Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Case of the Whipped Husband

Here’s a slice of today’s American life. It shows a thoroughly modern marriage… one where the husband is, to use to vernacular, whipped. He is so whipped that Carolyn Hax is at a loss for words. She understands clearly that this man, who, in the interest of a marriage of equals, goes grocery shopping with his wife, only to be berated in the store, should quickly find a way out of his marriage. When you are married to a shrew, the only solution is the find the exit ramp. Of course, Hax cannot quite say so to someone she does not know, but still.

Anyway, here is a picture of a pathetic man who has drunk the feminist Kool-Aid:

My wife and I often grocery shop together. My wife will predictably identify something among my few items and ask that I return it to the shelf. It reminds me of a mother telling a child to put back the Lucky Charms. Yet she may have a few similar items.

I typically put up some resistance but relent to avoid an in-store argument. These episodes have taken their toll on me.

I have voiced my feelings to my wife in the moment and during therapy. These small issues have become a metaphor for what I feel is belittling me and my role.

I was recently disappointed to see this behavior continue. I can calmly explain again to my wife that this behavior humiliates me and makes me want to avoid shopping together. I am certain, however, she will accuse me of being oversensitive and painting her as a monster, and nothing will change.

Should I simply stand down from shared shopping excursions? Is "giving up" a healthy strategy? I will need to explain why I no longer accompany her.

— Disappointed

How he ever allowed this relationship dynamic to become entrenched, I do not know. You will note that this pathetic fool is also going to therapy. He has learned to express his feelings. It does no good whatever.

So, he should stop going to therapy. And he should stop their couples shopping excursions. He should not explain himself. He should tell her that things are going to change: either she will accept his standing up for himself or he will walk away from the marriage.

As often happens in these cases, we do not know whether the couple has children.

Anyway, Hax tries to give the man a little backbone:

That she’s still correcting you after you’ve said your piece about feeling belittled says she (still) believes she has a right to tell you what to do, and therefore will keep doing it.

So you’re married to someone who is controlling and who apparently would rather gaslight you — “she will accuse me of being oversensitive” — than challenge her own behavior.

And also:

Again: Quietly refuse to be controlled. Make this your blueprint for finding the words and actions in the heat of a moment that preserve the right to self-determination due any competent adult. Take this blueprint with you to the store, to the kitchen table, in the car, on vacation. Apply it with a two-part strategy of holding firm and then, as needed, declining to act in her scene.

Quietly refuse to be controlled.

This is your start. Therapy solo is next. That’s how you navigate wherever your marriage goes next.

Controlling is much too mild here. The woman is emotionally abusive. If she continues to belittle him, she is not just controlling. She is hostile and abusive. She wants to diminish and demean him, most likely, in order to feel empowered. Of course, this man did marry her. And he seems willing to put up with his wife’s behavior. We know nothing about either of their careers. One suspects that he is not a world beater.

And yet, it’s a feministically correct marriage. God help us all.


David Foster said...

"My wife and I often grocery shop together. My wife will predictably identify something among my few items and ask that I return it to the shelf."

I have observed much worse than this, with the wife not *asking* but positively snarling: "Put that back! We don't need that!" grocery stores and also at library book sales.

From the demographics of the areas, these were probably upper-middle-class people.

Ares Olympus said...

I don't like terms like "controlling" or "emotionally abusive" but obviously there is some truth there to be faced whatever it is called.

The problem with calling someone "controlling" or "emotionally abusive" is anyone who has behavior that fits those terms will immediately feel defensive and deny it and refuse to see their behavior from the other's point of view. And WORSE, they will likely pick up these terms and play them back onto others, and claim others are doing these things to them, while they themselves are just defending themselves.

Really I think many of us much of the time has no idea how we look from the outside, what has been called here in previous posts as "external self awareness", and I imagine sometimes the only way to get through to someone is to videotape their behavior and play it back to them later when they're in a different frame of mind, and then at least they can evaluate themselves, although I suppose when attitudes have become rigid, maybe seeing themselves, even from the outside would just pull them back into that moment and they'd still not be able to see.

Perspective taking seems useful, imagining yourself on the opposite side of any interaction can be instructive, but only if you can detach yourself, and not take things personally. I see shame is involved in "controlling" behavior, and pride can credibly tell you that you're not trying to control other people, but rationalize that you are doing it for their own good, because you can see what's right for them, and that arrogance apparently also covers over the shame behind it.

I don't envy therapists who have to try to help anyone break through their hall of mirrors to see things as they really are.