Dr. Wall looks at our propensity to blame our spouse for our marital problems. He finds this approach lacking and suggests a better way.
Accept one another.
Romans 15: 7
Give preference to one another in honor.
When couples come to see me, it’s often each of them pointing a finger at the other and saying or implying, “If you’d only change, we’d be fine.” I see my job as trying to help them take the fingers away. As long as you have someone pointing a finger at you, you are going to get stubborn or defensive or mad or cry “unfair” or “foul.” No one wants anyone telling them either what to do or what about you is bad. So then you end up fighting or withdrawing, neither of which feels very good.
It’s a vicious cycle. As soon as you tell your spouse what he needs to do to change, he could easily say to you that you are not willing to change your propensity to tell him what he needs to do to change. He needs you to change your negative complaining; you need him to change his negative behavior. So there you go. Round and round and round.
As soon as you tell him that he must not love you because you’ve told him over and over where he falls short, what it is he needs to do to make you happy, and then when he doesn’t, you cry or pout or stomp around or get good and depressed or accuse him of being selfish or a control freak or manipulative or “into yourself,” as soon as the words are out of your mouth, he could turn around and say the same thing to you, because it’s not very fun or motivating to be the receiving end of a finger in his face with a scowl on your face and he could say that you must not love him because you don’t accept him for who he is and you make it sound like the relationship is all about you and the control freak here is you, because you are the one freaking out here, but that’s a bunch of crap, because he’s done what you’ve wanted, bark when you said bark, and it’s never good enough. There’s always another scolding, always another meltdown, always another dressing down. It’s a bottomless pit and you’ve trained him to give up. Like the dog that touches the electric fence so it becomes helpless and just lays in the yard even though the electricity is off, he just lays there helpless, because you’ve told him in your actions and in your words that you are not going to be happy no matter what so why try? Either way you are not happy.
It’s human nature to not want anyone telling us what to do. You don’t motivate someone to do something by pointing out to her how bad she is at doing or not doing what you think she ought or ought not to be doing. Can you hear yourself? How would you like it?
Listen to yourself: “How come you never talk to me? You just lay there on the couch watching TV. What kind of life is that? Are you depressed or something? Don’t you love me? Why wouldn’t you talk to me? Why would I want to married to someone who never talks to me? What kind of a boring life is this?”
Or: “How come you never want to be sexual with me? You don’t even kiss me. You won’t even touch me. You treat me like I’m poison. Why would I want to be married to someone who wouldn’t want to be sexual with me? What kind of a marriage is that? We’re just like roommates. You’re so cold. All you think about is you. You control everything. I have no say.”
Why would anyone want to talk to someone who talks to someone like that? Why would anyone want to be sexual with a husband who is scolding her? A furrowed brow is not very motivating. You are training your wife to protect her butt from you. You will not get the very thing you want, if you complain that you are not getting what you want. It makes you sound selfish and childish. It makes your spouse WANT to resist you. Don’t be surprised if you get anger or someone ignoring you in return. What’s really entertaining is when the complaining spouse then accuses the criticized spouse of having an anger problem! HA! They should be on the Springer Show. At least this craziness would be entertaining for someone then; something positive would come of it.
And PLEASE don’t complain if your kids get mad and ignore you, too, if this spirit is exhibited by you in your family. Your kids will follow your example and we’ll have another generation of sarcastic, mean spouses out there who are unhappy because they never get what they want. Or more likely they’ll just live together, because you’ve taught them that marriage partners are mean to each other and maybe if they aren’t married they can avoid all this hostility and tension. At least you can serve as a bad example.
If you want your spouse to talk to you, you need to be a warm engaging person. Be someone he’d WANT to talk to. Quit scurrying around. Sit still. Ask questions. Talk about your day. Probe a bit. Chat. Be chatty. Take the pressure off. Go for a walk or a drive and chat about the funny, beautiful or disturbing things you see. Stop with the confrontation already. If he doesn’t say much, don’t get all bent out of shape about it. Just relax. Be safe. Be patient. Set an example.
If she won’t be sexual with you as much as you’d like, relax about it. Quit scolding and guilt tripping. Be the kind of person she’d like to be sexual with. Ask about her day. Do things that need to be done without being asked. Ask what needs to be done. Spend time together. Chill. Have some fun and some laughs. Hold her hand. Look her in the eye when she talks. Comment on her comments. Be huggable. What does she need from you? Give generously.
And then shut up about the inequity of it all. Do these things because you want to. Do these things because you love her. Don’t expect anything in return. Be in a good mood anyway. Don’t let your happiness be dependent on what your spouse does or doesn’t do, or does or doesn’t say. Be happy in and of yourself.
It’s a lot easier to be affectionate with someone who doesn’t have an agenda, who relaxes, who is warm and approachable. It’s a lot easier to help someone who is engaging and helpful and setting an example. It’s a lot easier to talk to someone who is fun and interesting and in a good mood and available.
You reap what you sow. You want someone to help you? Be helpful. You want someone to talk to you? Be interesting. You want someone to be affectionate with you? Be warm. Treat her like you want to be treated.
Leave the scorn and disappointment and frustration and animosity and complaining spirit at the door. If you treat him with those things, that’s what you are going to get in return.
If you can’t be happy unless he does this and this and this and this and this and this, then you are giving your happiness away.
Set an example.
Set an example.
Set an example.
Check out these other blogs by Dr. Wall on similar topics:
Dr. Wall laments the behavior and attitude of unhappy wives and proposes their unhappiness may be due to their search for happiness in all the wrong places.
Dr. Wall explains that there are two sides of anger: a good side and a bad side. We need to learn how to listen to the good side of anger and ignore the bad side of anger.
Dr. Wall looks at how hard it is to be nice to people who look down on us. It’s really the only option, though, unless we want to go to therapy forever.
Dr. Wall discusses the untapped gold mine of disagreements in marriage. Couples often fight when they disagree. But Dr. Wall explains that disagreeing in marriage is actually a major strength of marriage. He suggests that instead of fighting, we stop long enough to hear the wisdom our spouse is saying.