DEAR MIKE: I have been married for about 20 years and I love my wife as much today as I did the day we got married. However, as much as I love her, I really do not like her much these days.
My wife, Carol, has always been very assertive. I am just the opposite — very passive. She runs the roost and I have always been fine with that.
However, things have changed a lot in the last five years or so. I get criticized for everything I do and never thanked for anything. She leaves me a list of chores to do every day when I come home from work. Heaven help me if they are not completed and exactly the way she wants them to be done.
She works outside the home, as I do, so I have no problem with sharing the chores. It’s the ridicule and being put down that are getting to me. The other day, I forgot to put out the garbage when leaving for work. When I got home, she immediately got in my face and started screaming at me and calling me all sorts of names. To make matters worse, my two teenage sons were standing right there when she did it.
The oldest, Jake, approached me afterward and asked me why I take that kind of abuse from his mother. He said, “dad, I would never let anyone talk to me that way.”
I do get upset once in a while and explode on her and we end up not talking for a couple of weeks. My fear is that someday I will to do more than just yell and someone will get hurt.
How do I handle this? I love this woman and don’t want it to end up so we can’t live together, but I am not sure how much longer I can take this abuse. Do you have any suggestions? — Peter
DEAR PETER: Rule number one in anger management is “Look at the big picture.” It seems that your wife sees your passive behavior over the years as a sign of weakness. The communication in your marriage also seems to have broken down.
First, I would suggest that you check with your local community college to see if it offers any courses on assertive behavior and sign up for a class.
Second, you and your wife should find a counselor who can work with both of you on getting the communication back into your marriage.
No one should have to take abuse, verbal or physical. However, the abused party has to learn how to set limits on how much he will take.
If you do nothing, it’s almost guaranteed that you will explode and do something you will regret. What you are doing now is imploding your anger. Willpower and self-control will only go so far before you explode.
Do yourself a favor before things get completely out of control: Get some help for both of you and begin enjoying your marriage, not regretting it. Good luck. — Mike
Michael Hayden is a certified anger management counselor who runs Bay State Anger Management and Counseling in Chelmsford. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-606-3955.