Recently, I heard from one of my guy clients.
He and his wife were married a few years ago, but things have been deteriorating in their marriage for some time.
As he described it, his wife acts like she hates him and when he tries to get to the bottom of why she treats him in this way, he is lost for answers.
I asked him to describe the hateful things his wife was saying or doing that made him feel that the marriage was crumbling.
It seems there is an avalanche of things that she has told him over the last several months that has gotten him to the point where he now seriously questions the survival of the marriage.
Can a Marriage Survive If Your Wife Hates You?
He admitted that he and his wife get into arguments about a great many things and when attacked, he strikes back with some verbal abuse of his own.
But he explained that it only seemed to embolden her efforts to launch a counter verbal offensive.
Yet, he kept falling into the trap and their fights had escalated.
A couple that engages in frequent arguments are prone to say a lot of hateful and ugly things. But this situation was different as it had been brewing for a good spell.
It was as if his wife was in a race to the bottom of the marriage pits.
At least, that is how he represented the whole situation.
Knowing a bit about relationship dynamics, I understood things were probably far more complex than what they appeared to be with his initial description.
Something clearly was eating away at their relationship and it seemed his wife was clearly upset or resentful about some things. So upset, that her words and deeds were demonstrating to her husband that she was disgusted with him and seemed to hate living or being around him.
Obviously, that is not a good thing.
A couple should be able to coexist and enjoy each other’s company. Indeed, they should crave it, though not to the extent that they don’t have their own life.
So I probed some more.
Why Might Your Wife Act Like She Despises You?
I asked my client for some examples of the type of things his wife may have said or done to cause him to believe that she hated him so much.
I inquired as to whether he might be overreacting to some off-color comments she could have made. Perhaps (I reflected), your wife is blowing off some steam and you are taking her complaints far too seriously.
He assured me that was not the case and that something in the marriage was awry.
So I asked for more examples and details.
Here is a short list of some of the things he said for which I have removed all references that might point to identity.
Let’s see if you can make out what might be going on with this relationship.
If you read carefully and stitch together a few clues sprinkled in his commentary, you might just discover the crux of the problem.
“Sometimes I feel like I am like a pariah to my wife. Nothing I do or say can make a dent into her hateful demeanor. Suddenly she will get upset and dish out some of her venom. We agreed to get some help as this marriage rut has gotten deeper. I thought I was doing good-by agreeing to counseling, but all she did was blast me in front of the counselor. We didn’t even finish the session as we both got very defensive and angry.”
“Are you kidding me. Sex is an important thing with my wife. She is very aggressive and I enjoy that part, but lately it seems like she is taking out all of her anger at me. Look, I don’t have any complaints in that department but I know something is off because I can tell she is coming from a different place. I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t know if she is play acting sometimes or just still angry at me about something we argued about earlier. Lately, she seems to hold back. Then it is like she rushes in. It is like she is withholding sex with me as a punishment for some stupid little thing she thinks I said or maybe did. Half of the time I don’t even know what is bugging my wife. Since she usually initiates our lovemaking, I just go along with the frequency. It is dwindling. But when it happens, it is good. So it is hard to read what is going on in her mind. Her words say one thing. Then we make love and her body says another.”
“Much of the time, when things get heated, she will launch into a tirade, like she has been bottling up everything inside her. She will tell me that I am a good for nothing piece of crap. She will say she wish she would never had married me. Later we will make up, but the least little thing will set her off. I know the state of our marriage is crap right now, this constant bickering. My wife’s mood is everywhere. She will laugh it off when I bring up the frequency of fights like it isn’t a big deal. Then out of the blue she will freak out over the smallest of things. I don’t get it. Something is off and I don’t know what makes my wife tick much of the time anymore.
“The other day, she picked a fight. She started in about how she hates me. What are you to do when your wife makes a point to tell you that she hates everything about you. I know she is overreacting to a large extent. My wife is a passionate person. But why must she act so hateful toward me and lace every conversation with put downs and complaints. I have things I need to work on and we talk about it and made a couple’s pack to do each other better. But lately, she is pulling way back on affection and seems distracted. When I probe to find out what might be going on, she lashes out at me, then ignores me. It is like she dreads being around me. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. What is going on with her. It is like I am married to a stranger.
Exorcising Your Marriage Demons
Sometimes I find that if you give someone a platform to dump all of their worries and upset feelings, it can really do wonders on two fronts.
On the emotional front, it helps to just get it all out.
After talking about it or even writing about whatever you perceive to be your problems, the weight of the issues is lessened. You can go from feeling low and unloved to a place where you see that there could be a solution and that things are not as bad as they seem in one’s mind.
I always emphasize to my clients that there is no silver bullet in solving many relationship issues. By the time they come to my attention, the problem has evolved to a place in which the couple is in a bad place.
Whether it be your wife behaving like she hates your guts or you are at your wit’s end ready to toss in the towel….coming to a solution is usually a multi step process.
If you can’t get the feelings out, emotions will run high within you. And that is usually a recipe for more marriage conflict.
It is good to have perspective.
I try to explain to my clients that while relationship situations can be volatile, just because you feel hopeless doesn’t mean that is the state you will always be in.
Remember, the journey of life you are participating in can take you to all kinds of places.
You need not think that everything depends on reconciling with your lover.
Your long-term happiness should not ride on one person in your life. There are always alternatives and the future is full of many positive potential outcomes, even if the immediate environment you find yourself in is littered with sadness.
Getting To The Heart of the Affair
Another benefit of telling your story and getting it all out is that sometimes in the retelling of events, you will learn something about yourself or something about the underlying causes of the marriage difficulties you and your spouse are undergoing.
My client has been taking an emotional beating.
His wife is steering the relationship and everything he is complaining about sounds like a relationship gone sour.
But there is something underneath all of these surface problems he is complaining about. He tells me that his wife too frequently acts like she despises him, as if she is holding something against him.
But from his story, something emerges.
It turns out that his wife really does not hate him. Rarely is that the case between husband and wife. Rather, she is acting out on some feelings that emerge from an issue that she has hidden from her husband.
If you guessed an affair, you would be right. It was not clear at first and I sure didn’t want to raise the topic with my client without coaching him on how to probe for clarification with his wife.
Here is how it went down.
I told him directly that he is completely wrong about his wife hating him. I explained that hate is the opposite of love and that all the evidence points to his wife loving him. She wouldn’t have sex with him or continue living under the same roof if she didn’t care for him.
Nor would she had agreed to see a marital counselor if she hated him as much as he feared.
Yes, I agreed with him that her inconsistent behavior (i.e. pushing him away, then pulling him in) was troubling. But it was also revealing.
It suggested to me that his wife was battling with a demon. Not like some make-believe creature, but rather she was in an intense battle within her mind about some matter and was struggling with reconciling what it is she thought or felt about it.
So I taught him a technique that would help him uncover the hidden truth of what was really agitating his wife.
I simply told him to go quiet.
It takes two opposing forces to create friction.
I explained that he and his wife had fallen into a routine in which she instigates a conflict by frequently complaining about his behavior and making ugly and hateful statements.
In a way, his wife is looking for an adverse reaction from him and when she gets it, a fight ensues and the ugly, hateful talk between them takes root.
I told him he needs to end this paradigm.
It makes no sense to participate in all this in fighting with your wife (I explained) if the outcome is you end up getting insulted and having lower self-esteem.
To change this dynamic you need to go quiet. Just go silent.
This will not be the reaction his wife will expect. By calling her husband out and telling him how much she hates him, she is looking for a reaction.
I explained, if you want to get to why she is doing this….what the underlying factors are that is pushing her to use abusive language, then he needs to break the mold of how he responds to her when this trouble is brewing.
When you go silent and remove yourself from the situation (think walking into another room) you wrestle control away from your wife.
When she doesn’t get the reaction from you that she expects, she will probe to find out. Now the whole dynamic has changed. You have wrestled away control. And when your wife inquires as to why you are so quiet, that is when you probe.
My client then asked me what he was probing for?
“It’s simple“, I told him.
“Now that you have her full attention and she is beginning to see the gravity of the matter, you want to make a profound statement, then ask a penetrating question”, I explained.
Tell her something like, “Our marriage is close to being over”.
Short and simple.
Remember, less is more.
Your demeanor and speech pattern should be entirely different from how you normally act and speak. This behavior of yours will bring considerable attention to the matter at hand and it is likely to command the truth from her.
Even if she does not take the bait and open up, you will have been successful in conveying to her in a serious and calm tone that the marriage is floundering.
Sometimes something does feel “real” until it is said.
So give this approach a try to see if you can change the communication dynamic with your wife.
After all, that is what you want. You want to know why your wife is launching the hate bombs.
So after making the statement about the marriage being in jeopardy, you should ask the million dollar question.
Getting Your Wife To Open Up
You should look directly into her eyes for a few seconds without speaking, then kindly and calmly ask your wife, “Please tell me what is really going on with you”.
Then stop talking. Say nothing else. Go silent. Do not respond.
Let your wife do all the talking. There are many ways this can go down.
If your wife starts in on you with negative comments and tries to start a fight, remain calm and don’t take the bait.
Bring the conversation back to “what is really going on”.
Call her bluff. If she has continually told you how much she hates you as her husband and hates being married to you, then calmly tell her that the hateful environment is destroying the marriage.
You are simply stating the obvious. But remember, sometimes using words to describe the impact and pain the marriage is undergoing helps lift up the discussion.
Eventually, if your wife will wants a solution to the relationship problem, she will need to switch from complaining about you and the marriage and put her cards on the table.
The more you remain dead calm, the greater the probability that your wife’s fear of really opening up will subside.
After all, that is what is keeping her from telling you the truth about why she is behaving differently toward you. It is her fear of how you will respond that is holding her back.
If you want the truth, it helps a lot to project calmness.
You can tell your wife that she is in a win win proposition.
Reinforce that whatever she tells you, however horrible it may seem like to her, you are committed to remaining calm and discussing it with her without retribution.
Take away your wife’s fear and the chances that she will really open up increase.
Sometimes the problems between a couple are many and it takes more than a single discussion to work through them. Sometimes, both of you need to seek some relationship counseling if the issues are complex and deep.
But in this case, it turned out that the underlying reason that was causing the wife to act out her ugly emotions was the guilt she was having about having an affair.
She was being pressured by the other man in her life to try and end her marriage. So she was acting on that impulse. But she was internally conflicted about what she really wanted.
It turned out the affair had been ongoing for about three months. It was the catalyst for a lot of his wife’s helter skelter behavior.
Revelations of this kind are seldom resolved in a few days, weeks, or even months. But now the problem was on the table and if the couple wanted to stay together, they at least had a chance to work though the problem.
Of course that is a different discussion and I will save that for another post.
But don’t forget that seldom does the person you live with really hate you.
Their behavior and treatment of you emerges from a place within them.
It could be very complicated, the catalyst to those feelings they project. It could be something as simple (and sadly) as your wife often lives in a moody place.
It may be a core part of her personality to act this way for reasons that goes back to before the two of you met. And if that is what is going on in your marriage, then you probably have had a good idea that she was capable of this kind of behavior.
Or it could be a singular event has happened and is influencing your wife’s actions.
Whatever is the main cause, just remember, there are always ways to get to the truth. There are always ways to address the situation.
And you always have options in your life to better your situation.