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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 4422
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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I had such high hopes when I married my husband. We fell in

Resolved Question:

I had such high hopes when I married my husband. We fell in love and everything seemed too easy. I know it sounds so ridiculous, but all of the pieces of my life just made sense all of a sudden. We were married over three years before we had our first child and I thought that was enough time. As soon as my son was born though we started having problems. I honestly don't know what happened. The man I loved left. I don't know where he is anymore. I don't know who he is anymore. We have had two other children since that time. I'm not even sure how we got to this point. We have such an up and down relationship. I still love the man he was. I still love the man he could be. But I just don't know who the man I see everyday is. He won't talk to me about anything real. He's constantly negative. He acts like he hates me one second and the next he wants to be laughing and joking and the next he wants to be intimate. I just can't keep up with him. And he hurts me. Not physically, but emotionally. I'm just a mess whenever he's around. When we're apart or in public we're fine. I'm happy in my life. But I can't imagine being more miserable in my relationship. I cry virtually every day. I try to hide my feelings from my kids but it's getting harder and harder. I don't know how to keep this up and he's not open to changing or therapy or even real talking with me. It always ends in a fight when I try to open up to him. He uses my emotions against me and I walk away defeated, exhausted and more miserable than before. What do I do? I'm at a loss. I'm so hopeless. Please help.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 11 months ago.

DoctorZ :

Hello I believe I can help you with your concern regarding your husband

DoctorZ :

I am sorry that you are going through this with your husband, sometime individuals in the relationship change after children and not always for the better, it is usually a result from increased stress

DoctorZ :

May I ask does your husband have a similar attitude towards your children?

Customer:

Not at all. He is such a good father. He loves them so much and is so eager to spend time with them. Even when they were newborns he just adored being with them. It's wonderful to see him with them, and encouraging. But it hurts at the same time, to see that he's capable of such love still but withholds it from me.

DoctorZ :

And was this different side of him more gradual or did it occur suddenly?

Customer:

It was definitely gradual. He seemed fine at first, then occasionally he'd be cold toward me, then it became more often cold and shut off and now he's that way with me all the time.

DoctorZ :

Well there is definitely something going on with him and it may not be directly with you, but he may be expressing this behavior towards you because you are a "safe" target for his negative feelings.

DoctorZ :

Have you two gone on many dates or vacations recently?

Customer:

No. We aren't making enough money to vacation really. He promises to make dating a priority when he's trying to be intimate, but he never follows through and whenever I bring it up he launches into excuses about babysitters and being too tired from work.

DoctorZ :

I understand, well sometimes an individual acts this way because of stress, the most common culprit is stress of taking care of children, stress at work, stress with paying bills. So I think a good idea would be for you to plan a date for something that he would enjoy very much. This may put him in a better mood and if he sees that you are making an effort for him, it could help him come out of his shell and open up more to you. Then this opening up may help him be more open to couples counseling, since he is so resistant to it now

Customer:

I agree that it would help to do that. It's just that he's so good at pretending everything is okay. He grew up with parents who were constantly speaking badly about each other to their kids but then put on an act of love and adoration for each other. I feel like this is what he wants in our relationship. It's like whenever we're out or around other people he acts like everything is the same as it always has been and is shocked when I don't reciprocate. Then when we are alone again he's detached and defensive, argumentative even. I feel like, by making the effort to plan a date, I am communicating to him that everything is okay and it's just not. I want to have fun with him, he's a fun guy. But I can't pretend to have fun when just being around him makes my heart ache with loneliness. I know it sounds so melodramatic, but the longer this goes on the harder it is for me to think around the hurt.

DoctorZ :

No you are definitely not being melodramatic and I understand that pain you are going through. You bring up good points and I do not want the date to say that "everything is okay," but you can mention to him that "we have been a in a rut recently, so I thought we deserve a chance to go out and have a little fun, to lessen the stress and tension."

DoctorZ :

The goal is trying to get him open to seeking couples counseling because I think that would be the best method for both of you to communicate better.

DoctorZ :

Does he have anyone in his life that he really looks up to? Could be a family member, religious leader, coworker, or a friend

Customer:

He really looks up to his dad. However, his dad just had a heart attack last month and has short term and some long term memory loss. He is recovering from injury to his brain because he was without oxygen for minutes during the attack.

Customer:

Other than that, he doesn't really look up to anyone. He seems to view himself as better, or at least better-off, than most of his friends and coworkers

DoctorZ :

Oh okay, my advice was going to talk to someone close to him that could give him a neutral opinion on the matter, so he can see what you are going through

DoctorZ :

The feeling better than everyone, was that something that occurred after your children were born too or was that behavior always present for as long as you have known him?

Customer:

I'd say it's always been a part of his personality somewhat. He was less blatant about it before. Now, if I try to address my concerns with him he just brings up his friends and family saying "Would you rather be married to someone like . . . ?" He's an odd mix of high-handed over-blown ego and deep self-loathing and pity.

DoctorZ :

Well my theory is that he is going through some emotional issues that are causing him to be somewhat self-conscious and this is why he overcompensates by feeling that he is better than everyone. Also self-consciousness makes it difficult to open up to those you are closest to, individuals with this issue do not like feeling vulnerable.

Customer:

Where do I go from here then? I have mentioned chatting with someone neutral just to have a buffer between us and he immediately explodes about how our problems are no one else's business and interrogates me about how much I've said and to who. I have also tried the couples counseling approach thinking it would be easier for him to be open around a stranger, but he's just as vehemently against that. I just want to be able to talk to him without fighting, without him immediately becoming defensive and lashing out at me, without having to drag answers out of him or constantly ask what he's thinking. If we could just talk, I could believe in us getting better. Every time we do talk though, I feel like I'm just talking to a brick wall and might as well be talking to myself. Even on the rare occasion that I seem like I'm getting through and he's opening up, he doesn't change his behavior at all. I'm just frustrated and emotionally exhausted.

DoctorZ :

I understand and your frustration and it is not good that he is not open to couples counseling. I think trying the date option I mentioned may help, but if it doesnt then you are going to have to try an ultimatum with him and force the issue. You have to tell him that you are not happy and that you are exhausted in this marriage and that if you both do not seek couples counseling that you are afraid it will drive both of you a part more and then the marriage will end in a divorce. If you mention that you have been thinking about this and that you are strongly considering a separation until he agrees to couples counseling. I usually do not like to go with forcing this issue, but it is obvious your husband is not interested in preserving the marriage without a little push.

Customer:

Yes. I suppose it is obvious. I have just been in denial. His small windows of affection have me clinging to an idea of how it could be when I need to face the reality of what it is. I have avoided an ultimatum. He is the kind of person to call a bluff and raise the stakes so I've been scared what will happen. But maybe that is the only choice I have left

DoctorZ :

Unfortunately your husband is not leaving you with many options as he is unwilling to seek counseling or talk about the issues with you. It will be tough at first, but if you hold true to the ultimatum then you hopefully will see him change his mind about therapy. You can also mention that you do not want therapy to just "fix" him but that you want it to "fix" both of you so that you can continue having a strong relationship, like it was.

Customer:

That's a good point. Thank you.

Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 4422
Experience: Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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