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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Betty and Stan, both in their mid-fifties have been married for eighteen years. Their children are raised. Betty works at her job about 45 hours a week. Stan works about 30 hours a week. Betty also does about 95% of the housework.

Last week after much discussion about the inequity of their relationship, Betty and Stan agreed that the two of them were going to dig in and get their house in shape. Stan would do the dusting and vacuuming, help fold laundry, grocery shop, and grill dinner. Betty would primarily work on the kitchen, the refrigerator, the floor. She would clean the bathrooms, do the laundry, pay bills, and balance the checkbook.

Within a half hour of starting to work, a friend of theirs stopped by and asked them to go to a big garage sale across town. Betty said she’d love to but they had agreed to get their place in shape. Stan looked at Betty and said, “You don’t mind if I go, do you?”

Betty responded by giving Stan a dirty look.

Stan challenged Betty and said, “What’s wrong now?” In order not to argue in front of Stan’s friend, Betty shrugged and the guys left.

Later in the day when Stan returned, the two of them talked. Betty said, “I’m giving notice. The maid is quitting. I am not taking all the responsibility in this house.”

She gave Stan a list of chores and suggested that he pick the ones he would be willing to do each week. She would do the remainder. Stan took the list, dramatically tucked it in his pocket, and said he’d do it all. Betty explained that she didn’t want him to do it all. But to no avail. He insisted he would do all the chores.

When Betty talked to me she wanted to know what she should do. I told her to take Stan up on his offer for several months. When he stopped doing the chores, next week or next month, she could re-open the subject of splitting the chores.

She said she was worried that if he did all the chores she would lose her value. Stan wouldn’t see her as important.

I said I didn’t know many men who stayed in a relationship because the wife was a good maid. But men did stay in relationships because of history, because they have children together, because of finances, for companionship, sex, and love. The other thing, if Betty continues to rescue Stan by doing almost everything, he will have little appreciation for what she does. She will continue to feel dissatisfied with the marriage and probably act accordingly.

Stan and Betty are not alone in their struggle over who does what around the house. It is estimated that husbands have 15 to 20 more hours of leisure time each week than their working wives. Further, in most families, husbands do 20% of the household chores and child care while women do 80% of the chores and child care. This disparity serves neither gender. The wife feels like a victim, sees her husband as a villain, and eventually closes off emotionally. Or, she turns into a very critical mate. The number two reason women divorce is because of a husband’s unwillingness to share chores.

To not only preserve your marriage but to have a healthy one, visit the issue of chores and child care. Divide them up on paper if necessary to make them equitable. If you have an uncooperative mate, do only those chores that must absolutely be done. Try hard not to focus on those that remain undone. It is not a woman’s job because she is a woman to take care of the house. It is the job of each person who lives in the house.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Husband’s bad behaviors invites wife to turn off emotionally and sexually.

Jim came to my office because his wife has left him after 37 years of marriage. He wants her back. She does not have anyone else. She simply is fed up with him.

As we talked, I got him to help me make a list of behaviors that probably drove his wife away.

Worked too much. About 60 hours a week for years.

Unwilling to take vacations because of his job.

Drank too much in the early years of their marriage.

Got too angry when drinking. Never hit her but was verbally abusive.

Continues to get too angry when he doesn’t like what’s going on.

Gives her the silent treatment.

Gives her nice gifts, but they are things he likes. For example, a leaf blower, a big screen television, a new computer.

Didn’t take much responsibility with the children or housework because he was always at work.

Rarely helped make social plans.

Failed to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “I love you.”

Never acted like he appreciated her salary and how she contributed to the household.

Didn’t show much kindness or love.

Showed affection only in bed.

Was too demanding when it came to sex.

Watched too much television.

Jim’s now putting in fewer hours at work. He’s watching very little television. He’s doing housework and now understands how much there is to do. He’s willing to learn how to be emotionally supportive. He’s working to keep his anger in check. He’s sorry and in a great deal of pain. He hopes she will come back.

If he continues to say he’s sorry and clean up his behavior, perhaps she will come back. It’s unfortunate that sometimes people have to leave their mate to get their point across.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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How to Handle an Abusive Spouse

They were getting ready to go to a party. She was all dressed. He demanded that she change her dress. “He didn’t like the way it looked,” she said. They got into a huge argument. Finally she backed down and changed her dress.

The other evening a friend called to talk. Within five minutes he was telling her it was time to get off the telephone. He thinks she should talk to her friends and her mother during the day.

He continually points out how much money he makes in comparison to how much she makes, as if their individual worth as a human being were determined by their paycheck. At one time she did have a better paying job, but he demanded that she quit because she had to travel and he didn’t like that.

If they’re at a party and he wants to leave, they leave. The other evening they were with friends and she started to feel sick. She wanted to go home. He refused.

Why does she stay in the marriage? She says she loves him. They have fun. She wants to have a baby. She’s hoping he’ll grow up.

—————

Rose is also married to a bully. She’s been married to him for 44 years. All their children are out of the nest.

“He complains about everything,” she says. “We’re driving down the street and I’m looking at the beautiful trees. He points out that the neighbors haven’t put away their trash cans. I say, ‘Look at nature. Don’t look at the trash cans.’ He says I have my head in the sand.

“He expects to be waited on. When’s lunch, when’s dinner? And then he never makes a suggestion for what I should fix.”

“When I ask him to help, like take out the trash, he says okay. But when two days go by and the trash starts to smell I take it out. He then tells me I have no patience, and asks why everything has to be done on my schedule.”

“If I get irritated with him about anything, he puts me down, tells me I’m stupid, and then refuses to talk for a few days.”

“Last week there were no towels in the bathroom. I had taken them to the washer. Instead of getting himself a towel, he fussed, ‘There are no towels in here. Get me some towels.’ Our linen closet has not moved in 20 years.”

“If I want a new lamp or carpeting, I have to fight for it. When I tell him I’m going shopping with a friend, he tells me I have enough clothes. We live carefully and I do not overspend.”

“He puts me down in front of our children. The children have said they don’t want to come visit if we are going to argue. So I say nothing when he makes rude remarks. Sometimes I wonder why the children don’t say anything to him.”

Why does she stay married? She wants a companion. She wants to be a couple. She’s fearful of being poor.

I suggested to both of these women that they detach. They need to pull back emotionally and stop arguing and trying to get their points across. Detaching is a little like watching a scene in a movie and having no feelings.

When the first woman’s husband wants her to change her dress, she should say nicely, “This is the dress I’ve chosen to wear. Next time I’ll wear something different.” When her mother or a friend calls in the evening, she should take the call if she and her husband are not having dinner or doing something together. She should be respectful of their time together as a couple but also respectful of herself. When her husband talks about how much money he makes, she can say calmly, “It’s nice that you bring in a good paycheck.”

The second woman’s goal should be: Not to respond to her husband’s inappropriate comments. Nor should she roll her eyes or show by her body language that he’s gotten to her.

If he complains about the neighbors’ trash cans, she should say nothing. If he complains about her wanting to put in new carpeting and they can afford it, she should get new carpeting and stop the ugly discussions.

Because he resists seeing the house as half his responsibility, she can make a list of what she will do and not do anything else. This may mean that the basement, garage, and closets never get touched. Or she should decide to hire a cleaning service periodically. Another choice would be to do all the tasks and take pleasure in a job well done.

Men who are bullies are not nice people. What I regret about women who live with bullies is that they often become not nice people themselves in response to their mate’s bad behaviors.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Why people complain, why it’s bad, and how to stop it.
Complaining is a real drag in any relationship.

Have you been grumbling, complaining, and whining to someone recently about your job or an unfulfilling relationship with a mate or friend? Why are you doing this?

Chances are your complaining is a way to make contact with the person you’re complaining to. If you can get the person to listen, even briefly, you get some attention. And this attention is important because it makes you feel better about yourself. It helps you forget about those job difficulties or the other people in your life who have been letting you down.

At the same time, too much complaining can be destructive.

If you complain too much about your job, others will start to see you as passive or unmotivated because you’re not doing anything to correct it. If it’s really that bad, think about a transfer to another department. Start checking the online job search sites. Beef up your skills. Do something to make your situation better. Act instead of fussing.

A constant stream of complaints about your mate also gets old after awhile. Work to fix the problem. Insist on seeing a marriage counselor together or go yourself. If you change the way you relate to your partner, it’s likely that he’ll change. If you can’t get him to change his behavior, you can work on handling it better.

Health complaints also drag your listener down. Most people do not want to hear how much sleep you didn’t get, or how your teeth are bothering you. Instead, talk about a class you’re taking or a book you’re reading or a movie you’ve seen recently.

Another problem with complaining is that you tend to frame the problem. It’s as though you put the problem in a picture frame and then it takes on more significance in your life because you focus on it.

Complaining sets in motion operating from a pessimistic frame of reference. Always we have problems to deal with in life. No one escapes. But continually focusing on problems is not helpful. And it certainly wears on those around you.

Think of the people you enjoy being with. They are people who are upbeat, laugh, and give energy. They are not people who spew out a steady stream of complaints, grievances, and ailments.

If you’re feeling down and start to complain, decide that you won’t go on for more than a few minutes before switching to a more positive discussion. If you need to do more fussing, at least call another friend and spread your complaints around.

Another option: think about what you want from the person you’re complaining to. If it’s more attention, perhaps you’ll ask the person to join you for lunch or a movie instead of complaining.

Also, ask yourself, Is there any way I can fix this particular problem? If there is, get busy.

This week, listen to yourself. See if you can stop those endless complaints. You’ll like yourself better. And so will those around you.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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How one woman handled her husband’s affair.

When Joan received an anonymous phone call informing her that her husband was having an affair, she said that she couldn’t breathe. “I think the phone call confirmed what I vaguely suspected,” she said.

“My husband, who had always been easygoing, had became hostile.” When Joan tried to find out why he was leaving so early in the morning for his job or what time he was coming home from work, he acted as if it were none of her business. “He also bought himself some new sweaters and pants, tennis shoes, and loafers.” When Joan shared information about her life or the children’s, her husband would act uninterested.

“I was spending a lot of hours at work, so I think I dismissed the changes that were occurring.”

After the phone call, Joan started checking her husband’s caller ID. She looked more carefully at the bank statements and the charge card bills. There were bills from florists and restaurants. “Restaurants we never went to. Flowers I never saw,” she said.

At first Joan thought of killing herself. “I just couldn’t make sense of it because I thought we had a good marriage. My husband even said we had a good marriage.”

When Joan confronted her husband, he gave up the affair reluctantly. He said, however, that he had never thought of getting out of their marriage. He bought his wife gifts, apologized, and tried to reassure her. When Joan would get angry and berate him, he’d take it. He refused to fight back and he kept telling her he was sorry.

After two or three years, Joan said she brought up the affair less and less. “I could actually get through an argument and not mention the affair. I still have pain, but I no longer obsess on how my husband could do this to me.”

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Being critical with your mate may not be the wisest course of action for your relationship. Sometimes Silence Is Golden.

She and he are drying dishes. She clangs the dishes together and he says nothing. He clangs the dishes and she says, “Can’t you be a little noisier?”

She spills some milk on the counter and immediately takes a dishrag and wipes it up. He spills milk on the counter and she says, “Having a little trouble today?”

She sits and reads the newspaper by a dim overhead light. Later as he reads by the same light, she clicks on the lamp and asks, “Are you trying to ruin your eyes?”

She takes a second helping of potatoes and he says nothing. He takes a second helping and she pipes up with, “I thought you were watching your weight.”

She jams the milk carton into the refrigerator and he says nothing. He jams the carton into the refrigerator and she says, “Here, let me do it.”

She turns the radio on in the car and they ride along listening to the basketball game. He turns the basketball game on in the car and she says, “Are you trying to avoid talking to me?”

The sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and she sits down to watch television. Two days later, the sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and he sits down to watch television. She asks, “You’re not going to take advantage of this beautiful weather?”

She runs out of money and says, “I have to stop at the ATM.” He says nothing. When he says, “I have to stop at the ATM,” she says, “When are you going to start planning ahead?”

Incidentally, in these examples, “he” could be “she” and “she” could be “he.”

However, in my clinical experience, more women than men are critical and judgmental. Perhaps it’s because they have been primarily responsible for whipping the children into shape, so it comes naturally. Perhaps it’s because males have more behaviors that demand correcting, and soon the woman is correcting everything.

Perhaps it’s because more women are outer-focused, focusing their attention outward on others rather than inward on themselves. When their mate does something annoying, they immediately feel a need to address the issue. But if they do the same thing, they are not as focused on it.

Regardless of the whys and becauses, sometimes — in fact most of the time — it’s better to be quiet than critical.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Marriage Counseling isn’t magic, it takes work, but the end result can be everything you wanted and more.
A man told me that he’s not getting anywhere in marriage counseling. His marriage isn’t improving. His wife continues to be critical and aloof.

I asked him what he had learned in our two sessions.

He said, “Not much.”

I said, “Well, let’s review.” I pulled up my easel and newsprint to write on.

I asked him to go over for me what his wife has been complaining about over the years.

He said, “She doesn’t think I listen.” But then he added,

“I do listen.”

I asked him to recall what it meant to listen. He said that if she had an important meeting that day, he was to ask her about it that evening. If she had a disagreement with a friend, he was to be on her side and listen to how she felt. He said that he should not read the mail or walk out of the room while she was talking. And when she called him at his office, he was not to continue to work on his PC.

I wrote all these points down on the newsprint and asked if he had been practicing these listening behaviors. He said, “Sort of.” I requested that he tell me something else his wife complains about. He said she wants him home by 7 pm.

“And in this department, how are you doing?” I asked. He said some days good, other days not so good. In truth, he doesn’t pay attention to when he gets home. I wrote, “Home by 7 pm.”

I asked for more problems his wife had pointed out. He said she complains that every time she wants to do something, he says no.

I asked if he could recall anything she wanted to do during the weekend.

He said she wanted to go see Evita. He defended himself by saying that even though he had objected, in the end he went to the movie. I wrote on my easel, “Don’t immediately say no when wife suggests an activity.”

When I probed for other problem areas, he said she had been asking him to fix the doorbell, clean the basement, and take the newspapers out of the garage. And he was to call an attorney and set a date to go over their wills.

How was he coming on these projects? I wondered.

“Not too good,” he said. In actuality he hadn’t done any of them.

“Is there anything else that I should write on my chart?” I asked.

He said that she wanted him to give more time to the children, particularly their son, who was having trouble at school. “Be specific,” I said.

He said she wanted him to review their son’s homework each night, play ball with him in the yard, and take him to a sporting event or two. She also wanted to go on family outings a few times a month. I wrote down these points.

I then explained, “If you want a better marriage, you’ll need to do these things. Marriage counseling is not magic. People come to get help in defining their problem, getting some insight into why they have the problem, and then figuring out what they need to do differently. It’s not that marriage counseling isn’t working. The problem is you’re not working.”

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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