The Cold War

Dr. Darcy:

I’ve been married to my husband for 6 years.  We got married in our mid 20’s and bought a home right away, so early on we were pretty tight for money.  He’s in his own business and became a workaholic.  Maybe not exactly meeting the definition, but he worked 10-12 hours a day.  Again, early on, it didn’t upset me much because I understood that he was sacrificing for me.  A few years into our marriage his company really began making tons of money and I was hoping that he’d cut back on his hours.  Not only didn’t he cut back but he became obsessed with work.   I now have 2 children who never see their father and I never see my husband.  It’s been like this since we got married and with each passing year, I feel myself becoming more and more resentful; more and more distant and cold.  At this point we almost never have sex.  When he touches me, I can feel my skin pull away.  If I smile at him, it’s because I’m forcing myself in front of the kids. If I keep going like this, I’m afraid I’ll be emotionally frozen in a few more months.  Is there any hope for my marriage?

ANSWER

Of course there’s hope for your marriage, but it’s going to involve a shitload of work on yourself.  You see, you’ve misdirected your anger all these years.  You thought that you were mad at your husband and you’ve done an effective job of convincing yourself that he’s a perpetrator, that he’s abandoned you, and that you’re helpless to change things.  In reality, you’ve played the role of willing participant this entire time.  If you feel yourself wanting to interject and elaborate further, therein lies evidence of what I’m stating.  Stay with me here…Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?  If you want to be happy, you MUST take some responsibility for the mess you’re in.  It is not all his fault.  OK.  As I was saying…

Another woman might have drawn a boundary early on with your husband, and that woman would have gotten a different outcome than you have.  Again, this isn’t really about pointing fingers, but since it’s your chosen defense, I’m not going to get anywhere with you unless I can undermine your defense so you stop pointing fingers.  You can’t hate him if you’re partly responsible.  And believe me, you are at least 50% of this issue.

When people feel repeatedly rejected and abandoned, they tend to become bitter, resentful and distant.   To what extent do you think those attributes make a husband want to leave work, where he’s in peace, and come home early?  If I were him, my ass would be working around the clock to avoid coming home to the cold war.

When we feel pain of any sort, it creates a hole in us.  But it’s our choice what we fill that hole up with:  Fear or Love.  You filled your hole up with fear and decided that he was digging that hole.  He may have been digging, but you handed him the shovel, and when he became tired and might have laid down the shovel, your resentment and bitterness fueled his abilitiy to work longer hours.

Pain is a fact of life.  Suffering is optional and it comes from feelings of helplessness that come from feeling unable to change pain.  You had the ability to respond to your pain in a myriad of ways, but you chose the one way that would basically guarantee that he didn’t change.  It fueled the vicious cycle of him overworking.

So now you have some information and you can make a choice:  Stop focusing on him as the problem, start focusing on yourself as the conduit for peace in your marriage, and get some help from a therapist to facilitate the change and growth that you say you want.  Or, you can wait a few months and become part of a cliché because you’ll wind up leaving your husband somewhere in your 7th year. Itch or no itch.

Writer's Stats: Female, heterosexual.