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I Desperately Want To Make This Work

Question:

I have been married for 10 years, and my husband and I are the proud parents of two wonderful boys.

For the past year, my husband and I have really lacked in genuine communication. He is generally a very quiet man, but not with me. He will bottle things up, and when I want to discuss something that is bothering me, he takes in what I say, but does not respond; or if he does respond, its with an “I’m” sorry, without discussing anything, and says he just wants to move on from it.

Well, as you can imagine, bottling up all of those feelings – eventually the bottle gets full and he blows up and asks me if I want a divorce, that he is sick of fighting, and wants to walk away. After he gets all of that out and calms down, he comes back to me and says that he didn’t mean any of it, but it was just so many emotions coming out at once that he just exploded, and promises that he will work on expressing his feelings to me as they come, so that we don’t have the big fight (not in front of the kids).

Do you have some tips on communication so that I can re-connect with my husband? It is to the point now that I feel like I am living with a friend and lover, just not a husband or companion. I know its not healthy, and I am starting to feel myself drawing away from him emotionally, and he has just become a part of my life, but the intimate loving connection seems to have just faded away.

I love him….I don’t want anybody else…we have never “stepped” outside of our marital bond….but I am struggling to mend something that I just don’t know how to mend. I don’t want a broken family. I grew up in one and it was terrible.

Any suggestions? I’m desperate for help.

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Answer:

At first glance it seems really good that you and your husband are “friends and lovers.” However, closer inspection reveals that there is a lot that is wrong in the relationship. In this instance, your husband appears to have a lot of difficulty managing his anger in ways that are constructive. Instead, what you describe is that he holds in all of his feelings until his anger burst out in a loud and frightening way. Naturally, when this outburst occurs, you are caught unawares and probably feel frightened and somewhat abused.

I agree with you when you report that your husband does not really communicate. The problem is, how do you get an uncommunicative husband to start communicating?

I want to urge family psychotherapy for all of you. It can even begin as marriage psychotherapy so that the emphasis is placed on both of you instead of him alone. Many men, in my long experience, are willing to go to marriage therapy while they would refuse individual therapy. The reason for this is the male ego. In fact, we still tend to live by the myth of the “strong silent man.” In truth, there is nothing strong about being silent and men have as much of a need to talk about feelings as women do.

My hunch is that your husband experiences lots of anger and frustration with you and with the children. Then, too, there are the frustrations at work, financial problems(those are rampant today), bills and, perhaps, his own feelings of depression and anxiety. Angry outbursts are often a symptom of depression.

You cannot solve this problem on your own. That is why I am encouraging marriage therapy for both of you.

In addition to getting both of you into a psychotherapy situation, you will have to be open to the fact that there are things you do that annoy your husband, even if he denies it at this point. In all marriages, each partner contributes to the problems as well as the good things. Its important that you be open about yourself just as you want him to learn to be open.

Best of Luck

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