I'm hoping to get some insight to help me approach some issues I'm having in my marriage of 3 years. To start off, I am 40 and she is 36 and this is the first marriage for both of us.
I am a small business owner, and she is a 5th grade teacher. We have known each other for nearly a decade, and were friends long before we even dated.
What I am about to say may come as a surprise (as it did to me), but I will do my best to explain my frustration. Before we were married, my (now) wife lived alone, took care of her condo and was always cheerful when we got together for the 2 years we dated. Not to say she was "perfect" but I had no idea of the situation that would slowly unfold after getting married and moving in together.
My wife, you see, acts like a spoiled teenage girl (read; brat) when confronted with manadatory issues and tasks, or even faced with a competitive scenario. Perhaps I never saw this in her before, because during the time we were dating there weren't any serious issues, or anything much other than trying to find ways to have fun together. For the record, we did not live together before getting married.
She constantly demeans herself, and is overly and vocally critical about anything she does that is not "perfect" of which 99% of the time I could really care less about, and tell her so. She will virtually break down if she forgot to pick something up at the store that we need, especially if it was something that I had asked her for. Invariably, I will say to her, "No worries, I will get it on my way home tomorrow from work. No big deal. Thank you for getting everything else though." Unto which she will respond, "Yeah, but that was STUPID of me, I'm such an idiot to have forgotten that. You even asked me for it, and I still messed it all up. I guess I can't do anything right."
She also exhibits the same immature/insecure behavior when competing in any kind of game or interaction where there is a "winner" or a "loser" involved. It has become so apparent that our friends often call me and ask how it is that I can handle her tantrums, and if there is anything they can do to help. She does not behave any differently if there is a room full of people, or just me around.
The hardest part is that when we are along, she recognizes the behavior and simply doesn't care to do anything about it, except to continue the childlike actions until I give up and let it be. This leaves me all stressed out, and hours later (after she has "gotten over" that issue) with no resolution, she asks me what is wrong. If I tell her that it is our unresolved dispute, she starts it all over again by saying, "If I can drop it why can't you?" And as much as I'd like to agree with her, the bigger picture is that I KNOW IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN, and again, and again, if we don't ever confront it and try to resolve it.
Example: One of the reasons we were first attracted was our love of playing games. Poker, pool, board games, dominos, cribbage, you name it, we played it. We would spend countless hours playing games alone and with friends while we were dating.
After about a year of marriage, she determined that I was in-fact a better player in most games that she was, and at some unknown point, I became her direct competition instead of a fellow game enthusiast. She has told me that she *should be* as good, or better than me at anything that she wants to. I tell her that I fully agree, but did she happen to notice that when we started playing poker how I bought a dozen books, joined discussion boards, and spent countless hours picking the brains of other poker players, while she used my poker books as coffee coasters? I guess I was wrong in doing that, since she 1) chose not to read the books anyway and 2) will not listen to ONE thing that I say to her that might improve any of her games. She feels as if *the will* to improve should be enough.
We also play in a weekly billiards league, and have since before we were married. We are just now on the same team. When she wins her matches the world is a wonderful place with hugs and kisses for everyone. However if she is even losing (i.e. not yet actually lost) at any point in one of her matches, she walks around muttering, "God, I suck. I deserve to lose. There is no way I can win..." And all of this is long before the match is even over. Everyone on the team has consoled her at one time or another with positive reinforcements, telling her, "No, c'mon, you can do it!" "You are not far behind, just calm down and start shooting, we know you can!" But alas, she has already given up and once this mode has set in, she makes her own prophecy come true, loses the match, and declares, "You see, I was right. I told everyone I was going to lose, and I did. I'm not surprised, I don't know why everyone else is."
The truth/irony is that when she is calm and cool she is an excellent player in nearly everything she attempts. She is her own worst enemy. I've told this to her, she agrees, and it still continues.
It didn't help when last session I was awarded with being the MVP of our billiards league, her first reaction was, "Of course you did, you are better at everything than I am, and always will be." However when we play pool and practice, I'll make even the most minor suggestion like, "Honey, you should chalk your stick." as she's getting ready to shoot the ball, and she loses it, stomps her foot, picks up the chalk, heavy sigh, "Thank you Mr. Know-It-All MVP" and crams chalk on the stick like she's trying to use it all up in one grind. Sorry for opening my mouth, (I say to myself) I just noticed there was a dry spot on the tip, and thought I was being helpful. After countless attempts to assist her, I just sit there and watch her struggle, and it saddens me.
A not so funny but 100% true story: A few months ago, we sat down on a lazy warm Sunday afternoon to play Yachtzee (sp?) in my first 5 rolls, and the first 5 minutes, I rolled 2 Yachtzees. She promptly picked up the dice, the pads the cup, put them in the box, and walked towards the game closet and said, "I don't want to play anymore. You win." To which I asked, "Would you just like to start over? Those were some wild rolls." Her response, "Why start over? You are just going to beat me again, and probably even worse the next time." And she was the one that suggested we play the game.
Everything has somehow become a competition between us now. If she decides to put away the dishes in the dishwasher, the next time it is full, she opens it, walks to the couch, sits down and states, "I did it last time, you should do it this time. That's only fair." Meanwhile forgetting that I did it the 3 times before she did it the previous one. I don't care, I'll do it every time, just let me know what you will do every time in a "labor exchange" I think that's fair. Just because it doesn't bother me to do something, doesn't mean I should have to do it for the rest of my life, right?
The difficult part about it for me is that I am a listener, a reader, a researcher, and a student of life. I'm always trying to improve myself in any way possible through talking, writing asking questions, and observing. The end result? I typically come out on top, have a thought out answer, or at least an educated guess to assist in a solution. It is hard for me to NOT be doing something, to improve either myself, assist someone else, clean-up, fix something, whatever needs doing. She on the other hand would (now?) let everything fall apart, and be perfectly happy if no one (including myself) talked to her. She didn't used to be like this, or at least was good at hiding it from me.
I have no reason to believe that she is unhappy with me in general. In contrast, I am left to believe that she is unhappy with herself. She is not a rocket scientist, nor a bimbo, but often states to herself and others, "Why would I do that, that was stupid, wasn't it? Why am I so stupid?" Before we were married, she seemed quite happy. However now that we are married, and she has established that (in her mind) she is a "lesser person" than I am, she is miserable, and expresses it as often as possible. She is far from being unintelligent, and is actually smarter than average, but is not near brilliant, which is what she seems to think she should be.
I've tried supporting her when she is down, I've tried ignoring her tantrums, I've not gotten to the point where I looked at her straight in the eyes and said, "Knock it off and grow up and deal with it. It was a dang TV show you missed, not an airplane flight. And even if it was, still what could you do about it? We wait and catch the next one." I feel myself getting angry at her for what seems to be an emotional issue that she truly can't/doesn't want to control, and is rarely apologetic to anyone for what often becomes the mood ruiner for whoever is present. (Which in some ways, I believe is her intent: misery loves company, yes?)
All of our friends have witnessed her meltdowns, and some of them have chosen not to return to our house when we entertain in order to avoid them. I've talked with many of them on the phone for hours and they have all given me suggestions to try, of which none of them have worked. Several of them have suggested we see a marriage counselor. I have mentioned it to my wife, only to get a response of, "Why would we do that, so you AND someone else can tell me how messed up I am, and how perfect you both are? Why would I want to get ganged up on AND pay for it?" *sigh*
I've considered getting a video camera so that she could actually see what she looks like and acts like when one of her hissy fits comes on. I've mentioned that to her, and she replied, "I know I look silly, but I really don't care. That's the way I am."
I've thought about buying adolescent psychology books to handle some of the situations better. However I don't have any "leverage" to put over her head, like taking away her cell phone, not letting her see her friends, or putting her on restriction. I am after all not her father, I am her husband.
So I am left in a tough spot; feeling guilty, and resented by her for accomplishing and trying to improve my life, her life, and our life together. I'm always looking for the silver lining, while she is doing her best to sustain the dark cloud.
The more I strive to improve matters, the more she sees me as "There goes Mr. Perfect, always trying to fix everything and make it all better so everyone is happy."
I don't want to leave her, or threaten to leave her. I love her very much, and so long as we are not doing anything that can even remotely resemble competition, or accomplishment we are happy together. She tells me repeatedly how lucky she is to have me in her life, and how kind an patient I am with her, and how much she appreciates it. Right up until the next weekend where she loses a hand in poker, shoots me a cold stare like it was my fault, throws her chips at the winner, and stomps up to her room, and turns the radio on full blast. (Regression?)
However this is not the person I married! We would in years past go on vacation and sit on the airplane and play cards for 6 hours. Now if I win 2 games in a row, she doesn't want to play, and will sit there with her arms crossed and jaw clenched for the next 5.5 hours. I just want to talk to her and understand why these things are happening and why they seem to be focused on me, but for some reason she can't/won't, talk to me about this issue without being snide and caustic. Though trust me, I've tried, and I've tried and I've tried. When she clears the house after stomping around the room and screaming, I'm left holding the bag, and being stared at, and if I even dare to open my mouth, I'm dead meat.
And please don't EVEN suggest that I try to "take a dive" when playing against her to let her win. I did this ONCE, she suspected it and read me the riot act about how wrong that was to do, and to swear I'll never "downplay" her again. That incident comes up over and over, and is held over my head as well, as if I had been cheating on her with another woman, instead of trying to keep the peace. Silly me, I guess.
I work hard, I play hard and I'm always willing to toss my hat/brain/back into the ring to help someone in any way that I can. I don't do it for ME, I do it for THEM.
All of my other friends and family use my knowledge and capability as a resource, not an annoyance. All of them except my own wife.
I'm sorry for the long post, but any ideas, advice direction would be appreciated, and as you can see this is a complicated matter, and has me stumped for direction.
My first thought as I was reading your story was "wow, she's incredibly insecure". Some of her actions are exactly what my 7 yr old son does.
Since she won't go to counseling, I would recommend you go on your own. A counselor could help you with some tools to deal with her, and if she sees that you're going on your own, she might want to go - even if it's to "defend herself." I think you could just calmly mention that you are going so you can gain some tools into dealing with her when she's like this. See what she does. She will probably get all mad and stomp around, but if you don't react, and just do what you said you'd do, she may change her tune after a few weeks.
I think she's got some issues she hasn't dealt with, prior to meeting you, and it may take some time for her to realize that she needs to talk to someone, a neutral third party. You could suggest she goes alone, so that it's not a competition, but a place for her to talk to someone.
I don't know, just some suggestions. I'm dealing with a similar thing, only it's my son. It's a learning experience for me too.
my wife tells me she used to dumb herself down for me because she was the one who was good at all that stuff. i was the smart one, she was good at games. still regularly spanks me at monopoly, risk, etc.
there is some huge psychology in the way she is acting. so much so that i'm not gonna try to explain it. but if she's comfortable with herself knowing that's how she is, well....
down the road, if you find yourself trying to "not win" these games, don't do it. resentment will build over that. i promise it can. my wife has brought that up lately. resentment. over not being herself. i wish i knew she was doing that.
best thing you can do IMO is talk about it. really, but she'll have to bring it up. and DON'T tell her how she can be better. don't give helpful pointers. she knows you know how to play better. she knows where to go if she needs advice.
Location: Temporary Resident of Earth Lord Only Knows Where Next
Re: Help with my 36 year old "child" wife...
This appears to me as a marriage between an over achiever and some one who has severe self esteem issues. I think she does need help but I would take a hard look at how you interact with her. You’ve asked for advice here and is not always wrist patting, poor baby in the forum.. Your post reads as if you carry an air of superiority around her. You are trying to help but I suspect she resents the way you interact with her in competition and in support. This may be brought on by a combination of your attitude and her insecurities. The conversations about the situation should take place before a condition arises. Tell her you are concerned about how these things make her feel and how it is affecting your relationship. Also that you are there to try and help and better understand. That friendly competition is important to you but you don’t want it to interfere with your marriage. Ask her why she reacted a certain way when one of these situations came up then shut up. Let her vent, rant and rail. But listen to what is between the lines. You were both older when you were married so you may be set in your ways. Outside counseling might be a good option but I think for her in a one on one with the therapist first, if you can get her to do it.
As far as filming the carnage during one of her rants, I think that’s a bad plan. She seems to understand that she acts inappropriately so you running a replay will likely anger further and make her feel you are trying to win by proving she is wrong. I agree, don’t throw a game to her, if she catches on she will be angry. If that’s what she wants it will only encourage her childish ways. Good luck
I'm not looking to be put up as "the good guy" nor make her "the bad woman" just trying to find a way to handle the circumstance better. Either through my behavior or suggestions on how to interact with hers better.
For me, I'm willing to do anything within reason to adapt myself to the situation, except to lower my life's expectations to sit around and be negative with her. I won't join her "pity party" and often find myself biting my tongue to not say something snappy back to her when she flips. Trust me, it's not easy.
I know I'm not perfect, and I'm sure there is some truth in the statement Amplexor made about my personality. I am an over-achiever, but I've learned long ago, not to expect others to be at the same level of MY motivation.
And other than these occasional "flip-outs" I know my wife is an amazing and intelligent person. She is loved at her school by all the other teachers and students, as well as their parents. They shower her with gifts and praises on a daily basis, but in return, she asks me, "I know they like me, but why then am I never Teacher of the Year?"
And I know for a fact that if she got teacher of the year, it would be followed by "Why don't I get it every year then?"
She never seems satisfied with her performance, unless it is 100% flawless, and perfect and better than anyone else can possibly do. Yet she is not willing to go the extra mile (heck the extra foot, sometimes) and put in the dedication needed to get more from her life than she already has. It is confusing to me, how you can set a very high standard for yourself, and then look at it and say, "Well, I guess I'm never going to reach that high so I shouldn't even try...."
My struggle here co-exists with the facts I swear upon: She is capable of so much more, has shown it and when cool and calm, she is simply amazing. I've witnessed her have a good day teaching, come home play poker with our friends, and stay positive, and whoop up on everyone. Afterwards I will try to congratulate her on keeping her cool, and show her the proof of what focus and determination can bring as she's cashing in her chips. Of course it's all good when she is THE winner. It can't be just A winner, it has to be THE winner. If someone else won 25 cents more than she did, she considers them the winner, and she to be a loser with the rest.
I even secretly once took a note pad (we play nickel dime poker nearly every Friday with friends) and started logging our regular players numbers of our wins, losses, buy-ins, and cash outs. I did it for nearly 3 months. When she had her "Why do I never win a hand, EVER?!?!?" (which is the furthest thing from the truth) outburst, I pulled out the paperwork and showed her my statistics: Over the course of 3 months, she had actually won more money than I had. She had actually won much more money that many of the other players had.
That quelled her for about 15 minutes, as if she already had it set in her mind to flip out, and was going to do it anyway. She then focused on the fact that she did not win more money than everyoneelse did. So she was in her mind, actually a loser, and not a winner. I tried.
Should I stop being helpful and considerate? Should I ignore everything and just be numb and neutral agreeing with everything she does? I'm human too, and for someone with my personality type, it's a very difficult thing to sit back and watch someone struggle, and not only ever ask for help, but to also hiss at you even if you offer it.
I'm sorry but the spanking advice is probably the dumbest ridiculous post i've ever read here. And a shameless plug for someone's blog. It should actually be removed it's so ridiculous and insulting to the original poster.
Could you please give me a brief description of what a "boundary book" is in relation to your post?
Sure. I've done a couple. One by Dr.Phil called Relationship Rescue. Its a book and workbook. i did this one on my own. And then Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and Dr. Townsend, 2006 edition. this one my H and i do together. its a book and workbook also.
It has really helped me to do the workbook with my H. Its one thing to feel annoyed with your spouse and when you talk to them about it, you get no where b/c you just want to change them and the spouse just gets defensive b/c they think you dont care about them. but doing these books with my H has gotten the resentment and complaints out in the open in a constructive way. We are learning about each other and are more open to learning how to love each other and respect each other's boundaries, while at the same time asking for what we need from the other.
I'm no therapist, but your "child" wife sounds depressed or more likely suffering from anxiety. Your post dissects each scenario into little bits of behavior, but overall she has some rather bad habits--putting herself down, shutting down, throwing a hissy, basically displaying self-defeatist attitudes.
It's like a having a song stuck in your head, or not being able to stop using crutch-words when conversing ( I have a friend who says, "it's like you know" a dozen times before finishing a single statement). She needs to reorient her view on life and form better habits.
Also think about whether you may have (unwittingly) contributed to her negative attitude. When she starts on her tirade, do you try to a) console her? Or b) argue with her?
Either way, it excerbates the behavior by a) nurturing her negativity by rewarding it with attention or b) by "proving" she is right about her lowly self-perception because you are displeased with her.
Next time she starts with the display and wants to throw a game, just calmly look at her and try, "okay, you don't want to play...that's fine. Let's do something else then. Wanna watch the game?"
Don't get sucked into her negativity. It's irrational, and I have a feeling that on some deep level she knows this and is looking to you to diffuse her negative feelings--anger, frustration, whatever it may be.
I hope things get better for you both. Let us know how things go.
I'm sorry but the spanking advice is probably the dumbest ridiculous post i've ever read here. And a shameless plug for someone's blog. It should actually be removed it's so ridiculous and insulting to the original poster.
I wasn't plugging anyone's blog. Just sending a different perspective on the situation and where he could read/study about it.
It was not an insult to the poster or anyone else.
Isn't the purpose of this site to help others seeking advice? (I know the advice/opinions I've received has been great!)
Just because something is suggested doesn't mean one needs to do it. Likewise, until you are educated on the subject, there is no need to call anyone dumb.
One of my ex's use to act out similar to the posters wife. It actually took hersending me to study on the subject for me to understand it was needed in her life and she was missing it from me because I had never heard of such a thing. I was quite surprised myself at how 'normal' some think it is.
It improved our relationship (her attitude/tantrums) greatly. She was a much happier person afterwards. Our relationship ended for reasons not related to what I suggested.
Again, I did not intend to insult the poster (or anyone else) and I apologize if I did.
WOW. Reading this I thought I was reading about my own marriage.
We are both 33. First marriage and in the 2nd year. My wife is a teacher and I a professional in the IT area. We have known each other for over 5 years now.
Whats different is that my wife won't take care of herself or anything around her unless its something she wants to do. She can and will start a project, finish it but never clean up. Her laundry is always around the house and has now taken over our guest bedroom, so now we can't have anyone over.
She refuses to pick up after self unless I remind her, even then she will huff and say she is going to do it, but sits there.
When confronting her about her bills that are from before our marraige, that are now effecting me, she threw a tantrum crying how she always screws things up and can't do anything right. Her past bills have now turned into a lawsuit with many more threatened. She won't even take the steps to see a credit counselor or a lawyer for bankruptcy.
I've been going to therapy for the past 5 years to deal with childhood issues as well as personal issues that I felt I needed help with and I wanted to be able to deal with before marriage, but I've had to continue them to try to get help to deal with my wife. We started couples counseling a year ago. My wife listens during the sessions only usually ending up breaking down crying and feeling bad about herself. She will agree to do things in the sessions only to do what she wants anyhow later.
She has a medical issue that I knew about before marring her and it is managable with treatment and medication, but she refuses to do it. This will cause her illness to get worse faster which will put a hard burden on me at a earlier time then I was ok with. Hopefully by that time I would be retired to be able to take care of her. Now I'll probably have to hire someone to do it while I'm working.
I feel I am a roommate to a teenager that throws a tantrum when she doesn't get her way. She wants children but I don't want to have to be the parent to both my child and my wife.
I started out as mentioning it to her that her actions were causing a problem when we first met and if she would start to work on it. For a couple of years it was ok. She was finishing up her degree and started teaching so I just excused her habits as tired and busy. Then I accepted that she just wouldn't do it and I took care of everything myself (i.e. Bills, cleaning house, maintenance on the house, taking care of the pets, doing the laundry, dishes, trash, etc... plus working full time.) I was able to do that for a while, but she took advantage of it and left larger messes around the house, not considering it was creating more work for me.
I finally came to the realization today that I can't ask her to change. I've tried. I believe I've done what I can to be a better husband in changing myself to meet her needs, learn more about what I can do to support her, how to communicate with her, and bring her to couples counseling to communicate with me. She doesn't see a problem still. I think the only thing I can do is just move on and let her continue with the way she wants to live.
Just a quick observation, OnTheButton I'm guessing and correct me if I'm wrong, the wifes 2 primary needs are certainty and significance. Whenever she feels uncertain she runs her usual pattern to meet her needs, in this case throw a tantrum or start an argument. She's done it so many times that she's extremely efficient at it and may not even realise it at time.
In order for you to change it, you mentioned earlier you need leverage. Stay on that track and find it. She's going to have to want to change it. Everytime she tries to run her pattern, interupt it with something silly and ridiculous (use of water has been extremely helpful in some situations ). The idea is, she runs the pattern like a broken record over and over again. By interupting her pattern, the effect will be like scratching it so it's no long able to play the same pattern or have the same effect. Once the pattern is broken, replace it with "several" positive emotions and feelings and anchor it. Notice I said several. If you cancel one negative feeling with one positive, the stronger of the two will win. By having several stronger positives, it can overcome the negative pattern. This needs to be conditioned regulary at the beginning, then ocassionally until the old habbit or pattern totally disappears. Ok disappears is probably not the right word as there's no guarantee it will be permanent, but use it when the old patterns start creeping back.
Do a search on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Neuro Associative Conditioning (NAC). It will help. If you can attend a seminar when they not only teach it, but demonstrate it on people in RL situations, all the better.
I see shades of me in the story about your wife (to my embarrassment). Here's what I think is going on for me:
- I had a bit of a difficult childhood and ended up with a very authoritarian stepdad, who I rebelled against in a very major way. I think that the result was that somewhere along the way I didn't reconcile how to be "adult" in a love relationship. Now I work really hard to be an adult and to be a good partner, and not to position my partner as an authority. However, I did marry someone who is stable, responsible, naturally a good provider by temperament, and very easy-going. I couldn't ask for more, but sometimes that very "adultness" is something that causes me to mini-rebel. (embarrassing). It takes some energy to recover with my dignity intact, even though my partner is SO forgiving. Sometimes it makes it worse that he is so understanding because I know I've behaved badly. Sometimes I wish he'd get a teensy bit mad. I do deserve it.
- second, and sort of unrelated but making it a bit more complicated, I'm a big feeler. Emotions are my stock-in-trade. I don't say "I like that car" or, better yet, "I want that car", I say "I feel like that's a nice car". It puts me in a really passive position (I have learned) and disempowers me. Just trying saying "I feel like I'd like to try.... washing the dishes, throwing that football, having a good time" instead of "I'm going to...." I think this might be a bad female habit and I'm training myself out of it - I think it has contributed to a big problem in my marriage and contributes to me feeling depressed.
- 3rd, I'm a big perfectionist. For whatever reason, I did not learn to deal with disappointment very well. As a result, I don't take risks. And, to go with that, my identity is wrapped up in failure/success. So instead of seeing a problem as an event that happens, I internalize it. My partner has this problem in a specific area - I think many people have some issue somewhere in their life - if they don't make a good Christmas dinner, they haven't just burned the turkey, they are bad hosts. I started exploring this by looking at the definitions of "shame" and "guilt" - shame is internalized and guilt is not. There are certainly moments when you want to have shame, but most stuff in life is more suitable to guilt. Sounds like your wife is ashamed. That's why nothing you say can help - it is not a solvable problem - she has internalized the results as her identity.
However, not to be totally down, what I bring to the relationship is a child-like joyousness in life - a good spirit, a playful spirit, and a "why not?!" kind of temperament. I think my partner enjoys that quite a bit.
p.s. - to explain about being a "feeler" - the way I talk is one thing - perhaps a female pattern where things are expressed as emotions - but I am also emotional. I cry when I get mad, I have big ups and downs, and I feel things strongly compared to other people, I think. However, like clouds on a windy day, these emotions pass, as well. They are quite tiring, though, for my emotionally steady partner, who is alarmed by the depths and heights. It is a lesson to me that not everyone can take all that drama, all the time! We are just made differently, and that is okay, but it also means that there are days or times when I "rein it in" to give him a break. I've learned that I don't always have to emote, even if I have a strong feeling - I can just transfer that energy to action and get something done - even if its just cleaning the bathroom.