Tag Archives: wife

Holding it in: When Gender Roles Collide With Marriage

Marriage is not easy. It is a work in progress. It is constantly evolving, changing, expanding. As a marriage counselor, I often see trends in the couples I am seeing—common issues. When these things arise they make me think that these points of contention are not a single relationship issue and more of a common overarching marital issue. 

Gender Roles and Privilege

Over my years I have seen the tone of marriage counseling get harder and deeper as conversations about gender roles and privilege emerge. I hear from wives that they have spent their whole marriage doing nothing but caring for their husband and children and they want time for themselves. They want the autonomy to make their own choices. They want to do things for themselves, make decisions without consulting the other party.

From the men I hear frustration and hurt. They thought they were making decisions with their wives as a unit. They thought these were things they were doing together. The men had assumed a high degree of cohesion. Now that their wives are feeling the need for autonomy, the men are wishing for more consideration of their feelings and needs. 

The wives in these cases are resentful. They feel like they have been attending to their husband’s needs and feelings this whole time and now it is time to care for themselves. 

Overrun With Guilt

The reality of these issues is that women are raised to think they need to be caring for their spouse and their children and putting their needs ahead of their own. This is what history has shown us. These are the examples we were taught. So all this time we are doing these things and keeping our mouths shut. We want to do things for ourselves but instead, we are overrun with guilt. We have this deep-seated obligation to please our spouse whether it hurts us or not. It is something I am not even sure most women think about or realize until they hit a breaking point. 

It is when they hit the point of feeling overwhelmed, not themselves, lost, confused, depressed, whatever it is..it is then that women start to see the way things have been all along. 

Marriages would operate much better if we saw these potential problems from the beginning. If we could communicate to our spouses that we don’t want to stay home with the kids, we don’t want to clean the house by ourselves, we don’t want to cook dinner every night. If we asked our spouses for help. If we were open, honest about our feelings things could be better. 

The key, as it is with most relationships, is communication. It is about having an open, honest dialogue with your spouse. Your happiness matters. Your needs matter. Speak up for what you want. Express concern to your spouse.

Ask Mabel: How can I stop myself from cheating?

Dear Mabel: Help! I am married and I feel like I am slowly falling for a guy at work. It started with happy hour, then instant messaging, and lately we have had a few conversations about maybe meeting up outside of the office. I love my husband, I really do. But I have to admit that I am enjoying flirting. It’s fun. How can I stop myself from cheating? I don’t want to but I am feeling the temptation.

Signed, Annie from Philadelphia 

Mabel: Hi Annie, we are all human and it’s not uncommon to develop feelings towards another individual even when we are married. Obviously, there are some underlying issues that need to be addressed such as your internal conflict and the connection between you and your husband. You need to examine why you are attracted to this other person and what struggles might be occurring in your marriage that are making you feel like you need to look elsewhere?

However, kudos to you for wanting to do the right thing and avoid betraying your partner. It’s not easy to fight these feelings and urges, but it can be done. It’s important to remind yourself why you want to protect your relationship with your husband. Why is your marriage important to you? What do you love about your husband?

As difficult as it may be, it all shall pass. Plants need water, sunlight, and nutrients to grow. Relationships are similar. They need a few key components to germinate: time, proximity, and chemistry. Without one of those, a relationship can not survive for long. So what do I mean by those components? Well, time is the amount of time you are in contact with the other person, whether in-person, phone, or online chatting. Proximity is the physical distance between two people (this is why long distance relationships are hard). And, chemistry is liking each other, attraction, and common interests. Since you are flirting with this person, there is obvious chemistry. In order to avoid acting on that chemistry, you need to eliminate the other two components—time and proximity. I don’t expect you to quit your job, but you do need to separate yourself from this other person. You need to end the instant messaging, avoid happy hours where he is present, and decrease any time spent with this person in a non-professional setting. You can get through this if you take the right steps. Staying focused on your marriage and working to get through whatever struggles may be causing you to stray can help to keep your mind and heart in the right place. 

When your wife “doesn’t love you anymore”…

We get it. It is earth shattering when your wife tells you something is wrong with your marriage. You might have thought everything was good and bam! You are blind-sighted. 

Rome doesn’t take one day to build. Things may have lost connection long before you noticed. Somewhere along the way, things got lost, and your wife doesn’t feel like she wants to—or can—open up to you. Resentment may have built along the way. Maybe you were too busy to notice she was acting different, more distant from you. 

Repairing what is broken

Take a deep breath, and consider these five tips:

1.)Don’t try to fix it. Fixing it is more about your own anxiety about what is happening with your spouse than your relationship with your spouse. Listen.

2.)Stop being defensive. Both parties had a role in the unfolding of this relationship. This is not one-sided and it does not help anything to think or act like it is. Accept and understand there are things both of you need to improve if you want to make this work. 

3.) Don’t ambush her. Every time you see her in the hallway or the kitchen don’t turn it into an in-depth conversation about the state of your relationship. It is no doubt a stressful time but there is a time and a place to talk. Find a time when you are both ready to sit down, and not feel pressured or rushed. Don’t make it constant.

4.)Don’t expect, or try, to jump right into the lovey-dovey stuff like before. Try for liking each other first. Things are not going to go from 0-60 in an instant. This stuff takes time. Instead take it slow.

5.) Don’t try to dig out alone. A qualified couples counselor can help you through it. A counseling office can provide neutral territory and a counselor can make sure the right questions are being asked. 

This is a difficult time, but marriage isn’t supposed to be easy. This stuff takes work and effort from both parties. Take the time. Talk. Listen. Open your mind to understanding. Come up with a plan. Call a qualified counselor, such as Women’s Therapy Institute where we can help.