I need advice on what to do in this situation. My husband is not easy to talk to. If I have something that I want to talk about like the budget or something about our relationship, it seems to end up in big fights, anger outbursts, or me crying.
There are some relationship concerns that I have that to me are not normal in a marriage but he’s perfectly fine with it. We are very different in the sense that when I see an issue I want to talk about it, when he sees one he hopes it goes away. And when I try to bring it up to seek a resolution he doesn’t take it well. I just want him to manage his time, money, and relationships better. He just goes with the flow and thinks things just happen and I crave structure and a plan of action.
My husband is not physically abusive but during conversations, he escalates to the point that makes me anxious to even talk to him. I constantly feel like I’m walking on eggshells just trying to make our marriage and family life better. I just want to communicate peacefully and with understanding. I have started to notice this is a pattern, so I’ve tried to approach him ahead of time to schedule time to talk and he agrees, but when we do talk it either feels like I’m in the conversation alone or there is a misunderstanding or outburst coming. I’m at the point where I don’t trust him to have a conversation and I’m frustrated with his communication skills. He doesn’t understand that I’m just trying to make our family better and communicating my needs. And makes me feel like what I bring up doesn’t matter. I feel like a nagging wife, and I dislike that very much. But I don’t know what else to do.
I reached out because I’m at the point where I’m resentful toward him. I don’t want to be like that, but I am hurt and tired of trying. I have had thoughts of leaving but feel stuck because I’m a believer and made a commitment. He is a good man and good father, so I wonder am I just being too much? To make matters worse I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks and I’m afraid my relationship issues are what is causing me such stress.
Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
We understand your letter to be pouring out your heart. While we usually condense such a long letter, we felt that the flow of your thoughts was important in that it reflected your frustration, sadness, anger, and confusion.
There is nothing that we can say in a letter that will be sufficient, but we hope that we can guide you toward seeking more personal and longer-term mentorship. We note that the first three paragraphs describe how you want your husband to change while your final paragraph hits the core – you can and must stop trying to change your husband and work on changing yourself. You need to stop your resentment growing before it is out of control, and you will be unable to do what is best for you and your family. We don’t say this lightly; most of us struggle with the skills to regulate ourselves.
While your problem is one with many moving parts, some of which we address later, one strategy we advise you to implement now is this. Make sure that when you sit down with your husband for a scheduled talk, you do not stray from the ‘agenda’. The agenda should be one topic and one topic only. Say you asked for a meeting to discuss a specific question about a family budget matter, please discuss that and only that. We understand that the temptation to pile on is almost irresistible. This is not because you are a nag, but because you have so many accumulated issues that having got his attention you seize the opportunity to spread out all your other matters thereby making him dread these encounters. Try asking for a meeting now to chat about a relatively minor matter, preferably not one that you have already ‘nagged’ about. Make it a quick meeting and make it a pleasant meeting. Put on a loving face, rather than one that looks as if you’ve been sucking a lemon laced with Tabasco sauce. Above all, make it quick. Provide him with choices: Do you think we ought to do A or B? Then end the meeting with a thank you.
You will find the next meeting easier to schedule; be sure to follow the same rules. One issue per meeting, make it pleasant and make it fast. Your husband will be delighted with the new you.
We carry a book by Chana Levitan in our store (I Only Want to Get Married Once ) but she has a second valuable book, That’s Why I Married You: How to Dance with Personality Differences, which we would recommend that you read. She makes the point that we are often attracted to our spouse because they have certain personality traits and then it is precisely those traits that irritate us once we are married. (Yes, we humans are complex.) In your case, for example, we have a suspicion that you were attracted to your husband because he was more laid back and easygoing, but now you want him to be a different person than he is. This is not to say that he is perfect, and you are the problem in the marriage, but we don’t think that you will be able to work on the marriage issues until you learn more about yourself and how to manage your emotions and thoughts.
There are many marriage counselors and therapists out there who will be delighted to exacerbate feelings that you “must get out of this” for your own health. Avoid these advisors like the plague! We can’t make a specific recommendation, but we encourage you to carefully find someone who is absolutely committed to your staying in the marriage and rebuilding it. We do not think that your anxiety and panic attacks will go away if you divorce. In fact, they may become worse as you try to navigate new problems, possibly including, for example, those of traumatized children.
Resentment and anger grow on themselves just as rust spreads if you don’t attack it. Michelle, please stop reading any online advice aimed at empowering women or letting your girlfriends tell you what you “deserve.” We think that we are detecting some language that suggests that your thoughts are being affected by others. Those types of activities are doing damage. Do not let more time pass before you embark on a program to improve your own emotional regulation and communication skills. Down the road, you will be amazed at how your personal growth will pay dividends in your marriage. Changing yourself will, over the next few years, result in your husband changing and growing as well. Start with how you conduct issue-based meetings because right now, you are in destructive, rather than constructive, mode.
With heartfelt prayers,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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