ASK ABDI: WHERE DO I BEGIN TO RECONCILE WITH MY WIFE AND MYSELF?
QUESTION: At the moment, my wife and I are having problems with our relationship. There is a real divide and I am having a hard time trying to fix it/me.
For the last year, she has been telling me periodically that she is suffering from my lack of affirmation and emotion (both physical and mental) that I give her. Things have finally come to a point where she is tired of waiting for me to respond, and she is now giving me space to "sort my shit out" and wait until I figure it out, or she’ll eventually give up.
I felt like I was making progress and actively making sure I kissed her more, take time for her, etc., but at the moment, what is really challenging my insecurities is the friendship she has developed with a younger guy she met while working, and they have become very good friends in a short period of time (I feel like I am dealing with the same situation as my past marriage all over again, as you have mentioned in one of your podcast episodes!). She has probably talked with him every day and been out with him a several times, and while I trust her when she tells me they're just friends and there is nothing, my jealously has gotten the better of me. I get angry with her all the time about the effort she invests in their relationship. She tells me that she is so unhappy right now and he is just a distraction for her and someone she can talk with about stupid things, etc.
She said she is so thirsty, since I don’t give her what she needs, that she is going to "drink the sand". Am I crazy to think that it is very strange, the relationship they have, or is it just my insecurities from my past relationships and previous divorce? All these things she is telling me, I just don’t see or am emotionally handicap because of the way I was raised in a broken home. I am at a point now where I just don’t care anymore about the relationship and that is probably just a defense mechanism of mine because I feel hurt by what she is doing, and after the few fights we had about it, she is still insisting that it is my issue, not hers, and she is doing nothing wrong.
My wife is Danish and I am Canadian and we have different upbringings and perspectives on how things should work, but I really find it unsettling and am still very angry and resentful of their relationship. The progress I felt I was making has stopped, and I feel that because of my hurt and anger towards their relationship, I shy away rather than continue to build on fixing our marriage. We have only known each other for four years and have a two-year-old son together, and I think a lot of this began to grow when he was born. I find my cup is so full with work, my education, and trying to give him the upbringing I never had, that I forgot about her and/or took our relationship for granted. She comes from an emotionally scarred past as well, and she says she has more than the average need of affirmation and love than the normal person. I feel so much pressure from everything right now that I have been considering starting to mediate just to find some peace and quiet to sort through things, but now I am also struggling with whether or not it is right due to my background being raised in a born again Christian church.
I feel I've got so much noise in my life that it would just be easier to run and hide than face everything. I know this vicious circle will never end and follow me until I deal with it, but WHERE DO I BEGIN?!
ANSWER: The language that you are using points to someone who is using their will to attempt to control their life. Never a promising proposition, but certainly a common defense mechanism to protect against emotional pain.
Let’s start by readjusting your intention: in the question you put reconciliation with your wife before reconciliation with yourself. In order to be in a relationship with another, we have to be in relationship with ourselves. That means that you need to reconcile with yourself. In order to do that, you have to figure out what is split within you that needs to be reconciled. And that would have to be preceded by finding out what in you led to that split. You say that there is a real divide between you and your wife. As true as that may be, you first need to examine the great divide within yourself. This is not about fixing (another control word that you use A LOT), but healing. Fix denotes something that can take place quickly, the ego’s delight. Healing is much more elusive and takes time and effort.
Where do you begin you ask? It is right in front of you. Your unconscious has once again created the perfect storm for you to delve in and examine what in you needs healing. As difficult as it is, you need to take the focus off of your wife and put it onto you. You have been through this dance before in your prior marriage, so it is obviously an issue that needs to be addressed within you.
Meditation is a wonderful first step. Know thyself Christian! How is that opposed to the teachings of Christ? It is not. But it certainly is one of the most difficult things to do honestly since we all run around all day avoiding this simple act. Pushing through anxiety is the work here. You are doing everything in your life not to sit with yourself. Welcome to the modern world. The difficult but simple act of sitting with ourselves - 10 minutes every day - can cool our mind down and give us much needed space to slow things down a notch. We all avoid this at every turn, every day.
You also need to be doing some good therapy to deal with your pain and its roots. At times of rapid change, some wise outside council and reflection can do wonders in terms of helping us see through our patterns. Some couples therapy is also strongly recommended since you are both unconsciously triggering each other’s early childhood woundings.
It sounds like you are busy and that there is not much space in your daily routine. It is up to you if you want to heal this pattern now or go through another go round (or three) before you face these demons. They will not disappear of their own accord. Take an honest inventory of yourself and your willingness of how much you are willing to put in right now to figure this out.
Your wife’s behavior is also addictive and not healthy, but you can not control her. Understand that the unconscious part of you is thrilled at her behavior because now you can dwell in your pain and negative emotions instead of dealing with your vulnerability issues. You two chose each other on an unconscious level to heal both of your early childhood wounding. That is what we all do. Both of your behaviors right now are just reinflaming old wounds, instead of dealing with the root issues. You both need to understand that this is a comfortable place to be on an unconscious level, no matter how brutal it is consciously. Find a neutral and safe place for both of you, which would be a couples therapist. You both need to take an honest inventory of what got you to this point, why that is, and whether you are willing to do the work to heal your individual wounds that have led to this. Short of this, you will continue this drama, either with each other or with another partner. I can assure you of that unfortunate option from personal and professional experience. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.