Far, in a word, one of the main things likely holding you back in your marriage is your defensiveness.
Do you remember when Dug first mentioned that to you, about two years ago? It was an honest, open observation. Not meant to hurt you.
Not meant to "attack" or "mischaracterize" or do anything else in any way harmful to you. It was just his honest feeling that he spontaneously shared with you.
You became reactive. Defensive.
MEM told me once that when I get too close to the truth, people become reactive. That incident between you and Dug made me think of that.
I think you confuse explaining my position with defensiveness. In your mind, where is the line between explaining and defensiveness? Because in all honesty, you use the term "explaining" when you agree or are neutral on a position, and label it as "defensive" when you disagree. Dug does exactly the same thing.
I know I have used this example before, but it is so appropriate to how you approach this: it is like Al Sharpton arbitrarily calling someone a racist. Never mind that there may be no basis for whether or not it is true as this person spends the next several news cycles trying to show all of the things they have done in their past that demonstrate they are not racist. It pins someone in a proverbial corner, and they either accept being labeled as a racist or they attempt to show they are not. Is that defending or explaining?
For the record, your labeling what I do as manipulation is much the same as Al Sharpton. The mere fact that you accept your opinion as fact and mine as...something else...affords you the ability to label me manipulative, followed by defensive. The same defensive label could be applied to how you explain your position.
So... Help me understand: where is the line drawn between explaining and defending?
Far, this defensiveness has got to drive your wife crazy. She likely tries to explain her side, and your first instinct is undoubtedly to respond the way you have here, with defensiveness and aggressiveness. I saw it in a post you made earlier this morning on another thread, as well as in your posts to me yesterday.
Now, I know you. I know you are a good person. A very sweet and good-hearted person, as a matter of fact. And you do try to be fair, to the extent you are able to see different sides. But the reactivity probably clouds your vision.
Instead of defending yourself, how about just stopping and saying, "Tell me more"?
Instead of defending yourself, how about just engaging in Active Listening?
How about trying to understand where your wife is coming from--really, thoroughly understanding her--before trying to help her understand your point of view . . . without defending yourself, aggressing her, or demanding she agree with you?
We have been down this road on multiple occasions. Her explanation is that sex is just not a big deal; she could take it or leave it; that this is her and I should not try to change her. This is all well and good, but then we have a situation where my wife says something sexual in nature to me (after she rejected me the previous three times I initiated in the preceding three or four weeks) and I shrugged my shoulders in indifference. She actually got angry over it, and it hurt her feelings. Me not getting excited over her making a sexual overture hurt her
When I stop opening doors for her, stop assisting her with her animals, stop doing acts of service for her that make her feel secure in our relationship such as taking her to lunch or calling to check on her, she gets angry with me, yet she can continue on a cycle of sex once or twice in a month and not bat an eye, or worse, actually get angry with me when I bring it up. Please tell me...who is defensive again?
I typically do not respond to her with defensiveness, although there are some instances where I slip. I simply tell her that if she wants more from me, she can start by doing more for me.
One other thing I would like to address. Our spouses live with us. They usually know us inside and out. That is why their criticisms of us can be so valuable to our self-awareness, and potential strengthening.
When your wife says that she is raising two boys . . . think about that, far. Think about the underlying truth there. Think about how that makes her feel at times. Relate it to your own frustrations with her immaturity in certain areas. Let that empathy rise in you, and extend it to her.
Empathy builds emotional safety. Like transparency, it builds trust.
She has not made a statement like this in over two (maybe three) years. If this is an issue, she has not brought it up. Just last night, B11 decided he was going to carry some cat litter from the truck, which was about 50 yards from the house. He dropped it on the porch and it spilled everywhere. She lost her temper, and lashed out at B11. She then stormed over to me and screamed at me.
Her: How could you let him do that?!?
Me: Do what?
Her: Carry the litter before the truck was parked next to the house!!!
Me: He insisted on doing it after I suggested he not do it. He had to learn by making the mistake because he refused to listen.
She then stormed off. B11 was crushed and in tears. I knew exactly what I was doing. B11 insists on learning things the hard way, so I gently make a suggestion, and if he does not listen, I allow to learn from his own mistakes.
I approached her 5 minutes later and told her she owes B11 an apology, and that her reaction was way out of line. She again lost her ****, and said that we were adding to her work. I then pointed out that she did not have to carry the litter, nor clean the mess, so it added not one iota of work to her. I think she got it then because she did not say anything else. I think she apologized to B11. I did not ask her for one, although she should have apologized to me as well.
The point is that criticism of her is off limits. She handles criticism (or anything not being okay) by lashing out. Couple that with her attitude about me trying to change her, and this does indeed lead me to struggle with empathy for her, especially when I listen to her criticism of me with open ears, and always apologize when I have wronged her. Again, please tell me who is defensive.
That is why I focus on myself. I am not being needy. I am not being vengeful or spiteful. I can go back to a relationship where we are living like roommates if that will be easier for her. I have enough in my life in which I can find enjoyment without needing things from her, by investing the time and energy I place into her into myself and B11 instead.
However, if she wants more from me, she can start by doing more for me. If this does not work for her, then she is more than welcome to find someone else who will accept such a situation.