Question: I have been married for 12 years with two kids. My wife is very angry and hardened by my past actions. She has told me we need time apart. She said that she feels a lot of hate for me and does not feel I will change. I have had this shoved in my face like a ton of bricks and want to and am willing and will change. I am determined to do this for my marriage and my children. I just don’t know if it will work. The therapist said that I needed to focus on her and my kids. I needed to spend time with the kids and give her space to be herself. She has gone out with friends twice in the last 3 nights and stays out late. She is hurting me and I don’t know why she does this. I want to give her space but this hurts and I am scared and frightened by her actions. Please help me with these questions. Why is she going out for such long periods of time? Space I understand but why does she need the bar with friends until the middle of the night?
Answer: I’m sorry that you’re suffering but you can use this time for some important personal growth here if you want to do the hard work. There is no quick fix here or easy answers. Let me begin by asking you a couple of questions. What specifically have been your past actions that has hardened your wife and provoked her to feel hatred toward you? Write them down. Are these new behaviors or have they been going on for a while? How long? Is this the first you’ve heard that these past behaviors of yours bother her and she’d like you to stop them? Has she asked you to change before now? How many times? If so, why haven’t you?
The reason I ask you this is that you say that this has been shoved in your face like a ton of bricks. By saying that you’re implying that this is the first you’ve heard that she’s unhappy with something you’ve been doing for a while. Your wife has probably told you many times that your behaviors bother her and asked you to change. Up to now you haven’t changed them. So what’s different? Why should she hold out hope that you’re going to change them now?
Answering these questions is an important first step in you taking responsibility for the things you have done to damage your marriage. It’s too late to say now you’ll change if you’ve been ignoring her pleas for years. She doesn’t believe you anymore. Here’s an example you might relate to. If your “check oil” light goes on in your car and you ignore it long enough, you will end up with a bigger problem. When your engine freezes because you didn’t add oil, you can’t just add oil and expect the problem to be fixed. You now need a new engine.
In the same way when you ignore your wife’s concerns for years and then the marriage breaks down, just fixing some things isn’t going to win her back. Your marriage needs an overhaul and you will need to be patient to take the time to work on your part. Right now you’ve wife is finding some freedom doing what she wants. It hurts you that what she wants to do is stay out late at the bars with her friends. You’re right in that is not the best use of her free time right now. But you can’t change or fix her. You can only work on yourself.
If you try to get her to change, she will only dig in her heels more. If you try to guilt trip her into saying home, she will most likely resent you more. If you truly want to win her back, the best way is to make yourself into a man she will want to live with and love and share her life with. That will take time because I sense from your letter that you’re more likely to think of your own feelings and needs than your wife’s and children’s.
I understand that you don’t like feeling frightened, hurt or alone. You don’t like it that your wife feels hatred for you. But you can either focus on getting her to change, or with God’s help, changing your own self. I hope you chose the latter. If you do, I promise you that you will become a healthier and happier person and hopefully in the process restore your marriage.