Julie Johnston wrote:Hi Brody,
I'll put this on the table in case it's helpful.
Philosopher Sam Keen used to advise this: "A man has to ask himself two questions. #1 Where do I want to go? and #2 Who do I want to go there with me? AND he has to answer them in the right order."
The unhappily married men that I come across are those whose wives don't support them along the path they (the men) want to take.
Here's my caveat: Once you meet the woman you'd like to accompany you, make sure — on a regular basis — that the path is still feeding your beloved's soul as well. For example, she might want to take a "side trip" — support her to do so, knowing that you're both still heading in the same direction.
p.s. Even in this kind of marriage, it's still hard sometimes. I've heard that research shows the 80/20 rule applies to marital bliss as well. It doesn't matter how the spouses fight, as long as it's not more than 20% of the time. The rest of the time has to nurture both souls. For that reason, it's important to make sure you find someone whose sense of humour matches yours!
Kyle Hayward wrote:When someone puts a ball in front of me, I do not just see just a circle. I see a sphere because I have binocular vision. which gives me a 3D view. I guess if you only have one eye it could be argued to be a circle, but you will still see evidence of light and shadow, such as the moon exhibits in it's phases.
I do not take conspiracy type theories lightly or with good humor, I have seen first hand the damage and isolation they have caused to a family member and quite honestly they seem to be proficient among those with untreated mental illnesses, minor to severe.
Angel Hunt wrote:I probably have no business intruding on this conversation as a person who has never been married and who has had few positive examples of marriage.
But I have had a good amount of experience dealing with my own attachment issues, and I don’t think that you two are doomed to be locked into the same toxic pattern forever if you are willing to work at it, which it seems you are.
Like you, attachment theory was a revelation for me. I came to see my anxious attachment issues not so much as baggage as an alarm system warning me that I am entering a dynamic that is unhealthy for me. Previously, I would feel anxiety at someone pulling away and try to suppress my feelings about it to keep him from pulling away more. Or I would express my concerns and my partner would outright dismiss them, leading to me suppressing my feelings. But the more I tried to suppress my feelings, the more they would come out sideways as passive aggressive protest behavior.
These days I recognize the feeling of anxious attachment and can stop myself from heading down that path. Instead, I will reflect on why I feel the anxiety. It does not come out of nowhere. There is always a behavior that triggers the feeling, and I have to accept that if I am feeling anxiety that it is a behavior that I probably should not tolerate. So then I decide what change I would need to avoid that anxiety. It is usually something very small that has to do with communication. I determine that this is a boundary I have to draw and present it to my partner. I do not present it as an ultimatum—do this or else I walk. Nor do I accuse him of wrongdoing. I just explain that this is what I need in a relationship, and then it is up to him to decide whether or not he can provide what I need. As a result of this change, I no longer get sucked into these cycles of escalating toxic behavior. And the more I do it, the more I feel secure. So take heart; you are not doomed.
You mentioned childhood trauma, and I myself also attributed a lot of my attachment behaviors to childhood trauma. I found the book The Children of Emotionally Immature Parents very helpful in understanding why I react the way I do.
I think the tricky part will be empathy and communication. To avoid engaging in protest behavior that hurts each other, you each will need to not only understand your own feelings, but feel like you have a safe space to communicate what you are feeling without being invalidated. That means, for example, when she needs reassurance or extra time with you, you cannot write her off as being too needy. And when you need some space to yourself, she cannot dismiss you as being unloving. You will each have to accept that the other’s needs are valid even where you might otherwise feel they are excessive. You each need to be able to say what you need and then work together to find a compromise that works for both of you.
I think if you two can successfully empathize and communicate with each other, you can probably work through a lot of your differences. But it is possible that you may have some differences that are irreconcilable. If I were in your shoes, I would have my partner and myself each separately come up with a vision of the life we want in the long-term (values, family, work, money, social life, hobbies, travel, religion, etc.). Determine what are your must-haves—the things you will regret not accomplishing when you are on your deathbed—and which of those must-haves require your partner’s participation. Then come together to share your visions and figure out whether and how you can blend your visions together or whether there are some complete dealbreakers that might make continued partnership unproductive. If you guys can create a blended vision of the life you want, then when differences arise the only concern will be how it affects your blueprint for the future. As long as the shared vision is unaffected, you can freely revel in your differences.
Whatever the outcome, I hope you two find peace and happiness.
Brody Ekberg wrote:My wife loves flowers and will buy them for herself if I don’t often enough. But I would much rather plant them or pick them than buy them. And if I was in her shoes, picked or grown flowers would mean much more to me than store bought flowers anyway. Just another difference in our perspectives!
I could be way off base, but I get the sense that you might be too fixated on your differences to recognize the overlap that might exist between you two, and you might potentially be making erroneous assumptions about what your wife wants or why she wants what she wants. For instance, you said your wife prefers store-bought flowers to picked or grown flowers, but is that accurate? Or is she responding favorably to the appearance of increased effort and forethought? If you just haphazardly cut some flowers on your way into the house—flowers that perhaps would have to be pruned back anyway—it may not feel as special as you taking the time to think about her far enough in advance to order flowers from a florist. The latter suggests that she was definitely on your mind and worth additional effort while the former may appear low-effort. But I’d wager that if you created a bed of flowers in the garden that each had a special significance to her (this one is your favorite color, this is the flower I gave you for a corsage when we first dated, this one I planted because I saw you admire it at our neighbors, etc.), she would appreciate that way more than store-bought flowers because it signals a higher level of effort and consideration for her feelings. The difference might not be so much one of materialism versus simplicity, but of perceived effort versus perceived efficiency.
Tereza Okava wrote:
This is such a good point. Frankly, Brody, I'm wondering what your motivation is for being married. What do you get out of this? What does she get out of this? If this was a job, would you still be there? If this was your brother, what would your advice be?
In a bad time like this I'd be getting out the old notepad and doing the old pro/con analysis list. And then I'd show it to her and say look, I am still here because I love you, but 100% serious, what do you think about this, and how can we move forward?
It's hard for me to imagine being married from a young age, since I was on my own very early to provide for myself. I know how it feels to make money from blistered hands and to eat lentils for the last two weeks of the month, and it's one of the things I share with my spouse (today, we each have our own businesses, it's hard to believe how far we've come). We also have all sorts of attachment and family traumas, which we are brutally open about (lots of therapy...).
But neither of us depended on the other for anything when we first met, we were totally equal and simply enjoyed each other's company. I think each of us being so independent and proud makes us respect each other. I don't think I'd be able to say the same thing if I hadn't supported myself.
I also have questions when I hear about couples where the provisioning and labor (of all types) is lopsided. Similarly, when enjoyment is lopsided (I'm reading about your anniversary with my mouth open). Where respect is lacking, there is resentment.
(I met my spouse in a reggae bar when we were both working in Japan, I was enjoying finally having a stable, enjoyable life after about 10 years of struggle, and he was pretty much in the same place. We also had inexplicable chemistry and a common language, plus a few hobbies and friends in common. We both had been so focused on trying to climb out of poverty that we never thought about marriage or family, and then suddenly it was a possibility. We actually talked a lot about having kids and our future lives at the beginning, which I suppose was natural as our backgrounds were so different. Everyone around us telling us we were making a huge mistake made us both more determined to make it work. We fought a bit, to be sure, and 90% of the time money was the trigger, I think that's not uncommon. But there was always the mission to come back to: it moved from having someone whose company I enjoyed, to having a kid in common whose welfare was more important than anything else, to supporting the other person when they needed it, to being a best friend. the kid is grown now, and we are closer than ever.)
Matt McSpadden wrote:Hi Brody,
My heart breaks to hear your story... it is all too common. Please know, that having different interests is not the problem, it is very common for people to be opposites and have a great marriage. Also, for full disclosure, I have been married for 13 and 1/2 years, and separated from my wife for almost 2 years. She filed for a divorce that I am dead set against. I could probably write pages about this, but I want to try to keep this concise.
First of all, I do not think divorce should be an option, period. Divorce hurts society. Divorce hurts children. Divorce hurts both spouses. If you go into marriage as a lifelong commitment, you have a much better chance. If there is no escape, you HAVE to find a way. If divorce is on the table at all... my opinion is that the marriage is doomed, and its just a matter of when. Imagine putting together a model, and you glue two plastic pieces together, and let it dry. Then try to pull them apart. If you succeed in pulling them apart, neither piece will ever be the same again. Some people divorce for good reasons... most for poor reasons... but divorce is damaging no matter the reason.
Second, answer this question. Who is the tie-breaker in your marriage? While people talk about 50/50 marriages all the time, the fact is that those don't work. You cannot have two people with the same level of authority, because you will disagree at some point, and someone needs to be the tie-breaker. I think certain religions and our own human history point to which spouse makes the most sense to be the tie-breaker... but regardless, someone has to have the final say, or it will never work. If one spouse has the final say, and the other is willing to submit to that decision, a whole lot of arguments would never happen. Marriage is supposed to be two becoming one. The idea is that you now work together towards a common goal. A marriage without leadership won't go anywhere. Someone has to be in charge. I think in this day and age, people think that one and one becomes two. People seem to be focusing on themselves as individuals... when you are supposed to be thinking of yourself and your spouse as one unit now. You don't have to both like the same things, but you have to be dedicated to the marriage. In the marriages that I have seen work, its not the husband's goals and the wife's goals on separate lists, it is that the wife takes on her husband's goals. If two people want to go their own way... why are they married?
Lastly, from your description, you are at the end of your rope and your wife and counselors are making you feel like its partly your fault. And if you were ignoring her like you mentioned... then yeah, it is partially your fault. However, her actions are not excusable. The fact that she admits to being part of the problem is a HUGE thing. Many women (my wife included) cannot accept their part of the responsibility. The fact that you are doing all of these things for her and she is not responding, tells me a lot. There are really only two reasons she would not respond to your actions to do things for her. Either those things are not her love language, so she does not register them as showing love... or the more common thing (and what happened to me) is that she is emotionally checked out of the marriage and is gaslighting you for a variety of possible reasons. The first should be easy to sort out, the second reason is much harder.
You need to put her needs and wants before your own... that is called love. I see quite a few examples of this in your posts.
She needs to put your needs and wants before her own... that is called love. This is obviously a one sided story... but the examples are not showing this. Let us hope that she is actually doing this.
You two need to decide who is going to be the tie breaker.
If those three things happened, I think your conflict would shrink and allow the marriage to skyrocket.
Riona Abhainn wrote:I've only been married for almost 2 and a half years now, but I love being married, so I'm going to come at this with that implicit bias. My husband and I are different, but mostly in ways that complament and balance each other. We communicate a lot, try consciously to do things that fill each other's "love bank" even if those things don't really fill our own, but since we do it for each other both of us feel fulfilled.
I think modern society sees personal individuality as the be all and the end all, its all about the individual. I think that there are things we can learn from more collectivist cultures, its not that people shouldn't enjoy their individuality, its that people should be balanced and be less hyperfocused on personal growth at the expense of something that could be even better, growth together. Because your wife and you have both been learning a lot about yourselves, and mistakes in the marriage, I think now is the time to come together and do the work together. She sounds like she's ready to work on herself and the marriage. You sound like you're ready to work on yourself and the marriage, so if you're both doing it then I think good things are coming. I'd suggest maybe starting with a new couples counselor though, one that won't be biassed toward you or her, that will get to know you both at the same time. Makes sense for her to keep seeing her individual therapist though because good things are happening there.
So I did give you advice, didn't veil it or sneak it in. Just gave it to you.
Douglas Alpenstock wrote:I love the amazing and wise comments so far.
People grow together, or they grow apart. We all change with time.
But they can grow together! And they do! This is 26 years talking, and parents/aunts/uncles topping out over 60 years. And yes, I've been lucky to have these examples, and yes people do find a path forward in the hard times. It can be a pretty cranky and vigorous process, with hard headed individuals wrestling over the path forward. Take courage from this -- I have seen it with my own eyes.
I think the most powerful thing is to find common cause. This is not easy when values seem disconnected. But these are usually social causes based on: we have the power to help others in a tangible way. We have these responsibilities as humans with the power to act in the human community! Not BS protesting and marching, but more like "delivering food for people who are hungry." And connect the dots from there, to the gardening and homesteading and soil building and the food production adventure that makes this all possible -- for a lifetime! .
Ask yourself, and your spouse, openly: What do we want to build?s Be open to the answer. It all flows from that simple question. Note the "we."
Luck to you!
Tereza Okava wrote:
I agree, every relationship seems to be its own case. We just celebrated our 25th. I married someone so thoroughly different from me my American friends were sure it was a passport scam, and my father didn't talk to me for years: different nationality, religion, language, background, education, everything.
Yet despite the outward differences we are in some ways almost exactly the same. We are both hot-headed and have a deep sense of morality and rightness. We have been madly in love with each other, several times. Moved out a few times. Done couples counseling. Had amazing things happen to us we celebrated, and terrible things we cried together through. We've been mean to each other, and also have fought like bears to defend each other.
From the start, I decided I was only going to do the big things (marriage, kids) once. I had a lot to accomplish in life, and wasn't going to repeat. I needed it to work or else I was done. I made it work. Luckily I am very stubborn, and so is my partner.
We learned, together, that when things are really bad, we need to turn off everything else, sit down, and talk serious. We've gotten pretty good, but we still work at it, and both have room to improve.
Only in the past few years have we started sharing each other's hobbies. He's starting to enjoy birds, and I even let him in the garden now. I got an antique car, and will go to football games. I put up with these "weird things" because it made him happy, and then that made me happy.
But I don't need my husband to be everything to me-- he is what he is, and who he is, and that is exactly who I need him to be. I would change NOTHING. I have other people who fulfill other roles, to talk about US foreign policy or opera or art history with. If he starts to absorb some of my interests, great! That's sweet! But it's not what I need, and I respect him and love him precisely for what he is. I might grumble about his politics or silly things he does, but I admire the hell out of him, and marrying him was probably the best thing I ever did.
I think the shrinking of social circles and also changes in lifestyle put a lot of pressure on couples to be everything to each other. That's a heavy burden, and you don't even have barfing kids and sick parents and all that in the mix yet.
I hope you guys can sit down and have this conversation soon. Only you know if continuing this relationship and doing the work is worth it. But being able to sit down and honestly have the talk and say what you both feel is vital. If things are unsaid, then that resentment starts to ferment, and you can't have a healthy relationship with resentment. After all, you guys chose each other, and there must be something good at the base there.
The first time we did couples counseling started by explaining to the therapist why we were together in the first place. It was a good experience to remember, positively, how we ended up married, and to think that I would do it again. Maybe you guys can think about that, and how to move forward. Good luck.
Jordan Holland wrote:Dating today, and at your age, is very likely very different from what the two of you remember, especially with such an entwined past. I get the impression that you lean more heavily to the side of believing that divorce will almost certainly lead to growth for both of you. If you divorce, will you not both still have the same baggage? Is it not possible divorce will add even more baggage?
From your description of the both of you, I suspect you (being more accustomed to being alone, a saver, less emotional, etc.) will likely be ok. You can probably throw yourself into your permaculture endeavors and even thrive. I fear she will not fare as well. I think I recall you have been the main source of income, she's a spender, wants to travel, is more emotional, etc. I feel she will be in for a much ruder awakening. Dating after 30 appears to be much more difficult for a woman, from what I've seen. If she ends up spiraling down the drain, will it affect you? If you divorce and make some lawyer very happy, will all that money be spent only to end up back together eventually? If both or either of you date other people in the interim, then end up getting back together, would it be better to have never divorced? Would it add a whole new load of baggage? Or perhaps it could even have the opposite effect and end up bringing you closer together than ever before. It truly is a great deal to consider.