A Couple Wandering In The Wilderness
This is a couple who came to me because Irritable Male Syndrome was causing problems in their lives. Here's how the woman experienced the problem:
Five years ago my husband turned 50 and since then our lives have been turned upside down. I feel I have been wandering in the wilderness trying to understand what is going on. We've had our ups and downs during the 24 years we have been married, but I'd say, on the whole, we've been happy. I'm three years younger than him and my own menopause was stressful on him and the rest of the family, but it wasn't as bad as most women I know.
He owns his own retail business and I've been a part-time bookkeeper while the kids were growing up. We have all the things we've been striving for. We have a nice house, drive new cars, and have good friends. Our 22 year-old son is away at college and our daughter is getting ready to go next year.
But just when I thought we could really enjoy our time together my husband has totally changed. At first little things bothered him. If I didn't have dinner prepared at the exact time I had promised, he'd snap at me. When I got in a slight car accident, he nearly went ballistic. He accused me of not knowing how to drive.
Work has always been stressful. Owning your own business means you have to be "on" all the time. We always worried about whether the business would make it, then wondered if it would survive. But now that it's successful, he seems even more uptight and indecisive. One minute he says he wants to sell it and retire. The next he tells me the thing to do is to expand. It's been driving me nuts.
I guess I could take all that, but now he's been taking things out on me. The irritability now is nearly constant. It seems that nothing makes him happy. Frequently he is on the verge of rage. He's never hit me, but the way he looks at me is frightening. He gets a certain look in his eye that makes me shiver. What's so confusing is he used to be patient and laid back. For most of our marriage he was the gentlest and kindest man you'd ever want to meet. Now he's become so angry and hurtful I hardly know him.
When I'd ask him what's wrong, he'd either ignore me or snap at me. When I reach out to touch him, he pulls away like my touch is poisonous. "I feel like all the passion has drained out of me," he says. A year ago he started counseling and a lot of issues from his childhood began to surface. I thought this would help him get rid of some of the anger and bring us closer together. But now he's decided to move out.
He tells me, "I love you, but I'm not in love with you." That cuts me to the bone. How can the man who so recently told me he was more in love with me than when we got married, all of a sudden decide that he is no longer in love? It's like waking up one morning and finding out your husband has decided he's your brother now, not your lover.
It's been the worst nightmare of my life. I'm beginning to see that he is experiencing a great deal of anxiety and depression. At times he is angry and blaming and at other times he acts almost like a zombie. He seems so cold and heartless; I wonder where his humanity has gone.
Now he's got one foot in the relationship and one foot out. He says he still wants to be married, but doesn't want to live together. He says, "I need to find myself." I wonder if it's that or if he just wants to run away from any marital or family responsibilities. The kids are devastated. They don't understand what's happened. There didn't seem to be any serious problems, but all of a sudden their Dad is gone. I might be able to understand why he would distance himself from me, but why is he withdrawing from his own children?
It's not knowing what I can count on that is driving me nuts. I ask him if he wants a divorce and he says "no." I ask him if there's anything I can do to make things better, he says, "no." I ask if he'll go to counseling, he says, "no." Everything is negative and there's no room for dialogue. It's like talking to a post.
Now he's having a serious flirtation with a woman he has met. He tells me it's not sexual, she's just someone he can talk to about what's going on with him. I want to tear my hair out. "Why can't you talk to me," I scream to myself. "I love this man. I don't want our relationship to end. I know he's going through something and I want to help him heal."
There is help available. However, a couple must first recognize that something is wrong. Have you or anyone you care about experienced these kinds of problems? Let me hear from you.
Does this sound familiar? Drop me a line and let me know what you have experienced.
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This article first appeared on Gordon Clay's MenStuff Web site, http://www.menstuff.org/