like smallest stressors from our children or life circumstances or really anything can send her entire body into a rage and/or a complete shutdown.

And then there's our sexual relationship. She basically refuses to have sex with me except on the blue moons where the stars align AND she hasn't had any significant (for her) stressors that day, AND I've done a near perfect job of meeting her needs AND it's the peak of her ovulation AND we got the kids to bed at a really early time. And the sex we have... Hey husband, I've got an arousing proposition for you. How about we do the exact same thing we did last time and try to get it done as fast as is humanly possible. Then after our fast-as-possible lovemaking (where she almost always orgasms), let's do a very thorough and clinical job of cleaning ourselves off. And then as fast as we can after, let's watch a show fully clothed in the bed.

And I feel (perhaps inaccurately) like I try very, very hard to meet her needs. I feel like I spend literally hours every day most days trying to meet her needs in one way or another. I do a dang good job of taking care of the children and trying to raise them right. I take the kids without real complaint every morning so that she can sleep in after taking care of babies. I provide a good income for us. I try to tell her often that she's beautiful and that I appreciate her judgement, and I really mean the things I say. I try to spend lots of time with her. Honestly, I feel like my entire life is basically scheduled according to what she thinks will make her happiest: work from 8am to 5 pm every day, even when my business could really use more hours. Be home every day from 7 pm to 8:30 pm so that we can put the kids to bed together although I really wish we could alternate. Every night after the kids are asleep, try to have conversation time together so that she can unwind and vent. And usually offer to watch a show together because I know she enjoys it.

And I guess at this point you're likely thinking that while I may have done the things that I thought should bring her happiness, I haven't done the things that actually do bring her happiness and meet her deepest emotional needs. While there's no real way to know for certain one way or another, the fact is that in my life I've had needy friends with lots of problems who never could be satisfied and I've also had independent, joyful friends who took the happiness I had to offer with joy and then added it back to me. And as far as I can tell, my wife fits the former category right now. I don't know if it's something about motherhood or marriage or what, but I feel like she was a giver before marriage, and now after marriage and our kids, her needs have become insatiable and yet she's still not happy. And on the days she is happy, she still won't/can't meet my needs. It feels impossible to her or too scary or just demeaning or something.

It just feels like a pointless treadmill I'm running without any payoff at the end besides the grim satisfaction of knowing that I did my duty and tried my best to make an impossible-to-be-happy soul a little bit happier, and that I didn't inflict the psychological trauma on my kids that surely they would receive if we divorced. And then just focus on the simple joys in the dull routine of my life as best I can. The dog walks. The laughter of children. The satisfaction of my work. But marital contentment? Impossible.

And I'm open to the idea that I'm doing a bunch of things that are contributing to our unhappiness together. God knows I'm a perfectionist. God knows I'm not the most cheerful giver of all the things I feel like I'm giving my wife and giving up for her. God knows I can be condescending. And I'm trying to work on these things. I'm not perfect, but I'm working on them. I'm trying to be more responsive to her cues on what she thinks are annoying habits of mine.

And the key to her happiness I think is this: for me to feel like she's enough and that I love her desperately. It's not enough for me to do the behaviors that she likes or to try my darndest to make her happy. She wants me to FEEL crazy amounts of love and appreciation and contentment for her. This is what she most craves but I feel like I can't give it to her. The reality is I feel like a man dying of thirst desperately trying to pump a well that just refuses to give.

I can envision that maybe after years of feeling like she was enough and that I loved her genuinely to pieces, maybe she could make some progress on learning how to meet my needs. But it seems impossible for me to be happy and pleased with her when it seems like she tries so little to even attempt to meet my needs, and like she's constantly on the edge of a breakdown if I stop for two seconds doing all the things I do to help her and make our house function. And she feels so hopeless herself that she often tells me we should just get a divorce because she's never going to be able to make me happy and she doesn't want me to be unhappy.

Any perspectives or advice? We're meeting with Dr. Harley's son, Steve, but honestly the three (ridiculously expensive) sessions we've had thus far have been not at all helpful. Maybe the next seven (in our ten session package) will be more useful.

Welcome to MB.

What has Steve Harley recommended after each of the three sessions?

Does your wife participate fully in the sessions? Does she see the marriage as being unsatisfactory in the same way that you do? Have you talked about her constant explosions at everything? What does she say about them?

Does she agree that she seems unhappy with her life, and that you do a lot to help at home? What does she say about that?

I'm asking because it would be good to hear her side of the story. You've explained what you think she feels, but I wonder what she has actually said out loud.
I mispoke a bit - she's not unhappy in general. She's just unhappy with the quality of our relationship. And she's told me that by far the hardest thing for her is knowing that dissatisfied with her and often don't enjoy being married to her.

And she's told me that she does feel like I help a lot at home. She's also told me she wishes I could give it less grudgingly and more happily too, but that she thinks I do a great job.

But she's also told me that she definitely doesn't feel like I'm meeting her needs. And what she needs is to feel like I love and respect her and enjoy being married to her. But I don't know how to give her that because those things aren't necessarily actions I can perform. They're feelings she wants me to feel.

As for her explosions and freak outs, she recognizes she has a problem but doesn't feel like there's anything she realistically can do to stop it. The children just keep pushing her buttons for hours and her stamina is low and kablam off she goes and it takes her a long time to recover. Or if it's not the children, some random fear or disequilibrium will grip her (the fear of burglars, the fear of accidental medication overdosing, the stress of getting a new puppy) and she'll go into fight or flight mode until eventually she finds some way to calm down, but it takes a long time.

And she does participate in the sessions. Really all we've done thus far in the sessions is (1) get asked a lot of questions, and (2) receive what kind of felt like an hour long lecture trying to explain to us that it's the other person's responsibility to make you feel in love by meeting your needs. Really no other take home message on our last session besides that we should try to familiarize ourselves more with the concepts.

So basically it just seems like we're doomed to be unable to meet each other needs. She's never going to be able to meet my needs for sexual fulfillment and peace in the house (lack of angry outbursts) and domestic support so that I can have a teeny bit of a life. And I'm never going to be able to meet her needs for admiration and affection and superhuman levels of domestic support.

I mean, I could bring her flowers every day, but if I'm frustrated at her for frequent angry outbursts at me and the children, she won't let the flowers mean anything to herself. And I can express admiration to her of all the many good qualities I see in her, but if she knows that I'm frustrated at her because of her inability to be intimate with me, she also won't allow herself to feel the admiration is sincere (although it is).
Has Steve gave her any advice on how to stop her angry outbursts?

Has she read anything on angry outbursts?
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