Bully Wives? Yes, But They Don’t Know It.

Powerful Impact: Women are depicted as the “weaker sex”; have been for centuries. And in so many ways the inculcation of that notion, along with certain biological and physical realities, has successfully rendered them so, a state many of us fight each day. Yet there are times when sitting in my office, or out socializing, I see quite the opposite force operating in The Coupledom. However the strength that I see is neither the good one nor necessarily what women take pride in, are conscious of, or own. For those who have the muscle and the cable to watch HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Larry David series, the character of Susie incorporates all the worst features of the “intimidating wife” in an exaggerated, hyper obnoxious format, the Larry David format. Everyone in the series, perhaps with the exception of the character of David’s former wife Cheryl, has a fairly obscene personality, meant to be so. But Susie is especially crude, pushy, judgmental and, for those who, as I have mentioned, have the muscle, hysterical. Though the Susie character is often right on with many of her accusations regarding her husband’s clumsy attempts at secrecy and his adolescent cast to pleasure, her methods are bullying, her reactions hellacious and her elbowing into people’s private domains egregious. She is one bad broad. Though not a shade worse than her male counterparts.

Role Clashes: The women I see in my office are not so extreme, and often innocent of intent to bully, intimidate or intrude. Rather, there appears to be a confluence of learned behaviors from their moms, the frightening pressures of child rearing, running a home, staying in shape and working against a backdrop of the specter of the preoccupied or illusive male, struggling with his own cultural job description of breadwinner, standard bearer of American masculinity, handy man, expert on the roadways, while he is attempting to retain a hold on that cocky adolescent boyhood, all ego, hormone and play. The perfect storm? You bet.

A Challenging Template: Women, raised by women for the most part, have a fairly rigorous template of family life to work from. They need their spouse to fulfill the requirements implied in the model which likely has remained in an unarticulated format. Hubby, not a mind reader, has no clue what’s in the contract and wife may herself be enacting it without forethought or conscious intent. After some months or years have passed, these folks stagger into my office, wondering what went wrong here. According to the men, the women are impossible to please, controlling and demanding. And for the women, men are dismissive, lazy, unappreciative and absent. (Though both may swear that their spouse is a great parent.) Yet it is often the man who seems most muzzled, provides few details as to his wife’s failings and cannot really locate any significant examples of her less-than-perfect behaviors except that for some strange reason, she is unhappy much of the time, and usually with him. On the other hand, the women have no shortage of adjectives to describe their spouses’ flaws and no idea that the man is intimidated by their unequivocal convictions, detailed memories (always far better than those of their men) and absolutes (he is always late, he never takes out the garbage, he never calls while away or texts or emails.) Are the men quaking in their shoes? Yes and no. Some quake in silence, some shrug and say, “No matter what I do I can’t please her.” These men seem bullied. Their wives seem shocked when I point out that hubby seems at a loss for words. That hubby actually appears borderline mute. She sees it as withholding or uncaring. I see it as fear.

Transference: Those of us who are the offspring of the psychoanalytic world attribute aspects of interpersonal perception and reaction to “transference”, the act of experiencing present relationships in terms of past relations. So the wife becomes powerfully good, bad, or mixed in some measure if the hubby’s mom or older sis was experienced in that manner. And vice versa. We experience our partners based on multiple factors: what they bring to the table and how we react to what they bring to the table. I watch men cringe when their wives speak of a minor disappointment regarding help with children, cleaning up, earnings or how they squeezed out the sponge. I have seen men have virtually no opinion that does not echo that of their spouse related to almost anything: decor, child rearing, friendships and restaurants. Though the man may have some island of influence and even respect, the voice of the woman in the home front becomes a military command, a force to obey, and someone with whom you do not cross swords. And what do the women tell me? They know better, do it better and cannot tolerate their husbands’ less than perfect interventions. The women are disappointed, bewildered and hurt and the men are cowed. Yes, cowed. And very reluctant to do or say anything that might stir the pot. Most admit, “I don’t like confrontation” which is male for “She scares the —- out of me.”

Shock: The wives are shocked to hear that their spouses are tip toeing around them, or hiding from them or submitting to them. Shock. Why is this the case? Because the women don’t hear themselves or if they do, and some do, they feel justified to nail their men on misdemeanors because of other hurts. Some unspoken. Some spoken but unheard by their men. Also, women mature into aspects of their own moms, women who had authority in the kitchen and spoke with authority and often self-righteousness on many subjects; food and children; behaviors and children; neighbors and behaviors; good taste, bad taste; good gifts, bad gifts; even world events. So the voice of the wife can mature over the years into that of an expert on all things domestic while the man, who is losing small quantities of testosterone with each baby diaper, may himself be transferring some of his little boy mom issues onto his wife. Not may be, will be. And the women are often aware and horrified that their husbands, who are suppose to be their lovers, are experiencing them in some measure “like his mom.” It is so insulting and unsexy. Yes, but normal. As is the woman transferring some of her daddy issues onto hubby or boss.

Owning The Bully Voice: I know from my hours of listening, that many wives are disappointed and hurt by their husbands for reasons that include dismissing their feelings, absent from home, or even just not being daddy. But what they may not realize is that they often become bullies when disappointed and hurt. That they use domestic weapons to get back at their spouses who often shrink further away from their wives, which intensifies the bullying tone. Powerless to get their point across the women descend into a bitter bath of recrimination and judgmental rhetoric about anything, missing a soccer game, forgetting when the cleaning lady takes her vacation, anything. My recommendation: listen to yourself ladies. What is your voice telling your spouse? Don’t be shocked to hear that he is intimidated by you. Take the conversation to a more open and vulnerable level and share the feelings, not the barbs. And find an expert to help you do that so you don’t become Susie. Curb your “enthusiasm” for the fight and you won’t end up like Susie, with a guy who leads two lives, one of them without you.

©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011

41 Responses to “Bully Wives? Yes, But They Don’t Know It.”

  1. Rob Rickard

    Thanks a lot for this. I’m not sure about the orgins of this type of problem but you describe my wife’s behaviour and my reaction very well. I have long since despaired that there is anything I can do to change her aggressive diatribes. Her own sisters are entirely sick of it too but she just can’t seem to get the idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Of course I’m a weak, flaw ridden individual in a number of ways – but having it pointed out ad infinitum really doesn’t help make any changes and kills our relationship. Good to get that off my chest!

    Reply
    • jilledelmanlcsw

      Dear Rob,

      Glad that the post offered an opportunity to express these feelings. As risky as this may sound, try to share the post with your wife in some manner, and then be prepared that at first she will feel attacked and will certainly “react.” However, perhaps over time, and time is the key word here, she might glean something useful from it, with the understanding that these behaviors involve two people, and two people together can team up constructively to change their destructive interactions.

      Good luck.

      Reply
  2. GJones

    I appreciate your rarely articulated, but accurately described portrayal of the “Bully Wife”. Unfortunately our society at large and the L.C.S.W. Community specifically does not give this behavior it’s proper label. It IS ABUSE. Plain and simple. The man is not being bullied, he is being ABUSED. Her rantings are not “aggressive diatribes”, they are ABUSIVE rants. The man is not “intimidated” by her, He is being ABUSED by her. Since we are still married to the notion that “Little girls are made of sugar and spice”, we remain hesitatnt to call their poor behavior and bad character what it is because we fear their female wrath (more abuse)! It IS simply abuse….it is highly prevalent and underdiagnosed in women and the male victims of this behavior suffer in silence.
    This will continue because we are not ready as a society to deal with this issue in the manner that it deserves.

    Reply
    • jilledelmanlcsw

      I think that you nailed it. Many women get a pass on abusing their spouses because of our cultural biases and limiting definition of abuse. Thank you for commenting.

      Reply
    • R.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying the truth. There is also the issue of reaching a limit and fighting back,…to which we then are labeled as monsters or disgusting human beings and fear losing our children. We fight and suffer abuse or we don’t fight and suffer abuse. Either way there is no recourse.

      Reply
      • jilledelmanlcsw

        You captured this profound dilemma which many face. Have you asked your wife to see a couples therapist with you? Sometimes it is useful to see an individual therapist for yourself, if your wife is resistant to couples’ therapy. If one loop in the chain gets some help, it can set off a “chain reaction.” You may acquire some new options and skills which might spark interest, curiosity or concern on your wife’s part.

        Reply
        • CT

          Nope. Sorry.
          Hoping that a “chain reaction” is set off is like thinking “As long as I’m nice, l won’t get abused by her.” Nice try, but l call bullshit.
          The only ways to deal with this is, on a person level, is to leave it and get an attorney who is not afraid to fight for a man; a go Id escape tunnel isn’t made overnight, so plan and be ready. We need to stop tolerating and allowing women to get away with this Rosie O’Donnell meets Lifetime with The View behavior. Women should’t be expected to deal with abuse, so why should men? This must be addressed.
          Yes, l live this and have a bullying, abusive, narcissistic wife. She, with her mom who is the same way, gaslight and pound me until the receive my submission on the surface. Under the surface, however, l will continue “to make my escape tunnel” and flee this prison.

          Reply
      • Hiwayman

        Finally the truth comes out. A whole lot of Domestic Violence in this country is provolked by abusive women who are bully’s. Abused husbands/bf in this country get it twice. If they stay their self worth goes to zero. And when they hit back they are concidered monsters. And if they leave they are targets of vengefull hatred that turns their kids away from them. There is no way to win.
        I’ve been thru it and quit having anything to do with women now for the past 25 years because of this underhanded and fully supported tacktic that some women use and society refused to accept.

        Reply
  3. Sparks Mcgraw

    If I were to share something like this post with my wife, it would be the start of armageddon in my home, the beginning of the end. My wife does not deal in “good faith,” and has never had a shred of good faith in her dealings with others. If you give her the truth, she will abuse it and fold it into her extensive punishment-and-abuse toolbox, as I have so regrettably learned over the long and painful years we have been together. With her, it is all about dominance and endless verbal tirades about how this person is flawed and that person is flawed, and my family is flawed, and how nobody listens to her (good god what do I do but listen, and when I offer feedback or any form of input get slapped down verbally for it…), and how she was mistreated by this person or that person, when all I ever see is HER mistreating others.

    Yet not being a wealthy banker and being 59 years old, I can’t afford to split and start over. It’s too late. A few years ago I finally came to enlightenment and slipped out of the denial that has exemplified my entire married life, and came to terms with the fact that I am living a life sentence without ever having committed a crime, short of marrying somebody that I should have known better.

    I am, BTW, a gentle, intelligent, very giving and kind person, who basically get screwed. Now THERE’S a rant of hopelessness for this website, eh?! I’ll bet a lot husbands are in this boat — I just can’t help but give voice to it, the unvarnished truth. Have never done this in any forum before.

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      This was a brave move, to “out” your pain. And a good step toward beginning a process where you are not so alone. Do you have friends with whom you can confide? You need to be less isolated in your unhappiness, despite not being able to converse with your wife. And perhaps some day, seek out professional help for yourself. This life as you describe it, is not healthy on any level and will and has I am sure, taken its toll on you physically and emotionally.

      Thank you sharing your world with me.

      Reply
  4. Sparks Mcgraw

    I really appreciate the permission to find a confidant. For some reason I felt that would be “talking behind her back,” and yet, why not, as long as it is discreet.

    I am a well-liked, high-level high-tech employee, but have grown a bit more reclusive than my former rather gregarious self. The reason is that I no longer am willing to expose my co-workers and friends to her bullying. She especially tries to dominate and bully the wives. I just can no longer bear the inevitable looks of shock and hurt on my friends’ faces when she zings them at the most unexpected moment.

    Once I came to terms with how outrageous her behavior is, and that it is not my failure but hers, I developed a level of detachment and objectivity that sometimes leads me to marvel at her antics. Lately, on occasion, she has seem me staring incredulously at her during these episodes (often just the two of us at home), and she finds it unnerving. I find the newfound objectivity liberating and sometimes almost humorous.

    And guess what, she is gradually starting to see her own faults, and is beginning to express regrets for things she has done in the past, especially things a few years ago. Turns out she remembers things rather accurately. The cause of her acting out is that she has an extremely high IQ and a large “emotional amplifier” in her head, such that if there is the slightest negative nuance in what somebody says, she picks up on it and feels it as if they have physically slapped her. So people’s clumsiness becomes as bad as ill-intent. She had emotionally abusive parents and I think this is what sensitized her and predisposes her to look for the negative in any social transaction and in people.

    So she is improving. I figure she’ll be capable of amiable and friendly relationships in about 100 more years. Oh well, I guess I’ll take any improvement I can get in the 20 or so of those years that I might continue to be around.

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I admire your honesty and also endeavoring to put in place new behaviors on your part that are triggering improvements in the interactions between the two of you. Observing some mellowing on your wife’s part can also be reinforced perhaps and is possibly a result of your shift. Systems theory here. Change one thing in the system and the system changes. We are all a bit more powerful than we know.

      Reply
  5. Steph

    I am guilty. I am the abusive wife. i read through this crying, realizing what my actions are doing to my husband, and our child.
    Now with that realization, how do i stop?

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      You took the first step which is owning your behavior, outing yourself in a sense. Now you need help to unlearn these behaviors and substitute healthy ones, which express whatever is at the root of them. Perhaps you had parental models for this behavior.

      Habitual behavior can be unlearned each day bit by bit. Can you see someone and get help, join a support group perhaps too. Talk to your husband and share this piece with him. Let him know how guilty you feel and how much you want to stop this. You may find him your greatest resource of all. This takes courage, taking down bad pride and replacing it with real courage, humility and intelligent choices.

      It is so worth it but you need that first few steps to get the rhythm of change going.

      Reply
  6. Don

    Hi, I have known that my girlfriend was a bully for a while. I guess I just don’t know what to do about it. I have asked her to marry me, but with the behavior that she has, I just can NOT see me marrying her. We fight pretty much every weekend. She doesn’t want me to see my kids regularly yes they are older but I have a special needs 18 year old son. She regularly threatens me with abandonment, saying that she is leaving. She has told me to lose all of her information in my phone because it was over, this was because I said that it would be nice to take my 22, and 21 year old daughters out for a beer because I have never done that before. She was mad and abusive for the entire weekend. Even the next day there is no talking to her. If I say anything at all it is a immediate sharp nasty retort, like go back to your ex-wife, or something like that. I am a calm and reasonable person. The last fight we had which was 2 days ago, she had made a point and even thought it scared me (it was something financial), I thought about it and came up with a plan to address it. I presented it to her when we got home from work, in a calm and constructive manner. That didn’t last, she kept bringing up my past failings and even would ask why didn’t I think of this solution before, it should have never gotten to a point where I had to think of it now. When she starts arguing in that way, it is a complete loop and no way out of it. I apologized and told her that she was right, I did it over and over again, but it is never good enough for her. She wants her pound of flesh and will continue until she evokes a reaction. She does this as she tells me, “Because I want you to hurt as much as I do and then some”. Finally she made a remark, a joke if you will, that was so rude and crude that I blew up and told her to get out of my house. I immediately regretted that, as that is not how I am, but how she is. I went and apologized profusely, but that is what she wanted, she wanted me to be so mad that I would lose control and that means that she hit the appropriate button and was satisfied and calmed down after that and has been fine for the last two days. She knows no bounds in a argument and is controlling and manipulative, and I have had enough. I have totally started to withdraw from her, and I can NOT see me living with this for the rest of my life. I have tried so hard, I have tired with everything I know how, to make her happy and NOT get into these situations, and I am simply tired, I’m just tired. I want to go home tonight and tell her all of this, and know that it will be another war and all of her abusive behavior will be exhibited again. Although she has no degree in psychology she was a therapist for the homeless and she absolutely things that there is NOTHING a therapist can say to her because she knows it all. I have tried to bring home mountains of information about how to have a happy an healthy relationship and she passes it off as being unnecessary because3t that is “just common sense”. I feel helpless but not trapped. I want to confront her bout all of this, but, what I need to know is how to do it? How to confront her so that she will listen and not let loose her acid tongue? She knows how she can be she told me that she has had a problem with controlling and when she gets into a conflict she can’t stop herself and uses her tongue as a weapon, and she will say that “ you knew this about me”. Well that doesn’t make it right, and if something doesn’t change soon there will be no good feelings left in me towards her at all. I am sorry I have written such a book here but I needed to get this entire thing out so bad! Even if you don’t respond thank you so much for providing this forum, so that I know that I am not alone.

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I learned years ago in my work that if being with someone means becoming someone you don’t want to be, then you cannot be with that person. The price is a loss of self, losing self-respect and eventually self hating. As for presenting any information, descriptive, conclusive or otherwise, your intent may be generous and healthy but will not carry weight – if the recipient’s interpretation is consistently the same, i.e. feeling attacked in some convoluted way, then they will attack back. I don’t know that you can have a conversation. Yes a therapist could be useful but it sounds more like your girlfriend feels threatened by so many things/people/your children/different ideas, that a “third party” option may need to be defeated at every turn. If you are looking to make her understand what you are experiencing, another’s point of view, you can always try again. But from what you have described, I think you will have to make an unilateral decision for your own sake.

      Reply
  7. Stewart

    Hi I have been bullied from little school because I would not fight.i can see at times in my life there was a bully I’ve been with my wife 20yrs married 10yrs I’ve had health problems since I moved in with her I loved her so much lost my brother my dad stress and agoraphobia constant nothing seems to be working went back to work from being I’ll worked 2yrs then became so ill I could not work again I’ve got physical problems then reading everyone’s situation I’m going through this with my wife now divorced I had to go back to my mum because I could not cope with everything at home some times we wounder what are we doing I try and be my self and try and talk to her just trying to understand what is the write track to be on nice reading everyone’s comments thx

    Reply
  8. Paddy

    Last year I made a serious attempt at suicide after my wife bullied me so bad I snapped, were over 20 years together with young kids, I’m so sad & depressed. I love her so so much. She says such hurtful things I’d rather be hit. Airs marital dissapointments about me on d Net. She refused counciling for couple of years, instead of me, she uses one of her brothers as Husband/type confident & hes a total know it all & hyper judgemental & critical. Now it’s starting to look like a lot of my chronic pain problems are psychosomatic from being eroded. I come from a broken home, & it’s breaking my heart that our kids might have to go through same. Honestly, suicide is very attractive option, not out of anger, but an end to the less than, the physical pain, broken heart & lonelyness. I’m broken & I just want rest, even just one day at a times to hard right now.

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Your suffering comes through. I am not clear if you are in therapy yourself? It is so crucial when one spouse refuses couples work that the other spouse seeks their own therapy. Having the option of finding ways of handling what seems to be an intractable situation is key and may lead to the other spouse agreeing to work on the relationship eventually as well. The psychosomatic symptoms will ease with your individual therapy as you learn not to internalize all the pain but share and learn with your therapist what you can do to heal and help your self. Don’t give up. Life changes, children grow up. Seize some power for yourself out of the suffering. Though you may “love her so so much” loving/taking care of yourself more is the best cure. Good luck.

      Reply
  9. s.f

    I really need some advice on how to tackle my bully of a wife.

    We are a newly wed couple but as soon as we got married my wife changed like night from day, she transformed into a control bully which she never showed signs of this before we got married (9year relationship).

    she always yells at me for nothing, even if I ask her if ahe needs any help or something. She pretends I do all the house work every day I’m off from work as I work on shift base work .
    She does not care if I am feeling tired or had very hard days at work. She is employed with 2 jobs 1 full time other part time and is hardly at home, and when she is she either goes to sleep or does the only thing the laundry , other than that she does nothing except from bossing me around. All she wants is more money and to fill the house and live a high life . I font earn as much as her but she doesn’t understand that.

    I’m fed up with how she acts towards me as she shows no respect at all. Can anyone tell me how I can tackle her ASAP cause she’s driving me crazy by the minute

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Sounds to me like you two need a third party to figure out why your relationship has devolved since your marriage. My understanding from your note is that you have been together for nine years so it would seem unlikely that these are totally new challenges. But perhaps something is new, sharing a home or feeling the pressures of “permanence.”

      Nine years is not something to throw out. I would talk with her about getting some help to see if you can together sort out the problems and share the solutions. This conversation should not be “a blame game or “You are or You did or Its your fault.” Rather this is “our relationship and we are having some adjustment difficulties to our new life. Let’s see if someone can help shift us in a better direction.”

      Good luck.

      Reply
  10. Dave

    Thanks for the article, very helpful. My main concerned are my children, I stay here and pretend to be happy because I’m afraid of the future for my children. I decided to put up with her crap because without me in the middle it will be very painful to them, I often see how she takes her frustrations on the kids, specially when I insubordinate to he wishes. In At least two occasions I had to intervene between her frustrations and the kids, and that became a whole spectacle in which of course I’m the villain. Frustrated, unhappy because it is always her way, very little compromise from, her side.

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I am glad that you found the article useful. One piece of advice – if one person in the family system changes, the whole system responds. Have you asked your wife to see a therapist with you as a “we” will be better together?” If so and she has efused then I suggest you meet periodically with a therapist. Sometimes that simple action over time can move a partner to look at the relationship and even their own behavior differently. Takes a bit of action, a bit of financial investment and time. Good luck.

      Reply
  11. JP London

    My wife and I married in 2012. We had been seeing each other for 2 years prior and were obviously very happy or I wouldn’t have and neither would she have got married. I am white male and she is an Indian female decent having grown up in a very westernised London. We were never living together before marriage and being old fashioned this was fine although I had lived with someone before meeting her. We moved in after marriage and things were fine. The house we bought is quite big for what we need but it is to be our forever home so we don’t need to buy another if we have a family.
    I read the article and almost every point hit home, painfully. In business I am a strong individual, quite dominant and confident. I know my arena and people know that too around me. So I was very surprised when I read this and found out that this was true about my situation. The ‘walking around on eggshells’ and ‘remembers all my failings and none of the nice things’ metaphorically slapped me around the face so hard I had to sit down. I just thought my wife was going through a bad moment at work and as she doesn’t talk to me I never know what is wrong. She doesn’t talk to anyone whereas I can be an emotional outlet for everyone as well as using my friends and family as my outlets.
    We have been arguing constantly recently and I can’t see the wood from the trees. It’s my fault it started and it was me being rude according to her, yet I’m so cautious I must have re-read the messages 10 times before I sent to her so it couldn’t be misread. She doesn’t reason with me, when we argue, she blows up, walks away and then I have to guess when she’s ok. I wake up the following day not knowing and hear those shells break under my feet as I get ready for work again. I may come home and things are fine only to realise they’re actually not and I’ve fallen in to a trap of being in the room to be ‘abused’ again.
    If I was mean or selfish I would understand. I’m actually very kind although I think I can be selfish, when it comes to helping others I’m at the front of the queue. I admit I don’t ‘see things’ when they need to be done but I’ll gladly jump to help if I’m asked. Things like chores are missed by me as I don’t look for them when I walk around the house. I do the laundry when the bin is full. I fill up the dishwasher, I empty when it’s complete. I cook a lot so do things I see. I’m not a good cleaner in that it takes me ages to do it as I don’t want to miss anything but it’s never good enough for my wife so she does it, then tells me I never do anything.
    When out my wife is the most beautiful person you could meet. Funny, cute and definitely a good person to have around. This is all an act as the second we pull up on the drive she transforms in to this other person who I live with.
    I’m actually going to front my wife with this tonight as I think it’s now at a break point for me hence why I went looking for websites on advice today. I do need to face up to her and explain, assuming she will sit still and listen to me.
    Thank you for posting this, I really needed it.

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I have one suggestion for you as you approach this conversation – make this the “first” of many conversations. It is likely that your wife’s initial response to your description of what is happening for you might be very defensive and accusative. But I would ask her to think about what you are saying. And attempt future conversations. See if you can reach some point of agreement, such as, yes I agree, we are having some problems. Then perhaps you both can agree to go for a consultation and see if you want to and can work on the relationship. Good luck.

      Reply
  12. Jimmy - San Diego

    I’m still unsure about what I’m experiencing. My brother thinks I’ve married a lazy, entitled woman, but I’m careful of other people’s opinions because my situation is very unique. I’m disabled, living in a wheelchair with chronic pain due to a work related injury. However, I accept my physical situation and fortunately I have a strong income from my injury insurance and investments to support us so that my wife doesn’t have to work. My wife hasn’t worked since we got married because we wanted to start a family, but it took three years to have our first child. (For the record, we met after my injury).

    My wife complained a lot prior to having children. She complained about our home, how hard it was keeping it clean, that she never had any free time, etc. It seemed a bit ridiculous but she always had a good or at least aggressive response to any criticism I dared offer.

    I have been building a start-up business for the past few years from home, which I knew would take years to succeed in and to finally receive a paycheck for my efforts. Luckily I have money already so we won’t go broke if I fail. But it’s still work which requires a hell of a lot of commitment if it is ever to succeed and afford the lifestyle we envision for ourselves in the future. Now that we have a child, and another on the way, it’s becoming impossible getting work done even with a nanny twice a week and a cleaning service twice a month. During work hours I end up spending about two hours a day with my child so my wife can accomplish things. After work hours I am involved right up until she takes him for bath and bed, upon which time I clean the dishes and then sit down to do more work or take pain killers and watch some TV.

    Now, to her defence, she does all the bathing, all the baby’s meals, and she has begun letting me sleep in until 8am since I often end up working at night to catch up. She cooks about once or twice a week, but usually I pick up take-out or we order in or fend for ourselves. I do my own laundry but she does all the other household laundry. I know she is now genuinely busy, but the level of complaining and nagging has changed little since life before having kids. Furthermore, I can’t help but wondering how other wives manage to complete houeshold tasks when their husbands are at work all day. Somehow it can be done without hating life, right? I have dared ask this question when I am fed up, but it always comes down to her life being so much harder because I’m disabled. A couple times I mentioned that I was providing the equivalent of twice the average income of our friends, which isn’t bad for a disabled guy, and that if we need more she could go back to work and spend her income on any more help I can’t seem to provide. Turns out money is a taboo topic even though disability is fair game.

    When I go traveling for work for a few days every couple months, it’s like I’m coming home to a woman who has been through war. Is it all that bad? When I’m working at home, she interrupts my work multiple times a day so I can hold the baby for 15-40minutes while she does something, and it drives me crazy because it really interrupts my progress. I’ve told her this, but she acknowledges it for about day. She’s terrifying to argue with, because her claws really come out – An offensive defence method. – She has said awful things that for many people would be relationship enders on the spot (I won’t mention them). I know that I have a high threshold for abuse and I hate conflict, but it’s starting to make me so unhappy being around such a negative presence in my life. I want to succeed in my work thanks to the support of my wife, not despite her. She has always said that her life is so much harder than normal wives because of my injury. But the thing is, I don’t require any physical care, I spend more time with my child than 90% of my working friends, and the money I brought into this marriage supports us at a standard greater than 75% of our friends. But whenever I state these facts, she always has arguments against them.

    Until I started getting some public accolades for my company, she treated my unpaid work as an unvalued hobby. It starts to feel like I’m a paycheck sometimes. She’s highly unaffectionate, minimally sympathetic to the pain I fight through every day to try get out and make more money for us, and frankly I’m starting to resent her in ways I worry I can’t come back from. When she’s sick or tired or in some for of pain, my natural tendency is to want to comfort her, but lately I just think of it as another complaint that’s probably exaggerated and why should I comfort her when she doesn’t do it for me? I hate thinking like this. It’s not who I am. I want to love and be loved. Not nag and be nagged. The crazy thing is, she puts on an incredibly kind face for everybody in public. My uncle thinks I’ve married a kind, sweet woman. Inside the home is an entirely different woman, she turns all her frustrations out on me. If I ever were to leave her people would be baffled as to why, probably assuming the worst about me.

    But here’s the thing… she can be sweet or fun about 20% of the time, she is a great mother to our son, AND I do still love her. I always have this hope that at the next stage things will be easier and therefor better. But I do have thoughts of divorce, which scare me, but I doubt I ever would because I love my son too much to be away from him and I would worry about my kids growing up with a negative outlook on life. I feel a need to be there for them to compensate with proactive examples. Life is not easy, but just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it has to suck. I love life, and my life is very hard at times. I can’t seem to get that through her head and I worry it is because she is predisposed to being discontent with life. Or worse, entitled to more than the world owes her. No matter what stage of her life, she always has well scripted reasons for her struggles. I’m really concerned for our future and would love some thoughtful insight. Thank you.

    PS. JP from London’s comment also felt like it could have been written by me: “when we argue, she blows up, walks away and then I have to guess when she’s ok. I wake up the following day not knowing and hear those shells break under my feet as I get ready for work again.”

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Jimmy your situation is very troubling, something you know. With children in the home this kind of unhappiness and tension is contagious and you are right to face the facts now before all spirals out of control. What accounts for your wife’s unhappiness is unclear. One could speculate as to her underlying issues but that never gets you anywhere. She has to be on board with you to acknowledge the “shared unhappiness” (you are unhappy too) that could tear this family apart. This is always the first step – the conversation; we are not doing well together. Outing the negative will likely lead to an attack or defense – no matter. Step 2, after some of the dust settles, you point out that “we need a third party to help us understand what is making us unhappy and how to try to fix it.” It is “our unhappiness together” not just her seeming dissatisfactions with you or your life together. Step 3 – agree to find that expert, someone who both of you are comfortable seeing together.

      This process can take time – time spent staying on track – We need to bring our unhappiness to someone who can help us find a new direction. Over a period of months if this option is only met with resistance, than I would suggest that you see someone individually so that you can learn new strategies in coping with your life and eventually finding a new solution.

      Jill

      Reply
  13. Peter

    Hi everyone,

    this article describes my life. And I am completely aware of my situation. My wive and I married in 2007. We have two daughters (1 and 5 years). Our live is hell. We are constantly fighting.

    I try to get through to my wive that I feel abused. Ever since we moved in together we have been fighting far too much. Over the years it has become worse. Now we find ourselves in a tough situation. We started going to see a therapist and we make some progress but it is slow, very slow. My parents visited us for 1.5 weeks now and I am close to having a hard-attack. My wive keeps bullying me because she can’t stand my parents. To be fair my parents are not exactly perfect – but the way she reacts to (in my opinion) minor inconveniences – is crazy. I dont have aproblem calling it what it is. I am straight-out scared of her. She explodes on a moments notice. I can handle it well when I am alone but when my parents are around I need her to be nice to me – I dont know why? And it rips me apart. I want to leave but I feel responsible for my kids. I am looking for someone to talk to that is in a similar situation. Anybody interested in chatmailing? ( My kik is: “peterkrieg4”- I am located in Germany).

    All the best
    Peter

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Good luck Peter. I hope that you find someone to chat with – sorry for delay in responding to your note. Of course it is particularly humiliating when your wife’s behaviors are seen by your parents. They are witnesses.

      Reply
  14. Jon

    Awesome article…bringing light where once was darkness. I speak from experience..living a life sentence. Now to stay with someone long term who is such a bully..I feel we are talking codependency…the nicest guys getting pummeled by the increasingly irrational….and yes I see over time it gets worse..the man more and more down trodden more isolated…they stay for the kids sake. Those that do not stay ..how many snap and fight physically back…and their outcome for doing do?! Has some women found their voice but lost their hearts. How many women by percentage abuse?

    Reply
  15. Peter

    Thank you for this article. I can see the comments stretch over several years, and I am the latest to add to them.

    Of course, I’m in the same predicament as most of the people here, and I’ve just booked counselling. I’d love to give this article to my wife, but her English isn’t good enough for her to really understand some of the subtleties of your writing. But in my case I can definitely see where she gets her behaviour from too – her mother (who spends her life telling everyone what to do)!

    In my case, there’s a lot of cross cultural stuff going on too, and although I have tried in the past to point out that she is abusive and bullying, of course she just dismisses it.

    Hopefully the counselling will finally provide a 3rd person to tell her to sort out her attitude, but in the meantime I just wanted to salute all the long suffering menfolk who have written here!

    Reply
  16. Jonathan

    My wife and l have been married for almost 15 years. I believe she fits the criteria of a bully as outlined in this article and others l have read. I am exhausted from the abuse. There is a cyclical component to the mistreatment, however, with some days marked with gentleness and kindness. Such days cause me to question my diagnosis of bully, but cutting words return and my assessment is confirmed. I hear the recommendations for counseling, but my question is this: can a bully transform into someone better? Is this not a personality issue that is so ingrained in the fiber of who that person is, making “therapy” superfluous? For example, sarcasm is my wife’s daily language, and to point this out to her consistently leads to a sharp rebuke, coupled with an accusation of pathological hypersensitivity. This behavior is clearly evident in her father, so it was learned as normal. I don’t see this as something that can be undone. Further, defending myself in a calm and logical manner is not met with introspection and respectful consideration of my point of view, but rather with an accusation that l have attacked her. Additional attempts to rephrase prove futile, causing me to apologize as the ONLY way to deescalate the conflict. Following this, l feel angry at myself for “falling on my sword” when it is l who dererve the apology. In essence, my wife has zero ability to self-evaluate her behavior in terms of its negative impact on me. For this reason, l contemplate the option of divorce, but remain reluctant noting the hell that comes with such a move.

    Reply
  17. Anyhony

    I see myself in almost all of the stories,walking on eggshells all the time. She is bipolar and will snap over nothing. Lately the bullying has gotten worse. She is going yhrough menopause which aggrevates the bipolar. She denies this and her friends all agree with her.i’m consideting divorce even though i would lose rverything.

    Reply
  18. Carol

    My beautiful boy took his own life almost 3 years ago. He was 37 years old and a victim of psychological and physical abuse by his wife. He left behind his little 4 year old boy. We tried to intervene but to no avail. He was isolated from friends and family. We haven’t seen our little grandchild for over 2 and a half years. Our hearts are broken.

    Reply
    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear Carol,

      I am sorry to read of these losses of your son and of the vital relationship with your grandson. Nothing like this should ever happen. How toxic can one person be? I hope that your grandson finds you and that you find comfort in sharing in his life.

      Reply
  19. mike

    Hi Jill,

    You used ‘sort out’ several times incorrectly.

    e.g., Have you sort out psychotherapy? /should be/ …sought out..

    Reply

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