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Dr. Paige
Dr. Paige, Psychologist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1427
Experience:  Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist
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hi - my 23 yr marriage is about to end and I want to stop it. I

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hi - my 23 yr marriage is about to end and I want to stop it.
I am the husband, am 53 and have known my wife for 30 yrs. Everything was fine until about 5 yrs ago (when she was 45) when her personality started to change. She has become increasing miserable (with me) demanding her independence and ignoring me to the point where I feel like a lodger (and an unwelcome one at that). We have 3 children who live at home - the eldest (daughter) is 20, working and now engaged (who fiance lives with us now), the next daughter is 18 and thinking about uni, the youngest is our son (15). My wife is a full time housewife and has been since our eldest was born. We have suffered financially as a result of the recession but I feel are much better off than most. I have kept my job (but not had a pay rise for 10 yrs) - I managed to keep our heads above water financially but it is a hand to mouth existence and puts a lot of pressure on me most months. I try to talk about economising with wife or possibly looking for work but this causes arguments. My wife has become very negative with me (not others), always criticising, being sarcastic, never showing appreciation or ANY form of love or affection. We have not had sex for 1.5 yrs and she hates me touching her in any way. I try giving my wife just a hug but it feels like I am hugging a bag of potatoes. I appreciate the impact of menopause/change of life/kids growing up and how this could seriously effect my wife. I have tried talking to her but she just says she is "too busy". I try to let all the negativity wash over me and be psoitive and upbeat all the time - however with work and financial pressures and the frustration through lack of affection things "build up" and I eventually boil over and a nasty argument occurs. As we seem unable to talk out our problems between ourselves I have asked my wife to attend counselling sessions with Relate but she REFUSES. This has gone like this until Christmas when I went out with my wife post christmas to a day at the shops with our kids. She didn't want to trudge around so the kids went off and I took the opportunity to spend some 121 time with her over a coffee. Again she refused and we ended up just standing in the middle of a shopping center not talking - it was ridculous. We ended up havinig a row and when I got I realised I could not live like this for another year and have given her an ultimatum - attend counselling with me by end of Jan or we get divoced. We have not spoken since. I love my wife and want to get back to how it used to be but I also have my self-respect and I cannot continiue like this - HELP - What can I do!!!!!!
Hello. All of this is very difficult for you, but you have taken the right steps as far as trying to stay positive and to ask her to attend counseling which will help a great deal IF you find the right counselor. I think you need to keep at her about the counseling part of this. I do hear a lot of blame in your question as far as she being the one who changed in her personality. While menopause and hormonal issues are certainly something to consider here, there is another culprit as to what prompted the changes. While things may seem 'out of the blue' to you, I guarantee that for her, there is something that has been building in her. I see this exact scenario in many couples. One person is completely oblivious to a pending problem that they are making worse, but not knowing it and the other person is unwilling to bring it up because they think that the other person should be aware of the problem, and the fact that they are not, makes them a cold and uncaring person. Both parties are to blame for this escalation.
Nothing is going to change in your situation until you both are willing to open up about what the problem is. There is something.
In my opinion, just going on very limited information which you provided, I would bet that a few years ago, your wife began resenting you for something that you did that you were not aware of the level of hurt it caused. The fact that you were not aware of how it effected her bothered her to the point where she allowed the situation to get worse and worse through the years without saying anything to you about it. She kept waiting for you to fix it or at least acknowledge it. I think she thinks you are blaming her and taking no blame yourself.
While I agree with your Doctors and Counselor that she needs to be an active participant in this to be able to succeed in getting your marriage back on track. Your hands are tied in that manner. What I can suggest is taking a different approach to trying to find out what the main issue is which caused this domino effect. You cannot repair what you cannot recognize. You have to identify these things first.
You can take the approach of asking her what you can do to help her with certain day to day things. Ask her what it is that you did to create this or that. By taking the blame off of her and putting it more on yourself, you are disarming the arguments and forcing her to think about what she wants from you instead of just putting up a wall of defense immediately. If you ask questions to her, it makes her think about answering them which is a lot more difficult than to just flat out argue.
Your goal is to find out where all of this went wrong. It wasn't an overnight personality change on her part, I guarantee it. Ask her what you did to cause this and I bet she will eventually start changing her attitude towards wanting to at least talk about it. Keep trying to encourage the counseling. Encourage, not force. Take your guard down a bit, whether you feel it is justified or not, you are trying to save your marriage. You can't move forward like this. You need to figure out where this went wrong. Treat her like a partner in trying to do this.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your insightful answer Dr. Paige.

I accept that I am imperfect and may have contributed to this in some way - but I have always beleived in talking through issues and sharing problems. Originally I thought my wife was just having a bad month, which turned into a bad 3 months then a bad year etc. Then I realised something more serious was happening and rather than arguing I wanted to "talk" to resolve things but my wife would not open up to me - she kept saying that I didn't "listen to her" but she was not talking to me!!!! So I thought OK - lets open up together to a professional - thats fair on both of us but the down right refusal to do that I do not understand.


In the arguments we have had two things seem to be a factor she does not like about me: 1) That I keep a tight control on money now and therefore need to know what is spent when and on what - she sees that as me trying to "control" her. 2) My realtionship between myself and our middle daughter is poor. It has always been like that since an early age. I get on well with my two other kids but my middle daughter ignores me or is just plain rude. Its more than a "teenage thing" - she has been like that from an early age. When she was about 12 (I think) I lost my temper with her. She had been rude to me and I was under pressure with work or money and I lost it. I shouted at her and insulted her back. Apparently I used some bad words (cannot remember now), I did not hit her or anything like that and I immediately realised I had gone too far. I apologised the next day and brought her a box of chocs. I was in the wrong I know even though I did not instigate the argument - my anger was triggered by her adolsence rudeness. My wife raised that incident as significant during one of our arguments. The thing is I cannot change what happened, I admited I was in the wrong and apologised at the time. Given how long ago it was could that still be festering - what more can I do other than apologise?


There is anoher aspect of my wife's life that I should tell you about though... She is an only child of Irish parents who settled in the UK in the 50's. Both her parents worked and like many Irish families the extended family lived together in the same house. As a result her grandmother (on her dad's side) lived with them and brought my wife up - to the extent that they shared a bedroom until she was 14! Her upbringing sounded very strange to me. Although they had a lot of material benefits (both parents worked in the airline industry so they they travelled the world for holidays where as I would have a camping holiday at home at the same age) and her parents lavished her with gifts like new cloths and bikes etc. they owned their own home but also moved a lot from north to south london and back so in her junior school days she was not able to build up an established peer group. This was completely different to my up bringing with 3 brothers living in a rented house on a council estate and staying in teh same area for all my schooling. I have 3 good friends I have known for 40yrs! My wife on the other hand has only one true friend who she grew up with (next door neighbour) until she was about 10.

She always stayed close to her parents even though they lived abroad for a time. Then they retired and moved to a house about 1 mile from us about 7yrs ago. I thought she would love this but she did not seem to visit then at all when they moved although they came to us. then about 4 yrs ago they took us out for sunday lunch, my wife was in one of her bad mood's that day and there was a silly argument in the pub. Her Dad stormed out and they have never seen/talked to each other since. We had borrowed money off them as we were in difficulties and I was paying off on a monthly basis, Her Mother came to us a few times but got a very frosty reception, I used to go around to them to try and keep the peace and see if I could build bridges - then 2 Christmas's ago I was there and her Dad got angrey and actually physically assorted me!!! So we have had no contact at all for at least 2 yrs.

Hello. I completely think you are in the right for wanting to talk things out. A lot of time women shut down and don't want to talk because they think that their husband or boyfriend should just know what the problem is and how to fix it without it being a discussion. You have done the right thing by wanting to talk it out and I am hoping that she eventually comes around to wanting some counseling as well. I think a neutral party involved may help open her up a bit on any subject that she may feel uncomfortable talking about with you.
Your situation is long going and complex. Perhaps too complex for this type of forum. Without knowing you and your wife more deeply and personally, it is difficult for me to analyze the different arguments in depth. She obviously tends to hold onto issues for a long time. These are all things which need to be taken care of in a more detailed setting. I wish you could get her to go to counseling. I think it would help a great deal.
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