QUESTION: My husband didn’t blink an eye when I told him to move into the spare room. But he didn’t move before vividly describing more things about me that anger him. I wish he would have brought this to my attention years ago (literally). I don’t understand why he never said anything about it before, now he says it’s too late, he can’t move on from it. Is it too late to save my marriage?
ANSWER: Obviously, neither I or anyone else can tell you what happened in your past. Every couple’s past is unique to some degree. On the other hand, there are often similarities. For example, most people don’t really “hear” the complaints their spouses make about their behavior. We are more likely to think that they’re just griping about something relatively insignificant, or that what we do is not any worse than what they do.
You Must Be Happy Because…
Sometimes I insert into my speeches about marriage a routine about one spouse telling the other that s/he is not happy. The other spouse thinks, or even says, “Yes, you are happy! I don’t do bad things, so you must be happy.” I call it the “you must be happy because I don’t see anything major about which you should be unhappy” syndrome. It seems I witness it more in men than women, but, as you know from your situation, it goes both ways.
There’s another dimension of it as well. It’s the “you just think you need more, but you really don’t” syndrome. That happens when one spouse wants more from the other; things such as more time together, more conversations, more cuddling, more sex, etc. Typically the spouse receiving the request continues to focus on the fact that s/he isn’t doing any major thing that hurts the marriage. Rather than realizing how important it is to the other, they more likely remind them of how good they have it. “I don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t chew, and don’t hang out with people who do!” In short, they tell the other that because no major bad things are happening – no adultery, no addictions, whatever – then the other person should be happy. When I hear that I remind them, it’s important that you not do things that destroy a relationship, so good for you. HOWEVER, you cannot build a relationship on things you DON’T do. Being unfaithful destroys a marriage. Be faithful doesn’t destroy the marriage, but it isn’t enough to make the marriage a good one. There is much more involved in a relationship than not doing bad things. Only the things you DO actually build the relationship.
Therefore, not knowing your specific situation, I cannot advise you as to whether you may not have been giving him the things he needed, or whether you were doing things that hurt him, or both.
You Likely Didn’t Hear
Whatever the case, it is likely that he tried to tell you, but either he didn’t make his point strongly enough or you, for whatever reason, didn’t hear what he was really saying or how important it was to him.
Welcome to the real world. To some degree that happens with every couple.
Unfortunately, for some the resentment builds over time and finally chokes off nearly all positive emotions toward the other spouse. When finally a person makes the decision to leave, s/he quite often has exacerbated legitimate complaints into powerful criticisms. Everything gets magnified several times over.
It sounds as if this may have happened with your husband.
That led you to ask, “Is it too late to save my marriage?”
No. Until one of you is married to someone else, or has left this life, there is a chance of reconciliation.
Do This For You
I suggest you listen to his complaints, evaluate to determine what core issues you could improve, and try not to allow his vitriol to cause you to overreact toward him or toward yourself. Look carefully at yourself and grow/change where you need to. Ask friends who are honest to help you learn how to continually become a better person. (Avoid friends who tell you that you’re perfect and that your husband is a jerk; rather than looking at reality they’re directing their anger toward him because he hurt you.) Don’t allow yourself to become your own worst critic by trying to think everything to the point of driving you batty. Admit what you’ve done or said that wasn’t good, and learn to live life better. That’s all any of us can do.
Learn from the past. Don’t live in it.
Grow and improve for you own sake. If anything can lead to a repair of your marriage, it starts with this. It may well over time bring him back. I pray it does.
If he does, he, too, will have to examine his own weaknesses and learn to grow. I have no doubt that he is flawed. We all are. Those of us who admit it can do something about it and become stronger, better, happier people. Those who do not think they’re flawed are in for a rough life; though they will always blame others for everything.
If for some reason your growing doesn’t lead to reconciliation with your husband, it’s still the best thing you can do for yourself and your future
Please check out our free articles, eBooks, and podcasts on www.MarriageHelper.com. If you and your husband come to the point of even considering the possibility of reconciliation, please call us at 615-472-1161.