I Accept My Blame, But My Wife Wants Words…

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Reader’s Question

In the beginning of our marriage and pre-marriage my wife and I had lots of fights, arguments and disagreements which have built up strong negative emotions in my wife. I was to blame for disrespecting her feelings and being rude and dismissive. I know that now and regret it, but my wife thinks my regret is not sincere because I did not apologize or make up for it. I provide her everything else and take care of her in all other aspects and try to be better in my behavior but without saying words. My wife wants words but I lack the right things to say and when I try, it always goes wrong, just adding to existing issues. She says I am the same and will never change. My wife’s mother died when she was young (4 years old) and she was raised by a harsh dad. She is very aggressive when angry and has temper issues. She won’t let go of the past, for she is deeply hurt and believes she did not get the marriage she wanted.

What shall I do?

Psychologist’s Reply

First, I am glad you recognize and are able to own how your behavior has contributed to the difficulties you and your wife are experiencing. Now, how about you take it a step further and use words to express those sentiments to your wife and apologize for how your behavior has hurt her? I know there is an old saying that “actions speak louder than words,” and sometimes that is true — you cannot just speak hollow words without changing your behavior. However, healthy communication and expression of feelings are also important in a relationship. Working to change your negative, rude and dismissive behavior is a great step and you should definitely continue to do so and show your wife through your kind, caring, respectful actions how you are working toward change. Part of changing your behavior, though, is using open communication — words — to express out loud to your wife how sorry you are and how much you love and care about her.

Communication and trust are the cornerstones of healthy relationships; it appears that you and your wife are struggling on both fronts. It sounds as though there is a lot of miscommunication between you and your wife and that you are both quick to anger and to react negatively, causing misunderstandings to turn ugly and escalate quickly. It also sounds like neither you nor your wife trusts the other to listen without judgment or respond without malicious intent.

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It is hard to say without knowing your wife’s history, but, in some ways, your relationship with your wife may be replaying some of her childhood issues, as it appears that she moved from a harsh dad to a harsh husband. In addition to a difficult loss at a young age, it sounds like the relationships she has with the two most important men in her life have left her feeling hurt and disappointed. If that is the case, it is understandable that letting go of past hurts and resentments may be difficult for her.

Couples who are feeling stuck and struggling with communication and trust difficulties often benefit from couples counseling with a licensed mental health professional. A skilled couples counselor can help you and your wife work to improve your relationship by helping you both identify how each of you contribute to your relationship difficulties, how you can communicate more effectively, and how you can forgive past hurts so you can move forward to create the marriage you both want and deserve. If you are in the US, I suggest that you and your wife use the APA Psychologist Locator to find a qualified psychologist in your area. Additionally, you might both benefit from individual counseling to work on your own issues and how they may be contributing to your marriage difficulties.

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