I ignore my wife when I’m angry

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My wife is GENERALLY impatient and frustrated when things don’t go as she thinks they should. This involves me, our 2 1/2 year old, traffic, computer issues, etc. She is currently pregnant having a difficult time. Often times I’ll come home and she is pretty frustrated with the day’s events and with our child. I think a lot of her frustration is self imposed.

Often times I’ll come home and just get little one or two word answers when I try to talk to her. I pretty quickly get annoyed/upset and take her indifference to me very personally. I often times feel like a doormat.

This, among other things, upsets me. When I am upset I can’t express it in the moment. I grew up in a Mormon household where we didn’t discuss our grievances. I have this core issue of not wanting to make her feel bad…. so I get silent. Part of it I guess is to telegraph that I am upset. Even if asked if something is bothering me I always say no. The other reason I am silent is because I don’t know what else to do and I am a deer stuck in the headlights.

By the time I can get around to talking about it I have already done so much damage by “ignoring” her. I always turn out to be the bad guy because of this and my issues are never resolved.

I have always had very low self confidence/respect and have never stood up for myself to anyone. It seems that I am the bad guy when I try with her.

How can I change? During the “off” times (when I’m out of the situation) I think I’ll be different next time. But when the time comes I dive back into my hole. My wife pretty much has zero patience for this behavior, but I don’t know how to change.

A: Thank you for writing. Both you and your wife have significant problems that could jeopardize your marriage and your children’s welfare. You are equally at fault. Life is often frustrating and your wife hasn’t learned how to deal with it gracefully and effectively. Life and relationships can be upsetting and you haven’t learned how to express your feelings and work through them gracefully and effectively. Those two issues are on a collision course. It’s time for a change. You both have some personal growing to do both for your own sakes and for the sake of teaching and modeling for your children how to manage the frustrations and upsets of life.

Please find a couples counselor who is familiar with your culture and upbringing and who can help the two of you learn new skills for dealing with your personal issues. You need to figure out ways to help your wife when she is upset. She needs to learn ways to encourage you to express your feelings. With some coaching and support from a good therapist, you can both learn how to be more loving and supportive in these areas of your relationship.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Oct 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). I ignore my wife when I’m angry. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/10/14/i-ignore-my-wife-when-im-angry/