Can we change?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 70 years old. Since we have been married, my wife and I never had a real argument concerning a subject on which we did not agree. Instead, all our “discussions” were actually a monologue (lasting sometimes one hour or more) during which my wife told me (sometimes in a very aggressive way) the wrongdoings, the blame,guilt, etc. by which I had spoiled our relationship.

This thing is still going on after 40 Years, such that the list of the subjects can be very easily anticipated by me. This situation looks different from the couple problems I have found on the site. Does it deserve a special section?
Many Thanks

A: I remember reading a study a number of years ago that said that at least some people who are married a very long time are in a situation much like yours. (I wish I still had the reference but since I don’t I’ll just do the best I can to represent it well. )

It seems that the success of some long-married couples depends on the husband’s ability to weather the wife’s emotional storms without getting defensive or arguing back. Instead the men have found ways to ride out the emotional storms. When things are calm again, the couple might talk about the problem and solve it — without the drama.

You’ve been married 40+ years. I’m assuming that there is much that is loving and good about your marriage. Ii’m guessing that you found a way, long ago, to not take in the accusations and complaints. I’m sorry that you two didn’t find a friendlier way for your wife to let off steam in the early years of your relationship, but at this point it’s unlikely to change.

In counseling sessions, I’ve talked to a number of men who, like yourself, developed strategies to cope with their wife’s verbal tirades and not take them personally. Some prayed through it. Some recited poetry in their heads. Some composed songs. Some revisited memories. Asked why they stayed with these tempestuous women, most said that it was exciting and that the positive things about the relationship made putting up with the emotional onslaughts once in awhile worth it.

As one gentleman told me, “Why would I give up on such a good marriage just because a few evenings a year she dumps all over me. She doesn’t really mean it. We love each other. I’m not perfect either.”

It was certainly a lesson in tolerance for me.

I wish you and your wife many good years yet to come.

Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Apr 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Can we change?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/04/08/can-we-change/