Hi, I'm new to the board and found it while searching for "self-help" marriage counseling info. Here's a little back info on my situation:
My wife and I have been married for 3 years. We knew each other for about 2 years before that. She moved here from England when she was a teen to escape a rather emotionally and physically abusive family situation. I was raised by my older sister but would not say I have a bad upbringing.
In short, we have been separated for a couple months now (living in different places) but want to make things work. This is only what I understand from recent communications, but she felt as if I was like her "father" in a figurative way. Controlling, intruding, trying to fix everything, trying to pay for everything and control the finances (she is going through career hardships), condescending, and things of that nature. I feel like she is defensive, assuming, and quick to think everything I do is to hold her back or steal her identity, irrationally so actually.
We went to a counselor and it was very bad, she did not want to be there. She refuses to discuss her problems with anyone except me and her. We love each other, miss each other, and desire each other but when we are together for more than one night it goes back to the “I say/do something I don't think is bad, she thinks I am acting like a father again, and I don't understand what’s going on and why she is closing off” Routine.
It looks like self-help counseling is the only way so I want to try it, she does as well. I’m not sure what to do but have a few things I’m thinking. One, try not to control it. Try to remain totally objective. Don’t use “you” statements, use “I” statements. Try not to bring up specific past incidents. I figure we can write things down like “I feel this way when…”. Besides that, I’m not entirely sure what to do. I’m an architect not a counselor. Please give me your thoughts. All opinions are greatly appreciated. Sorry for the length.
It sounds like she has had a very rocky past and so has a lot of 'issues' to work through. unfortunately/fortunately (which ever way you want to take it) she has chosen you to work through those issues with. If she keeps claiming you are like her father its probably because you are, to her, and subconsciously she wants to get over whatever her father did to her and she is using you as proxy for that. Its important to keep in mind that these are her issues and have relatively little to do with you. Try not to take what she is saying personally, although its mentallly exhausting, because she has a lot of problems and it will take a long time for her to work through them all.
Remember that you cannot solve her problems for her. Do not start to compromise your own happiness and sense of self to feed into her psychological distortions. If she gives you guilt trips, dont feed in to them. She'll get over it (hopefully) and learn from you if you take care of yourself. Remember that she is also responsible for her own happiness.
It sounds like you are doing a lot of things right- the 'I' statements, counseling, etc. Just keep doing what your doing.
Mort Fertel has a self-help type program advertises on this site (see banner above its usually up there or google him) he also has a teleseminar and a "lone ranger" track if your spouse doesn't want to participate. I have ordered and listened to the DVDs and applied some of his suggestions successfully. It also sounds like your wife could benefit from individual counseling but it does not sound like she is open to that...she may have some unresolved issues that need to be dealt with that have nothing to do with you. Either case, I think that the Mort Fert program may be of some benefit to you. One other thing that came to mind, I tend to be a problem solver so when my husband bounces things off me, I think he's asking me to solve it. Big light bulb, I don't own the problem he does and just wanted to talk. So now I do more listening instead of saying "have you done this or that" big huge difference. He felt I was controlling because I did this, I had no clue!
Yes, I am definitely a problem solver and a "healer" as my sister would always say. When I met my wife she was strong and independent. That is why I fell in love with her. She has been going though some hard times and I have been doing my best to make sure they impact her little. I sometimes feel though that this is what drove her away. We have been making time for each other lately but I find that she will often think something I'm asking or saying is a stab at her or a effort to control her. I almost want to just not talk around her. I'm totally walking on eggshells. I feel as though if we even start talking things over the chances of her letting down this guard are slim. I will look up Mort Fertel and check out his stuff. Thanks for the advise so far.
I almost want to just not talk around her. I'm totally walking on eggshells. I feel as though if we even start talking things over the chances of her letting down this guard are slim.
My H has said the same thing to me. he said he's afraid everything he says will get twisted and just make me angry. i think you should communicate this to her. i think its important that she know how the way she is talking to you is affecting you. i know you want to minimize the effects of her problems but sometimes the best way to help someone is to let them see how their behavior is pushing away the ones they love. If she keeps saying you are trying to control her, just tell her you are sorry she feels that way but that you do love her. that's all you can do. she's going to have to see the effects of her behavior and learn from it. if you try and minimize the effects of her behavior she will only learn more slowly, which will only confuse her more.
Sometimes approaching couples work as skills training/coaching can be more acceptable to an unwilling spouse. I've worked with many couples in which one partner feels they have no issues and/or a therapist has no place in their private issues. I am able to give them the tools to help the eventual private conversations go well.
Offer your interest in improving your ability to communicate, resolve conflicts, and really understand her so that, as you begin to discuss and work through your issues privately as a couple, you're starting from a better place with strong skills (so that the conversations may actually be helpful.)
And, by participating in skills training with a professional, the unwilling spouse is also able to experience what it is really like in the room, which often helps to relieve some of the mistrust or anxiety about couples work.
It's impossible to say from your post if you're really controlling, if she's hypersensitive, or both. But one thing is certain - if either of you was qualified to "fix" it, you'd have already handled the problem. You can't get self-help without turning to some sort of professional, even if it's the author of a book.
Unfortunately, the types of issues you have to overcome will not respond well to self-help. Please consider taking Sarah's suggestion.