Periodically both Dr. Dan and Dr. Marie take turns answering a question.
From Dr. Dan:
Thank you for sending in this dynamic letter. We are each going to take a crack at responding. Let’s say we call her Love and him Kisses. That should keep it clear. I am going to address my remarks to Mr. Kisses.
The systematic, belittling and dismissive attitude by you, combined with misogynistic features is hard to endure. A few years ago I saw a husband hit his wife in a public park. When I intervened he said it was none of my business. I explained that when it is in public and done in front of me he made it my business. Your abusive comments in this public avenue elicit my same response.
“My bitch wife” says it all. Not funny. Not clever. Dismissive. Labeling your wife this way in public can only be the tip of your arrogance and need to demean her. How well can you treat her privately if this is your opening line?
You then disapprove of whom she works out with. This isn’t yours to decide. Simply because it doesn’t measure up to your standard of what you think is right you feel compelled to criticize. The fact that you think being this critical of her friends and choices also indicates how controlling you are in areas that are not yours to control.
Each answer you give demonstrates the projection you stated right in the beginning. “She was raised in an environment that does not allow her to ever take responsibility for my own actions.” Each of your answers is designed to place the blame on her for mismanagement of time, eating habits, choice of friends and work habits. Not once is your behavior noted as in need of change. With such a dismissive, self-righteous attitude my first guess is that you are not taking responsibility for your shortcomings in the relationship.
Canceling the gym membership for your wife because it didn’t meet your expectations, but was clearly something that she found useful, isn’t what a genuine relationship is all about. How did you get veto power on what gym she can use? Commandeering control over these type of choices simply because you think it is better without full involvement and discussion with your spouse isn’t the sign of a loving, nurturing relationship. It follows the same pattern of the high school bully that no one stops. The real question is why your wife would stay with someone this manipulative, controlling and arrogant.
You last line is such a sad commentary. “About 4-5 hours a day is spent by this non-earning bitch answering you, Carolyn Hax and any other number of stupid, f-ing websites.” The name calling, critical and demeaning label, and once again dismissive attitude are genuine cause for concern.
I have two recommendations, neither of which I believe you would take seriously because of your character style, but here they are:
- People with a style such as yours who are successful in one arena think they should automatically be successful in others. The intimacy needed in your relationship with your wife doesn’t use the same skills you might be using in running a small business. You don’t make unilateral decisions, use intimidation to keep people in line, and control all the money. If you could give yourself the gift of going for individual therapy to untangle the differences between love and work there could be some real benefit for you. But again, my experience with men with your character style as represented in your answers is that they think they don’t think they need it. They once again use a familiar dismissive attitude to blow it off. My sincerest hope is that you can challenge yourself and find a therapist to help you sort this through.
- I would strongly suggest you and your wife get in front of a couples counselor to start making very necessary changes in your interactions. But I do not think couples therapy alone is the answer. I think you will each need an individual therapist as you begin couples work. She will need this for support in coping with your bullying. You will need it if you want to stop spending so much energy trying to prove you are right all the time.
Wishing you patience and peace,
From Dr. Marie:
Whoa, Dan. You may be right that Mr. Kisses is a piece of work. On the other hand (and at the risk of being seen as “blaming the victim”), I’m impressed with how Ms. Love cooperates with him every step of the way. These two could be seen as worthy adversaries. Each is more invested in proving how awful the other one is than in really changing the situation.
There may be more to this than we know on the basis of a letter but it seems to me that Ms. Love could go to a different gym, could make a different meal for herself, and could pass up going out to eat. Mr. Kisses could go to the gym on his own schedule, not wait for his wife when he thinks she is dawdling, and ignore her use of the Internet. They could take the TV out of the bedroom. They could set up a place for Ms. Love to go when she can’t sleep so she doesn’t disturb him. From the outside, it all looks very simple. But just as they cooperated in writing the letter, they cooperate in keeping the conflict going.
I think it’s at least possible that these two have created a codependent relationship. Each is more focused on what the other is doing than on what is best for them as a couple. They are not working as a team to make sure that both of their needs and desires get met in an equitable way. For some reason, they each seem to believe that they have to always have the other’s agreement about the details of life in order to get on with things. I worry that they may not have enough going on in their marriage that is mutually satisfying and enriching so instead engage in this constant battle. In some couples like these, conflict is the only route to intimacy they have left.
I agree with Dr. Dan that Love and Kisses would benefit from couples counseling. They need to learn new ways to relate to each other and take care of themselves. If they could have done so by themselves, they would have done so long ago. I actually think they will be successful clients. They are engaged with each other. They work well together, even if they do it in negative ways. They are equally strong. They are both intelligent. And I do see a sense of humor in both. An experienced therapist who would not be impressed by the complaints and who would see the strengths could help them turn things around.
I’d be interested to hear how this turns out.
I wish them both well.