She's been using threats of leaving for years to get her way, but have always just been a tool in her argument toolbox.
It has always been my sense that threats, ultimatums, and outright ordering other adults around is a sure-fire way to prevent any form of relationship success. I made this point on someone else's post and was attacked soundly by a chap implying that I'm a wuss and behaving like a rug. "Of course you tell your spouse what to do", he said, implying it was somehow, a healthy form of setting boundaries.
So, being open-minded, I contacted my colleagues who have been studying the mind, analyzing brain images and asked them.
Turns out the evidence is purely one-sided. No. Under no circumstances is any relationship, whether adult-to-adult, or even parent-to-child, enhanced when the method is to issue orders, ultimatums, threats whether it be spanking or divorce. Even a three year old child will immediately harbor resentment "My dad can order me around only because he's bigger" and that child will become the one who breaks the law as an adult.
So - divorce threats? My sense is this is someone with a much higher than average need to control others. Nobody can control anything except what you think (and therefore what you feel) and your behavior in the next ten seconds or so.
I've taken to accepting threats and ultimatums as the person giving me choice A or Choice B. If it's the first time that a person has used an ultimatum with me, I say, fairly quietly so as to make sure they know I'm not speaking out of emotion, "I tend to view ultimatums as being given a choice of two paths. I recommend that you give me such ultimatums only if you would be equally happy no matter which of the two offered paths I take". With my wife, she issued me one ultimatum - ever.
Speaking of which, she also brings back the past
The past is dead and has no bearing on the current. If you can learn from the past, that's OK, but years of attempts to find a benefit to regret have yielded nothing. If she demands an apology, give it, but be done with it.
I guess the short-and-long of it is that she accuses me of not caring for her, of not thinking of her needs, not doing the things she wants me to do.
If these are claims of the current conditions, then there may be merit in claims of "not caring for her". This means emotional support. "Thinking of her needs" is rather vague - an adult is supposed to know his/her own needs and supply 99% of them. If someone else actually NEEDS something they cannot supply themselves, then they are obligated to ask for it, not assume someone else can "think about it".
Things she wants you to do? Kinda depends on what they are. Sharing in the basic needs of life seems reasonable - share in keeping the house clean, share in food, whether it means one person cooks, the other cleans up, sure. Share in her ideas of making something perfect? It's time to discuss what are reasonable objectives. Are your chosen objectives and activities chosen in collaboration with each other? When you two consider things to add to your list, is the answer "no" as often as it is "yes", or do you just keep adding because every new thing feels good?
Before the next quote, I'll mention that "doing" is way over-rated. FEELING is the stuff of secure families.
However I am at my wits end on how I could possibly do more. Here's a typical day/week in my life:
Wake up, make breakfast for the family, make sure lunches are packed and take out the garbage (I am known to forget the garbage about 1 out of 10 times)...
I work relatively long hours, as is normal for my profession and responsibility level.
Was this choice made in agreement with the wife? Given your working, you're earning high dollars, can you consider paying for help in some of the chores you do? Driving child to school is not quality time with him, so you lose nothing by paying for transportation.
Any chance you could downshift at work? Assuming your "profession and responsibility level" are paying more than you need, can you take a cut in pay and get back to 40 hours a week?
If she did not ask you to put forth this effort for this income, then this may be the heart of the matter...you may only be assuming that she values this. I don't know in your case, as you have not said as much.
After work, I pick up my son from swimming (mom took him there) or get him from home to take him to Judo.
This is feeling like a lot of extra-curricular activities for your son. Given his twice-exceptional characteristics, are these activities based on a counselor's recommendation? If so, is the counselor aware that your wife's health prevents her from making a normal level of support contribution?
Dinner (she usually makes it since she wants to eat early) usually after that. I clean up the table, kitchen (a deal we made with her cooking dinner and me cleaning up) and house after that. I then help with homework and get my son into bed. After that I either help my wife with cleaning, sorting, E-mails, phone-calls, laundry, paperwork.
My gut feel is you're cleaning a lot. Houses can't be hospital clean, especially not many times a day. Cleaning up after a meal, sure, but are you dusting/vacuuming daily? That would be a bit overboard.
Help your wife sorting what? What needs sorting on a daily basis? If she involves herself in activities that generate more work, I think she should be doing all the sorting/emailing, whatever. Part of how we decide how much to take on is based on how much work it generates for us. My individual decision to start a new activity/hobby, etc, is mine alone and I would not feel ethical in expecting my wife to participate in any of the work involved.
FYI, I did an entire thread about how much paperwork my wife does...I'm overwhelmed by the time she spends doing phone calls, paperwork, bills, and on and on. It's less than what your wife seems to need, and the response I got from all responders is "she needs help", aka, she's way over the top obsessive-compulsive.
I'd say 90% of the time I am busy with these tasks until bedtime or beyond. I'll play a game on my mobile phone for 10 minutes before bedtime to try and unwind. I'll have a couple of hours free maybe 1 day a week if I'm lucky. Week-ends are similar. I make breakfast, help with left-over homework, music practise, lessons, chores in & around the house. I'll maybe get a few hours "relaxation" to play with my son.
Overall, it sounds like the two of you have taken on too much.
Is this normal? Do other people also only have 2-3 hours of free time per week? Am I not doing enough?
What is she doing? No, 2-3 hours is not right. I suspect 90% of what you're doing is attempting to achieve perfection which, by definition, is a waste of time.
One thing that I think is an issue is that I do things in a different sequence or order of priority than her, and it drives her crazy. She'll expect me to do things the same way she would. Without her telling me which order. Apparently a good husband would know this automatically. When I ask, I'm being difficult. When I say I'm getting to it when she tries to remind me to do something she feels I should already have done first, I'm accused of talking back at her - something that a good husband should not do either. She's allowed to tell me how bad a person I am and I have to be quiet, no arguing.
Well, be careful of the notion that anything should be "fair". You and she will be sensitive to different things, therefore the ways you speak to each other won't necessarily be the same.
I'm always troubled when I hear that someone insists that a task be done one exact way. Years of work in production environments have caused me to sit in probably a thousand hours of class on how to instruct people to do work. All of them said the same thing: unless the product/service is either medically sensitive or national security related, you should only define the desired outcome, not how a person gets there. Not because it's nice, but because it works better. If you tell someone what to do and exactly how, then that person has no ownership of what they're doing - it's no longer their work, it's yours, and you've put them in a position of having to channel your innermost thoughts. Rarely works well.
Now I know what you think by now - she sounds horrible! But there is the wonderful side of her too... When the nasty woman is asleep:
She is fantastic at anticipating my needs and will be extremely thoughtful and prep things for me so that things are ready for me. She works like super-woman on helping our very difficult son with learning about school and life. Believe me, he can be extremely tiring - most people think he's great the first 30 minutes, OK after an hour and can't stand him for a minute longer after 2-3 hours, yet she takes him on day-in, day-out. She works (from home) for 4-6 hours per day, cooks a great, balanced meal in the evenings and drives my son from school, to his therapy sessions and swimming lessons. She'll provide emotional support to the family and make suggestions when other people are out of ideas. She'll deal with contractors for fixing things I don't have the time for, and navigates the medical bureaucracy for getting more help for our son. Warm hugs, really a kind-hearted and very caring person over-all.
I didn't see anything about feelings. Without feelings - emotional support of each other - it hardly would be a romantic relationship. Life is about feelings, emotional and spiritual connectedness. In a sense, it sounds as if the two of you have split apart already and are attempting to pretend to have a marriage based on what you "do" not how you feel, how you listen, how you share energy, emotion and spirit.
We are in our mid-forties now and as we age and have less energy, more aches & pains (especially her since she has poor general health), we have less tolerance and she seems to be the nasty woman more often. I'm worried about menopause - and she's been more ferocious every thiem the nasty one takes over. What to do?
I'm 60 and only in the past year have I seen a change in energy. Humans are vital longer than in any period in history, at 40 if you're low on energy, then it's your lifestyle....I really think the two of you are trying to do far more tasks than the two of you can manage, given your work schedules and her health and the high support needs of your son.
Have the two of you had a good talk about what is reasonable?
Your son has twice-exceptional needs (your words). If these needs mean that he will never integrate with society as normal, then accept it and don't try to compensate. I don't know his condition and in any case, I'm not a counselor on the matter, hopefully you have a proper expert to consult with.
I've been diagnosed with two different mental conditions and have challenged eyesight that prevented me from playing sports as a kid - no social life until college. I have never been able to integrate with normal culture in any kind of an easy way. My parents, thankfully, didn't get in my way and allowed me to find where I was comfortable. I naturally gravitated toward hobbies that I could do without friends, turned one of them into a decent career, so I did OK financially. Only now am I really starting to grapple with what it will take for me to develop a social life - knowing all the well that it'll never be easy, I'll have to be more watchful of things I don't know yet, I have to get out of my comfort zone of doing projects at home by myself, etc. I bet your son also, given the opportunity, can find his own way.
Your wife has health problems. Apparently this inhibits her ability to contribute. Rather than expect the husband to step up and compensate, how about dialing back expectations as a couple? Or, how about hiring someone to assist in the physical chores, leaving her more energy to work on more crucial things such as her own job or your son's needs?
I've seen people with serious health problems pretend they can compensate. Then end up only noticing the physical compensation, and not that they're driving themselves crazy in the attempt.
Why are you doing all this? Who told you to? What goals are driving you to live such frantic lives? What expectations do the two of you have for doing all this?