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TherapistMaryAnn
TherapistMaryAnn, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1678
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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I need help my wife is driving me crazy with her behavior

Customer Question

I need help my wife is driving me crazy with her behavior and I’m at a loss on how to handle her. We’re both in our 30s and are thinking about having a child, but she feels she couldn’t handle working in her current office while being pregnant. To her it simply would be to stressful and isn’t even an option. She feels finding a new job is the best option, but isn’t really applying herself to finding one. Every week she cries at least once about this. I try my best to comfort her (without giving advice unless asked) by really listening and being sensitive to her position. But in my heart I know the problems she’s facing are typical in her position and most of her problems were created by her upsetting co-workers in the first place. I’ve tried bring this up a few times, but she totally shuts down or stone walls me for hours, then acts like nothing happened.
This pattern has been going on for years and it’s extremely draining on me mentally. I recommended counseling be she just procastinates and nothing will come of it. I’m willing to help her find a professional but she doesn’t want my help. I also suggest marriage counseling, but again nothing.. She does admit she’s depressed and is currently on an anti-depressant but she’s still down most of the time. I feel like she’s stuck in this horrible loop of chaos, but seem to create drama in her life and doesn’t want to take action to correct it.
She comes from a driven hard working family, but had next to nothing of positive feedback and encouragement for her accomplishments. They basically didn't talk or share feelings, and swept any emotional problem under the rug because they either didn’t know how or wanted to deal with it. As a result she’s a very successful woman, but has weak communication skills, and typically has most of the traits of a passive aggressive person. Both her parents and brother deal with negative feelings in pretty much the same way from what she’s told me and what I’ve seen.
I grew up in a loving environment that really pushed on listening and expressing your feelings. To me it’s natural, but getting her to open up is so hard. It’s extremely frustrating. When we argue she typically will take a defensive position and will stonewall me in till I make some type of mistake then twist it and blow up with yelling. For her it’s about “winning” the argument she admits this, but for me arguing should be the last resort if communication fails. It should be about solving the problem as a team. She agrees this is a healthier way, but is unable to do it. I find I’m starting to build up resentment. I have my own problems, but I work on them daily but I feel she’s just making my life harder. I’m losing patience and starting to withdraw.
I still love her and I know i cannot change her. She has to want it for herself, but I’m getting sick of waiting. From my position it's so frustrating plus none of my personal needs are being met. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 10 months ago.

I suggest that the best way to move your marriage forward is to Take Her To Marriage Therapy--even though I agree with you that she will probably make the best progress once she gets into individual therapy with someone she can trust. If you insist that YOU need couples therapy to make your marriage workable for YOU and you need her to participate fully, then YOU can take the responsibility of finding a competent and acceptable marriage therapist. If she resists coming with you, there are moves you can make to get thru that resistane.

I suggest you look in your area for an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist, which you can find thru the Internet. Couples therapy approaches vary quite a bit, and some can either miss the path or even do more harm than good. But EFCT has a system that normally opens with one or two couples sessions to focus on a dysfunctional relating cycle (arguments that lead to stalemates and withdrawal like yours), and then each partner has one session alone with the therapist, or with one member of the therapy team if the couples therapy is being provided by a cotherapy team. I'd advise you to call around to therapists you find and try to find an experienced (10 years minimum) woman with whom you sense that your wife would be likely to feel comfortable. And also ask each potential therapist how much personal therapy she (or he) has had; because to be a real healing personality a therapist needs to have experienced her/his own strengths & weaknesses and how it is to grow in personality through intimate verbal and emotional transformation. (Most MA and even PhD therapists don't have to engage in the therapy that Freud & Jung & all psychoanalysts knew was essential for comfort with the unconscious processes involved in what is a priestly dedication. So they can't guide others very far. For your wife it's NOT any "Cognitive-behavioral" learning, but her emotional experience of self-discovery and transformation that will make all the difference for the rest of her life.

DON'T rate me until we have discussed this and any other issues you want. We have a week at least, if you want to keep corresponding back and forth. I'll check back tomorrow night at least, and each day thereafter, to expand our dialogue. I'm in my 40th year as a licensed MFT, and also have a research PhD and authored a textbook on couple relationships.

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Thank you Dr. Brown. I’ll start searching around for an EFCT therapist in my area. In the mean time do you have any tips on dealing with my resentment towards her? My career is extremely demanding to stay relevant. Typically I’m investing 10-12 hours a day. Staying driven, focus, proactive, and working on my personal mission is extremely important to me. It’s how I take care of myself, but she doesn’t seem to respect my position.90 percent of our arguments start with her causing some type of drama over little things. As a result I’ve became bitter. I feel like at some level she doesn’t want me to grow on a personal level. For instance she'll try to discourage me from going to the gym by finding some way to keep me home. Or just picking a fight right before I leave. She was once into taking care of her body, but has since lost motivation and I can tell it bugs her I haven’t. I run across the same issue for anything I try to improve on. She shows little support for my accomplishments and shows little interest if I talk about them. She’ll often make little comments like “Shut up stop bragging” or take a passive aggressive stance by focusing on her iPad or tv as if I’m not even talking. This has built up so much resentment I can’t focus on my goals which just makes me even more angry.Now I don’t even bring it up and most of our conversations revolve around her problems with work, family or her internal struggles. I can’t make her care about me, but I’m sick of my needs not being met. I’ve tried expressing this in a calm loving manner, but again she gets defensive and turns it into an argument. We’ve only been married for 3 years and I feel I have resentment built up for a life time. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 10 months ago.

I'll have to come back tomorrow to give this more time. I know what that feels like. And 3 years is a normal crisis time, because the early passion in relationship has normally simmered down, while most couples have not yet had enough practice to develop good ways of getting through an argument-or course-adjustment in their interaction-styles. That's precisely what EFCT aims to help with. So that couples therapy approach will make a good support-foundation for working on herself and yourself (separately--which they normally start in the second or third session) .

It appears to me that he hostile reaction to your wanting some "mirroring" (ie appreciative response) to your devoted career-efforts reflects her own comparison- shame, with how badly her own work is going. I can also feel how awful it might appear to her to be urged to get pregnant when she's experiencing negative outcomes in her work and you're getting positive outcomes in yours--so she might perceive upcoming motherhood as the deathknell for her launch of a worldly success effort--thus making her a "failure" in modern womanhood, just as her family messages have prepared her to be.

That's all I have time for at 4:54 am. More tomorrow.

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 10 months ago.

PS "Little things" aren't little for her, when their emotional roots lead right down into the negative cages for her heart and soul that were built in her family of origin.

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 10 months ago.

When her life is going so badly for her and your career life is so passionate for you, she's not going to be able to give you the emotional support and appreciative reception that you need--until you get yourselves into Emotionally Focused Therapy together. So you could lead the way by doing a CAREFUL search for a trained, skilled, experienced (10 years @ least is preferable) and personal-therapy-veteran therapist. You can and should interview prospective professionals on all of these aspects, though some will be reluctant or even rude about answering interview questions. For most modern graduate psychology programs DON'T prepare people to be well trained and personal-therapy-experienced counselors the way Freud, Jung and all psychodynamic therapists always insisted was necessary--so the therapist doesn't UNCONSCIOUSLY behave in ways that are damaging for the therapy's progress. The New York Times occasionally surveys psychotherapists and reports that about 2/3 are not very helpful or even damaging, BECAUSE the grad school professional standards are too weak, and those that aren't well enough trained DON'T even know how much they Don't Know!

If YOU do the prep work of finding a high quality therapist for your wife and yourself, you can have the first one or two sessions for yourself, where you can express your frustration about not getting your emotional needs met. A well-trained therapist (who's NOT just trying to convince you that he/she is right for you) might suggest that your high intensity for hard work & success might lead to both inner starvation for emotional (& possibly sexual) satisfaction and a frustrated sense that you're entitled to the love-demonstrations from your wife that you try to give to her, and these emotional pressures could put you into a cage of suffering that's somewhat comparable to what your wife has grown up with. So you may need to change your own psychological balancing system somewhat to take more responsibility off of her for helping you balance yourself. For otherwise you may continue to contribute to her suffering in a comparable fashion to her contribution to your suffering. Anger always attracts its own mental justifications. But if you're not going to tear your relationship apart, but use its untrapainful misfitting friction (a classical 3year marital crisis) to fuel a need for growth instead, then you might need to adjust your own priorities to value your partner and love-relationship as much as you are dedicated to your worldly labor.

[Since I've already suggested this dilemma, you won't need to be too disappointed if/when a serious therapist comes up with a comparable question for you to consider.]

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