Whats a guy to do?

jay_njApril 11, 2003

OK Im usually hanging over @ the tractor forum with the boys, but as a member of the Garden Web, I figure its about time that I take full advantage of the available resources Ive been reading many of the posts here a lot of good advice. Ive also noticed that there arent too many guys participating at least that I can identify. Perhaps I can contribute with a male point of view when its appropriate. Anyway, heres my story.

My wife and I have been married for almost 10 years my second, her first. We have 3 children 1, 5, & 8. She stays at home with the kids they are home-schooled. Im the breadwinner got a decent job thats stable. As far as I can see, there arent any serious negative outside influences that could be adversely affecting either of us. What I mean here is that we dont have serious what Ill call non-relationship issues such as money problems, bad neighbors, meddling family members, etc, etc. Things in general are quite good. Its a sound life amidst all of the turmoil in the world today. However, theres a problem in our marriage that seems to be getting worse and worse.

As a married couple, we of course share lives. We have shared both good and bad times including the dreaded skeletons in our closets. My first marriage was an absolute nightmare my wife knows most of the stories a lot of things Im not too proud of. Shes no saint either, but I think we all have issues from our past that were not too thrilled about. Anyway, heres the problem. When we get into an argument over something, (which is very rare) shell go into her bag of tricks and pull out something detrimental from my past or hit on some super-sensitive issue and throw it in my face. In other words, shell start pushing my buttons or digging into old wounds. I cant tell you how infuriated I become. Although I want to slap her, I dont openly go ballistic over it -- I dont want the kids to see me like that. I just shut up and withdraw to where I stop speaking and interacting with her. This happens about once every few months. We eventually get back on even keel, but the memory of the events and circumstances remain with me. Ive made attempts to tell her how I feel about what she is doing she listens and seems to understand my position. But without fail, when the time comes, its like shes a different person I feel she just wants to do nothing more than hurt me in the worst way and she has the ammo to do it! It happened again last week and Ive just about had it. I want to leave I just want to remove myself from the environment but I cant its the kids. I cant do that to them. Each one of these episodes moves me further and further away from her. Its gotten to the point where I feel Im falling out of love with her. My trust factor is at an all time low & Im finding it difficult to cope.

Whats a guy to do?

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Here's what I would do - this is awfully long - sorry. This is just my opinion, I'm sure other people will be along soon to give their good ideas too. Hopefully you'll end up with something that will work for you.

I suggest waiting another week before you take action so your feelings of betrayal can fade a little more. That will help you be less subjective and calmer about the issue. Then start writing a list of what you need to say about this subject. Stick to this single issue and don't let anything else creep into your list. Start thinking about how you can discuss this without going ballistic. Mentally practice talking to her while staying calm and firm. Then practice in your head again, this time imagining yourself talking to her with a lot of love while staying calm and firm no matter what she answers. This is such a heavy duty betrayal that I think it would be all too easy for you (or anybody) to rage at her. That would feel good, but the force of emotion will drown out your message. Now you're ready for the hard part.

Tell her you need to talk and that it's deadly serious. Then schedule a time without the kids present. If you want to send a message that something's extremely important then you have to do something different than normal. Sending the kids to a sitter will really "set the stage" and give you two the space to talk. Letting her know in advance that you are serious about a subject sets this discussion apart from the other times you talked to her. I don't recommend going to a restaurant or other public place unless you know you'll be able to talk without interruption and without any melodrama that might bother other people.

Avoid the temptation to give your wife any ultimatums. It seems like they would get the other person's attention and help make your point, but when I gave my husband an ultimatum, he got his back up and dared me to do it. That sort of screwed up the rest of the discussion. It will take awhile for her to change her behavior. Give her that time without the threat of divorce. So what do you do when you've had the serious discussion and a month later your wife attacks you with the old stuff? When she starts digging into old wounds,(and she will a few times), then you calmly remind her of your discussion. If that fails to stop her (and it will at first), then you calmly and abruptly announce a time out. Say something to de-escalate the situation like: "I'm too angry right now to continue talking. I'm going to take an hour and calm down. If you'd still like to talk about this, I'll come and get you at XX:00." But don't let her bait you into any more discussion and don't back down from the time-out. And, even if she deserves all the blame, don't blame her for the time-out. Just take the high road and take your time-out. Avoid blaming her even if she really deserves it. Just go for a walk or out to the garage or even to the t.v. and calm down. What I'm trying to say is that each and every time she starts the old negative attacks, you respond with a reminder and then if that fails, a time-out. You're taking away her pay-off! If every time she tries to hurt you by dredging up that old stuff, you simply and calmly up-and-leave the discussion, there's not much pay-off for her to continue attacking you in the future! Just don't react with hurt or anger, instead do this calmly and respectfully, because this is one way to teach your wife how to treat you.

The time-outs are very important because they give everyone a chance to cool off. I think they'll also ease your feelings of bitterness and resentment that linger long after fights are over. Time-outs will give you some power over the situation, because you don't have to stand there and take it, and because you have a respectful way to leave the situation when you aren't being right. They're good - as long as you don't abuse them and use them as a new weapon to throw in her face and especially as long as you play fair and give her a time to resume the argument and you actually keep your word.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2003 at 5:41PM
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I hate to bring "Dr. Phil" into this, but one thing that he said that I always think about is that people should never bring up past issues when arguing. I know I've been guilty of doing this to my husband. Ever since I heard Dr. Phil say that, I've stopped. I've realized how damaging it is to a relationship. It sounds like the two of you need to talk. I know you said you have told her how you feel, etc., but you need to try again. Is she resentful of something? Let her talk about it. If you can work on a way to NOT bring up the past during arguments, that will help. But bringing up the past over and over again and pushing those buttons, thus creating some angry feelings, is not going to help your marriage. Go to her again and talk about this. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2003 at 3:37AM
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This may sound silly, but it worked for a friend of mine. Her husband was the one who brought the past into current arguments. They talked about it, much like puddlejumper suggested- calmly without kids around when there were no arguments waiting to happen. He promised not to do it again. But just in case, she said "I'll remind you calmly if you do it again." The next couple of arguments he was good. But one doozy happened and he brought up the past. She had made a little cardboard sign on a popsicle stick in funny letters with glitter and stuff that said "No past issues!" She held it up and he just burst out laughing. He was really sorry, and hadn't realized he was bringing up the past again. But because it was such a funny way of telling him, a non-threatening way, it made him realize it and stop. Maybe if the 2 of you could develop some silly way to say "no arguing about the past" it would help. The more ridiculous the better. Maybe tell her next time she brings up the past in an argument, you're going to start singing a song or something. Just to help break up the tension and and stop the argument from blowing completely out of control. But make sure you agree on the method before an argument. I think puddlejumper really hit the nail on the head with the discussion ideas.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2003 at 9:12AM
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Puddlejumper's idea is really good & just what I would suggest. It's so easy when you're angry to say things that you don't mean. I'm sure most of us have been guilty of bringing up bad things from the past during arguments. If you take a time-out both of you can have a chance to clear your heads & try to discuss things more calmly afterward.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2003 at 1:42PM
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My husband is very bad when it comes to this... he always brings up my past mistakes. I have talked to him about this at length... here is what I did. After I calmed down (maybe a few days later) I told him we needed to talk. I had gotten all me feelings organized on paper in a letter to him, so I knew what I needed to say.

We talked about the importance of forgiveness in a relationship. Once something has been forgiven, don't "throw it back into the ring" so to speak. I pointed out how hard it is for in imperfect person like me to constantly defend myself, apologize and try to make every mistake right again. I pointed out all of the things he's done wrong that I could (but don't) bring up. (e.g. "How would you feel feel if I brought up the time you did this or the time that happened?") He understond and agreed to stop doing it.

I think my husband understood, he's been great about not bringing up past mistakes.

I guess the most important thing here is to let her know how you feel. The past is the past and either she has forgiven you and can move on or she hasn't and can't... If it's the latter, I suggest she involve a professional to figure how she CAN move on and fogive!

Thats my POV...

    Bookmark   April 13, 2003 at 12:46AM
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I always liked Ann Landers who would say, show this letter to (whomever). Sometimes seeing it in print can really be an eye opener. Also, she will know that she is not alone in making the mistake and how she can back off from doing it.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2003 at 4:20PM
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I agree with Puddlejumper also.The timeout idea is a great way to give you both a chance to breath before something gets said that the two of you really don't mean thus causing more of a wedge between you.Plus it removes the fuel fromthe fire so to speak.If you aren't there to verbally attack whose she going to argue with?Very good advice.Good Luck.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2003 at 1:42AM
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I haven't read all of the replies here, Jay, so I hope that no one mentioned this already. If your wife is bringing things up that you have done after you knew her or were married to her, she obviously is not healed from whatever she is trying to rub in your face when she gets angry at you. Maybe you two should go back to those issues and discuss them in depth to make sure they they are resolved issues. If she is bringing things up that you did or things about you that didn't involve her, I would simply ask her why these things make her so angry that she has to bring them into the fight. Those issues that she is bringing up during a fight may be the very things that she is mad about instead of what it looks like she is mad about. The other things be subconsiously, a way let you know that she is still not over the other issues.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2003 at 2:18PM
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Lu, you're very wise. You just made me realize that whatever old stuff I sometimes bring up is stuff I still don't feel good about. I'm going to think on this and see if I can come up with a list and discuss it with my DH. Thanks!!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2003 at 2:50PM
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I think you are on to something here! It just makes sense that a person would up bring up the same issues over and over when there was some unfinished business lurking in the background. If this was a trust issue, it could be that for whatever reason, Jay's wife isn't sure he can be trusted not to repeat the same problem.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2003 at 5:01PM
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Lu does have a good point about past issues not being resolved.

BUT - the tactic of dredging things up from the past is also a way that some people "win" arguments. They bring it up to throw the other person off balance. To change the topic of the argument, deflecting anything directed at themselves. It can also be a way to retain power over the other person. Keeping those trump cards available to verbally bring the other person to their knees.

Have you considered counseling? Individual and together. You have obviously tried to discuss this with her and things have not changed. Counseling is the next step. Go alone first ~ you may get some good suggestions that will help fix the problem. If not, then go together. Your marriage is in serious trouble and both of you should try to rebuild it before throwing in the towel.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2003 at 11:43AM
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i think you should be straight forward and tell her every time she betrays your trust be throwing up things that you have told her from your past doing an arguement that you loose more and more respect for her and as this happens you feel more detached from her and if she keeps it up she will soon find you telling her that you are not in love with her anymore so KNOCK IT OFF!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2006 at 2:24AM
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