Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Case of the Complaining Wife

Just in case you did not believe that therapy ruins marriages, here is a slice of life from an American marriage. The couple is presumably not young. He is 64, a widower. We do not know how old she is or whether she was married before. We know nothing about children or occupations.

Now, she is complaining. In truth, all she does is complain. Presumably, she wants him to express more emotion. I wonder where she got that idea, which translates-- she wants him to act more like a woman.

I will repeat a remark that I made a while back, namely, that if she is trying to make her husband more like a woman, she would do better to divorce him and to marry a woman. Presumably, procreation is no longer at issue.

But, she has not just bought the therapy culture drivel about expressing feeling; she learned it from therapy and has decided that her husband must go into therapy too. She reminds me of the woman who wrote to Carolyn Hax, complaining that she would never marry any man who had not undergone therapy. Why she imagines that any man would want to marry her, escapes me.

Moreover, today’s complaining wife is also leaning in. She is ranting at her husband all the time about his failings. She is letting him know exactly how she feels. She is trying to force him to do something that feels unnatural, because it is unnatural. And, of course, it isn’t working.

So, this man has written to therapist Lori Gottlieb. Here, in its entirety, is the letter:

My wife has given up on me and is threatening to leave. She has given me six months to find treatment for the lack of emotion I am displaying towards her. I am 64 years old and love her very much. We have only been married for a couple of years. (I was previously happily married but my first wife died of ovarian cancer.)

My wife says that I just don't display affection to the degree she craves. I get frustrated because this is all we argue about—she says I don't kiss enough, have sex enough, hug enough, etc. All the pressure on me just pushes me further away. So what do I do?

In her first foray into this morass Gottlieb presents the salient point. That is, his wife’s appallingly bad behavior is going to make it less, not more likely that she gets what she wants. Threats never work, saith Gottlieb, and she is correct:

You say that you love your wife very much, so you don’t suffer from a lack of emotion—it’s just that she has specific ideas about how that emotion should be expressed, and demands that it be expressed on her terms. In fact, your wife’s response to not getting the physical affection she craves is ensuring that she won’t actually get the physical affection she craves. I’ve never heard anyone say, “You know what solved our relationship problem? A threat!” 

Then Gottlieb questions whether something else is at issue. Obviously, the question needs to be asked, but I fear that the woman has joined a cult based on therapy precepts, and wants to be living with someone who belongs to the same cult:

What probably hasn’t been explored is what you think the issue is about, what your wife thinks it’s about, how much of this is about you, how much is about her, how much of this is related to what’s happening between you two in the present, and how much is related to your respective histories. 

But then, Gottlieb goes a bit wrong when she recommends that the man offer up:

… a vulnerable display of affection along with a willingness to make things better.

Sorry to say, but vulnerability is the last thing he should offer. That would make him accede to her threats. Since Gottlieb just told us that it was not reasonable to expect him to do so, she is contradicting herself.

If I may, I would humbly suggest that if he wants to stop his wife from leaving him-- which is the headline-- there is a sensible and rational and adult solution-- he should leave her.

There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?

1 comment:

KCFleming said...

I appreciate your insights on the story.
Their marriage is doomed.
He can never be what she wants.
Trying to do so will escalate the nagging.
It’ll never be done to her satisfaction.