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Dear Dr. DeFoore,
My husband and I have been together for 7 years and married for almost 1 year now. He had a very difficult childhood, growing up in a pretty remote area and also in the Jehovah's Witness religion which was even more isolating. The "world was going to end" so there was never any planning for his future growing up.
To top it off his mother was emotionally unavailable and his step-father was verbally abusive. He was in an environment where he was told he was loved but was not shown that love at all. He had a previous marriage which ended in divorce. He found the courage to leave the religion which he felt there had been no love in and it had never really been in his heart.
He moved down here to a different state, where we met. It has been difficult for him to find his place here. He is just now making some good friends, went through several bad job experiences. He only recently found a job that he likes.
I grew up in a home where my parents didn't really discuss our feelings or communicate very much. It didn't help that my parents immigrated here from another country. We many times have very different ideas about how things should be. They love me very much and did everything they could to give me a great education and a great childhood. They did the best they could but I never learned how to handle relationships or deal with conflict.
My husband was my first real relationship. In many ways we are opposites. That can be great but it can be difficult when I feel we can't connect because of our different thought processes and perceptions. I don't like to talk about my feelings and like to keep the peace. I am far from perfect and have plenty of things to work on and I haven't put in my full effort, I accept that.
I haven't worked for things as hard as I should have. His main problem with me has been my lack of communication. We have had this argument over and over, he says he is asking just one simple thing from me and he is not unreasonable. Learn how to communicate better, read a book, take a class. I have read some books, done some reading online but it is painful to say that I honestly tried my hardest to read every book or take a class.
He says he's tired of asking me to change. He doesn't think I listen to him or that I care, or that I take his background into consideration. I can't change his feelings but I disagree! I love him so much and all I do is try to take where he's coming from into consideration. I feel like I consciously make an effort to not nag him, not be too critical, and not make things worse when I know he is hard enough on himself.
I feel like he is extremely negative in the way he views things. He has a very short fuse and is very sensitive. I feel like it is almost impossible to talk about my feelings with him because I end up feeling like how I feel is wrong in some way. Or he tells me I really don't feel that way, that I am a liar or that I'm calling him a liar if I have a different perspective or disagree with how he feels.
He asks me for examples of how I've put effort in what I have worked on and I freeze. I don't know what to do. I am afraid and I freeze and he takes it as proof that he is right, that I don't care. If I really loved him, I would have done what he asked.
He is wonderful, kind, loving, funny, intelligent, and witty. We have an amazing connection down to a basic energy level. We have practically spent every day together, we are friends, love just being around each other, and have a great and fulfilling sex life. Most of the time we spend together is really happy and we are really grateful for our lives and the people we have around us.
Then there are times where it is really rocky and it has been like that a lot lately. I feel like we are lacking balance. Either we are having a great time together or the next minute I've done or said something to trigger him and we're off.
I feel like he is holding onto a lot of pain and hides behind the anger. He has always worked hard to better himself. I know he has confidence and it is showing much more now but he is still very insecure and it comes out in anger and rage.
I know he tries so hard to not get angry at people on the road or to be so sarcastic with me. I know he is trying so hard but in all this time I don't see that the pain has gone away very much. I feel more anger and rage than ever coming from him. I know it is not in his heart and not his intention to be like this.
I feel like it takes over and he is like a different person, not the warm loving person I know. It is not his fault at all that he has these feelings but when I try to bring it up, he says I'm blaming him and turning the problem on him.
I feel so lost now because I feel like I try so hard but why can't I come up with something tangible when he is asking? When I wake up in the morning I am anxious because I never know what mood he will be in. When we are arguing I feel like I just need to defend myself from an attack. I feel like I walk on eggshells all the time and when I tell him that, he says I choose to do that.
I feel like I am going crazy sometimes because he feels I have failed to do something that in his eyes is a simple easy request. I hear what he is saying and I've repeated it back but I can't seem to get across that I feel like we have a bigger problem. As soon as I say that, he takes it as I'm just turning it around on him and gets even more angry and says I don't get it.
Am I completely out of my mind to think that there is a bigger problem than just my communication skills? I think I am pretty intelligent, and have seen enough being with him for all these years. He's called me a fool, insane, delusional, I don't get it, "I'm living in the twilight zone",etc... I have never felt so unsure of myself or my feelings before.
I feel like I have tried so hard, mistakenly I guess, to be what he never had. To be his anchor, give him some sort of stability and just love him. To not be angry and judgmental like his step-father or undependable and unavailable like his mother. I have felt disappointed at times when he would jump from job to job but tried not to show it because I know he was just trying to find a job where he was respected and had had support. I didn't want to show my disappointment because I felt it would make things worse and make him feel worse about himself. But he would see through me and feel that weird energy and it would start an argument.
I feel so alone. How do I stop being afraid of being open with my husband? How do I stop feeling like I have to walk on eggshells around him? I feel like I am on a roller coaster sometimes.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello, and thanks for telling your story here. You've expressed yourself very well in what you've written. Have you thought of writing like this to your husband?
I think you are being abused in an unintentional, passive aggressive way by your husband. If not, you would not be so afraid.
Also, you are acting in a codependent manner, which communicates to him that he is justified in what he says and does toward you.
I have several suggestions that might help.
Most of all, I encourage you to consider getting some counseling for yourself.
Also, take a look at these pages on relationships and self esteem:
quotes on relationships
dealing with marital problems
The most important thing of all is that you learn to feel good about yourself and put yourself first in your life. Until you do that, you will continue to feel like you're on that roller coaster.
My very best to you,
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