Hitting a brick wall in my marriage and I would appreciate some different perspectives to help me figure out how to move forward.
My wife has a lot of resentment towards me that recently has started to manifest itself as a very powerful anger. We started marital counseling in the fall and we were making some real progress. Around the holidays, we were having some trouble with the way our son's preschool was handling him (mildly) biting classmates. During one of our sessions, the counselor said something that my wife found to be patronizing. We agreed to pull our son out of school and she has resisted going back to counseling since the new year because she doesn't have anyone to watch our son and she is no longer comfortable with the counselor.
As a result of my own individual counseling and the marital counseling, I have come to realize that I have been emotionally unavailable to my wife for years and that I haven't been pulling my weight around the house. I have been working on my issues over the last six or seven months and she has acknowledged that I am doing my part to make things better. I've also gotten an understanding of the scope and significance of my family-of-origin issues and I have been working to deal with these as well.
My wife also has some real anger towards my parents--especially my mother. They live about an hour away and anytime I mention them visiting to see their grandson, it causes significant tension. She admits that she dislikes their visits because seeing them reminds her of all the things she doesn't like about me. She has essentially asked me to minimize/prevent their visits until we are in a better place.
She is understandably tired of being hurt by me and can't seem to find the will to be vulnerable and allow herself the chance to love me again because she's scared that she won't be able to handle it if I haven't really changed and she gets hurt again.
It feels like as long as I keep my parents at bay and don't push her to care for me, we can maintain our partnership (very depressing as I re-read this). If I bring up the possibility of my parents visiting or if I really try to connect with her (emotionally or physically), she starts to push me away.
For what it's worth (and I may be misinterpreting/misapplying this), during the marital counseling it was suggested that her inner emotional child is stuck at two and mine is around nine or ten. Accordingly, she has lots of tantrums and gets unreasonably angry at small things. Just as an example, we were walking down the street the other day with our son and a couple turned in front of us. One of them lit a cigarette and I immediately fell back to see if the smoke was going to linger. My wife asked to cross the street, but I said that we didn't need to because it was windy. She got really angry and accused me of not caring about her. We crossed the street and she continued to work herself up because I was being inconsiderate. Our emotions got really heated, but we were able to resolve it and move on because I apologized for being dismissive of her feelings and promised to be more attentive. I resent having to do this and, if I hadn't, the situation could have easily escalated into screaming. This type of thing happens probably about once a month, on average, but there are times when it will happen several times in a short period of time. The screaming has happened three times this week, though.
As far as my own work goes, I have recognized that my parents' relationship and personalities have a lot to do with me being an emotional ten-year old. I think it would be helpful to my wife if I would acknowledge this to her, but I don't want to because I feel like she's just going to throw it in their face (by telling them that I think they harmed my emotional development).
I'm struggling with how to handle this. Part of me knows that it shouldn't matter if she tells my parents this because my relationship with her is the primary one. Accordingly, my inclination is to suck it up and share this with my wife--with the hope that my vulnerability will help her find her own strength to be vulnerable again.
I've got a lot of anger about this and I sometimes feel like I am the only one who is really trying to improve our relationship. We have both seen the marriage counselor individually and he assures me that she wants our marriage to be fulfilling. She has the power in our relationship and me being vulnerable like this seems like I'm just giving into her again.
And this is where I also need some differing perspectives. I am having trouble finding a reasonable way to establish better boundaries about her unreasonable temper tantrums. I've read The Emotionally Unavailable Man
and it suggests leaving for a period of time whenever the wife "hurricanes." The idea is that there will be some consequence to the behavior. More often than not, though, my wife's initial instinct is to tell me to leave when she starts to get angry. If I leave, nothing gets addressed.
I'm slowly getting to a place where I am finding my own power and I am better able to engage her tantrums and to control my own emotions when she is triggered. I care about her very much and I don't want leave her. I also dearly love my son and I want to be a daily part of his life. I want to continue my efforts to improve my marriage, but I don't want to make things worse by doing so. My biggest concern is figuring out how to establish better boundaries (I have discussed this with the counselor, but would like different perspectives). If I can establish boundaries, I hope that I can continue to do my work and that eventually she will open up again.