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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First, I'd like to say many thanks to those who read and respond to this thread.

I am asking for advice on what I can do to change some of the more destructive patterns in my marriage, and for that I think I need some perspective from those with more insight. My wife and I have been together for about 13 years, married for 10 of those. We have a 2 1/2 yrs daughter who is the most important thing in our lives. We have always had a difficult relationship, but we've weathered it over the years and come out of many disagreements with our love intact. However, some recent developments have left me at the end of my rope and I fear that if we do not correct course, the situation will spiral out of control.

Before I describe the situation, let me note that we've seen several marriage counselors over the years. Although I've said we've weathered our difficulties, I don't believe these counselors were able to get at the heart of the issues that are really starting to dissolve our bond. It is possible this was through no fault of the counselor. However, I am leery of engaging counseling again because the presence of our daughter this time around makes that task much more challenging. I don't want to direct my effort into something that will not yield fruit when I could've put it into something that had a better chance of success. That is why I am here.

As I write this post, I am sitting in my home while my wife is sleeping in a hotel room. This is in part due to a nasty cold on my end and the need for one of us to get some sleep, but the trigger was an incident when I yelled at my wife in front of our daughter. Let me say before going any further that I regret this action and that I want nothing more than to be the best example of a mature adult. I should also be clear that we exchanged nothing but words. I don't mean to say that words don't hurt, only to allay concerns that I might have an abusive streak. I am working through a book on anger management and considering counseling on that as a separate issue. Now I should return to the critical matter at hand.

After returning home from a Christmas Eve spent with my family, I fed our daughter and took her to her bath. These evening duties have been mine pretty much since she was born. It's only natural, since I work during the day. As a result, I've given our daughter almost every bath she's ever had (a trend that will soon come to end as she gets older and we need to respect gender differences). It's always been one of my favorite times of day. Tonight, my wife decided to join us with the bath. As I went about the work, she was mostly critical about the way I did everything. I usually try to take this in stride, since every marriage has got to endure a little criticism – and sometimes she's even right! But tonight was not the night for patience. I've been getting an average of four hours sleep the last five days, had just driven an hour to get home while enduring a perpetual cough, and persuaded a toddler to eat her peas.

It came to a head when my wife complained that it was taking too long for me to finish the bath. Keep in mind that I've been getting our little girl into bed on time for two years now. And as the only working parent, the nighttime routine is my one real “expertise”. It may be trivial to some, or just a chore, but to me it is one the things that make me feel like a real caregiver. It's also a real bonding time for me. It's something I take pride in. When my wife complained, I didn't yell at her right away. I told her that we had plenty of time and that if she was getting bored or impatient then she should leave. She was after all, not really helping but just sitting with us. She said nothing in response so I went on. After a couple of minutes I could see her glaring at me and so I repeated my request: please, just go. Just leave us be. I asked her a couple more times and she said no and that when I yelled. I told her to get out. Maybe that's somewhat forgivable, but then I stood up and said: fine, why don't you finish the bath if you're the expert. I slammed the door and left them there, and she finished the bath. That last part is what I feel most ashamed of, because I put my feelings above the needs of my daughter. It's not that I don't regret yelling at my wife, only that hurting a child is, in my mind, the greater transgression.

This story is an illustration of the sort of things that happens again and again in our lives. I understand that I, like anyone, am prone to bias. I'm sure I didn't paint my wife in the best possible light, nor will I always be able to do so in the future. And readers on this forum are only hearing one side of the story. But if you will, please bear with me. There is more.

Like many husbands, I feel that I am under constant pressure and observation from my wife. In her mind I'm a screw-up, and there's some truth to that. I am absent minded and tend to live in my head a lot. I don't often see things that are right in front of me. I try not to take that as an excuse and I live my life with routine, checklists and reminders. I don't mind that, the structure suits me. And if in the end it makes me a more responsible husband and parent it's a small price to pay. However, it's never enough. I know it never will be enough, because I fear that my wife wants perfection. Moreover, she tires of my “crutches” and wants me to just “fix” my absent mindedness. For example, she sometimes complains when I turn off the music in the car when I am trying to find a place we've never been too. I need to shut out extraneous noises so that I can focus, but this inconveniences her. She also refuses to purchase a GPS, which would make the task a little easier.

I think this is relevant to the bath time story because the main thing that made my wife walk out is that she felt I crossed a line by yelling at her in front of our child. Taken as is, that is quite true. I make no excuses for that. And yet, it comes at the heels of what I think is almost unceasing negativity on her end. Normally I can bear this, but tonight, after so many sleepless nights, patience escapes me. I said I was sorry I reacted that way, but she needs to know that what she said is exactly how I feel all the time. Every day, my wife is indirectly demonstrating to her daughter that daddy is an incompetent fool. I'm sure that my wife would say that I'm exaggerating. Maybe I am, but it is how I feel. In response she said that her criticism is different. She asks, what else is she supposed to say when I'm doing something wrong? If there's a problem, she has to fix it. But is that really so different than when I asked her to leave the bathroom? After all, her complaint that I was taking too long with the bath wasn't reality – we were on schedule, as we were most nights.

Okay, I understand that's a lot of stuff. I have one more confession to go, and this one is the bomb. Over the summer I came down with a terrible skin rash that put me out of commission for weeks. Perhaps needless to say, this didn't leave us with much a sex life. So my wife asked if we could have an open marriage. I agreed that this would be acceptable. More than acceptable – it was a relief. I knew my inability to be there physically for my wife was taking its toll and I hoped this experiment would relieve the tension. What followed was actually a very positive experience for her. I will not go into any detail, but I want it to be clear that although this approach is unorthodox, I don't resent it. However, since I recovered from my rash our sex life has not. I think that basically I have succumbed to the age old problem of anxiety over not being the man she needs, which becomes a self-fufilling prophecy, and so continues in a vicious circle. I don't know how I can recover, because I don't know how to un-program the way I respond when I'm around her. I don't know how to kill the anxiety. I'm sure that is a problem more suitable for therapist than a forum, but it is critical to understanding the big picture.

What then, is my question in all of this mess? I guess it is this: what questions do I need to ask myself? There are so many issues that I feel overwhelmed even thinking about it. The human mind (especially mine) cannot direct its energy on lots of things at once. So where do I start? Should I start with focusing my all my efforts on anger management? Even if my wife is in the wrong when I feel pushed to the limit, it can only help if such incidents do not lead to a blow out. Or maybe I should find ways to bring more romance back into our relationship, which may solve a number of issues. And finally – here's something that's really been kicking around in my head – is it possible that my wife may suffer from mental problems the originate from completely outside our marriage? After all, my absent mindedness and anger issues have been around for a long time. If my wife does have her own problems, how do I even begin to address them? I certainly can't make her do anything she doesn't want to do, but if we are both a part of the problem than one person admitting to it will do nothing.

Thanks to anyone who put up with this very long post, and happy holidays.
 

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Merry Christmas! I do hope you, your wife, and daughter are under the same roof today.

It sounds as though you have many problems in your marriage. The biggest problem is that neither of you have a serious commitment to each other. A rash is hardly an excuse to begin an open marriage. What about "in sickness and in health"? Perhaps your wife has been engaged in affairs long before the rash. The rash was merely an excuse for her to openly have other lovers. That would explain why she is so critical of you. People engaged in extra-material affairs find fault with their spouses--they will pick everything they do apart. The "open" marriage needs to stop immediately.

Both you and your spouse could benefit from individual therapy. I sense you are really suffering from low self-esteem and anxiety. You may also have stress playing a role in your anger issues. I know I did.

Hope things get better for you.:)
 

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I think you need to ask yourself questions along the lines of - why are you still in this marriage? Do you believe this person will ever make you happy and that you can have an easy, fun relationship together? What are you afraid of that's stopping you from leaving?
Rather than trying to overanalyse your problems and assign blame to her (or yourself) - take some responsibility, for your own life.
Your responsibility is to be happy and true to yourself, to overcome your fears and live the life you were supposed to live, while being an example to others (your daughter in particular).
I agree with 827 that there seems to be a lack of committment - but why is that? Is it because you two can't really meet each other's needs?
Time for some honest self reflection here...... The good news is that the more honest you are with yourself the more likely you are to achieve happiness in your life.
 

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The others have given you good feedback. I'd just like to add that you would probably benefit the most from dealing with anger management. There are plenty of problems in your relationship and you will need a cool head to deal with them.
 

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I'm curious - is your marriage still open? In other words, aren't you also a beneficiary of said "open marriage"??

One more thing that kind of stood out to me: "She also refuses to purchase a GPS". I need to ask - you're the one who works, etc. Why don't YOU buy a GPS since you're the one who uses it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
It sounds as though you have many problems in your marriage. The biggest problem is that neither of you have a serious commitment to each other. A rash is hardly an excuse to begin an open marriage. What about "in sickness and in health"? Perhaps your wife has been engaged in affairs long before the rash. The rash was merely an excuse for her to openly have other lovers. That would explain why she is so critical of you.
I didn't want to go into detail, but the rash was more than the word would imply. It was a result of serious skin inection which took me several months and considerable medical attention to remedy. I did not want to infect my wife. Regarding "in sickness and in health", I see that as about the commitment in the overall marriage. Sex is only a part of the relationship. It is not as though she gave up on everything as a result of a medical problem. Nonetheless, I hear what you're saying and will take it into account.

I'm interested in your comment: "That would explain why she is so critical of you." Could you elaborate? I know, maybe I'm a little dense. And maybe that's a part of my problem. However, I don't understand the connection you are making between using the rash as an excuse for extra marital affairs and her criticism.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think you need to ask yourself questions along the lines of - why are you still in this marriage? Do you believe this person will ever make you happy and that you can have an easy, fun relationship together? What are you afraid of that's stopping you from leaving?
Rather than trying to overanalyse your problems and assign blame to her (or yourself) - take some responsibility, for your own life.
Your responsibility is to be happy and true to yourself, to overcome your fears and live the life you were supposed to live, while being an example to others (your daughter in particular).
I agree with 827 that there seems to be a lack of committment - but why is that? Is it because you two can't really meet each other's needs?
Those are all very good questions. If I am totally honest, when you ask the question "What are you afraid of that's stopping you from leaving", the one one answer the pops immediately into my head is: I don't want to hurt my daughter. My wife is a good mother, even if I sometime disagree with her. I know that sounds like a classic case of staying together for the kid. Maybe it is. However, it is also our daughter that brings out the things that I love about my wife. There are many times when the three of us are together and we are a happy family. I want to preserve that, but the moment seem to be growing increasingly rare.

Do I think we can have an easy, fun relationship? Sometimes we really do. However, I am starting to live in fear of happy times that suddenly break apart into disaster. I just don't how to make it stop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm curious - is your marriage still open? In other words, aren't you also a beneficiary of said "open marriage"??

One more thing that kind of stood out to me: "She also refuses to purchase a GPS". I need to ask - you're the one who works, etc. Why don't YOU buy a GPS since you're the one who uses it?
At this point in time, the marriage is still open. I know that many find this hard to believe, but honestly that is not the part that worries me. Some people may categorically oppose an open marraige under any circumstance, but I do not. What concerns me is that it that our particular case as revealed to me that I am anxious about my physical relationship with my wife. Although the arrangment came from a medical problem, it continues at least in part because I fear that I will disappoint her. It shouldn't be a surprise that the criticism and negativity that I experience in other respects extends into the bedroom. I recognize that is not a problem that can ever be solved in a forum, but I elaborate becase the questions people have asked.

Is it open for me? It is if I want it to be, but I don't at this time. It's not really my thing.

Regarding the GPS, I suppose I could buy it myself. However, my intent was to present one illustration of a persistent problem. That is, there are circumstances when I feel I get criticized without being given rational options to remedy the situation.
 
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