A female reader asks for advice.
There is a situation which has become so serious that a marriage is literally hanging by a thread. It is a situation close to home, and one which I have been puzzling over for a number of days in hopes that there may be a way to address it. After discussing it with family members, I thought it would be one which I would like to put forth to you and gentlemen on your blog, should you choose to share it.
This is a situation in which the husband and wife were well-prepared for marriage, so it seemed, and they apparently thought they were also. Despite baggage on the part of the wife (severely low self-esteem), she was deeply religious, very modest and feminine in dress, did all the right things in preparing for marriage. The husband was likewise, both of them devout and deeply committed to their Christian faith.
The husband, unknown to the wife, had struggled in the past with alcohol. He had worked hard to overcome this defect, and thought he had done so. They married. They had difficulties from the beginning with certain aspects of their married life, which they partially attributed to the fact that they had had very high standards of chastity as single people, and they struggled with this. They found they couldn’t talk about it, so they ignored it.
The wife one day found her husband to be drunk, and this shocked her. She didn’t know what to make of it, so she blamed herself. Her husband kept assuring her it was not her fault, but she didn’t believe him. She internalized it and it has taken years for her to change her mindset and allow him to own his responsibility for his use of alcohol.
The wife was home with two small children and pregnant with a third when she received a phone call from a collection agency. She was in collections for unpaid bills from the birth of their second child. She told the husband, who said he would take care of it. The calls continued to come, she continued to refer them to him. He continued to drink, and finally the wife decided it was time to do something about the problems. She arranged to pay the creditors, then, in preparation for the birth of the third child, read the medical insurance policy thoroughly, shopped around for a doctor and a hospital that would cost them the minimum out-of-pocket, and after the birth talked to the billing department personally to arrange a payment plan. Prior to this, she had left everything to her husband, but now she took over.
The couple had debts on several credit cards. She began writing the checks every month for all the bills, making minimum payments on all the bills, and then paying off a bill here and there with such things as tax refunds, etc. Over several years, all debt in her husband’s name was paid off. Meanwhile, she had accrued debt from a failed home business, plus they had made home improvements which she had carried on her credit card. These bills she found hard to pay off, but she kept working at it. They did not communicate about these much at all. The husband continued to drink and he would frequently have a violent temper. After several scenarios in which he had become very violent, she learned what she had to do in order to stay safe and keep him from exploding.
The husband was a conscientious provider. Even during the Recession, he was among the lucky ones who was not laid off. Frequently he worried about this, and this contributed in no small way to his anxiety and temper outbursts, as well as consumption of alcohol.
Occasionally the husband would ask how much debt they had. On several occasions, the wife would show him the statements, only to have him become irate and blame her for leaching money from him. Being overly sensitive, she would cry for hours sometimes over harsh words from him and remember it forever. She finally started lying to him, saying that they were just fine; meanwhile, she would keep paying everything on the sly.
The truth came out when they refinanced their home and the credit report had to be verified. The husband was enraged over his wife’s deception and became furious with her. This put the finishing touches on what they have now. Beginning with a lack of ability to communicate about intimacy, to lack of ability to communicate about various pressures, including children’s education and finances, it has now come to the marriage close to blowing apart. Both are committed to their marriage vows and would not think of divorcing, but it is obvious that the marriage is holding together solely for the sake of the children. The husband works copious amounts of overtime, the wife is deathly afraid of him, he spends most of his spare time brooding, surfing the Internet and reading, while she spends most of her spare time crying.
The husband informed her on one occasion that from that point on, he would handle all the bills. She acquiesced. It worked for a while, until one day a creditor called to report a missed payment on a bill. She relayed the message to him, then a few days later she requested that they might purchase pizza for dinner, as she had had a very full day with the homeschooling of their children, and they had to attend church that night. When they got home, he lectured her about her inability to prepare dinner, followed by a threat to reduce her allowance since she was spending his money on pizza. Two weeks after that, he became furious with her because she had paid a piano teacher for the previous month’s lessons. With explosions seeming to happen over and over, she decided she could not emotionally handle the yelling, and took over the bill paying once again, telling him why she was doing it and that she could not handle being yelled at and cursed at, nor did she want to receive phone calls saying that bills were late.
It is heartrending. Having given you the bare bones of the entire thing, I would like to hear some of the manosphere/red pill take on this. I realize you only have one side of the story, but the wife’s repeated requests that they get third party help have been refused. He will not consider counseling with anybody, even though she said that she would be fine with him making the decision without her input so that the person would be somebody “on his side” so to speak.
This man is at the very core a good man. He continues to be a devout Christian, and is a second-to-none father. In fact, the wife says that when she is most discouraged with the situation, something will happen with the children that makes her realize what an excellent father they have. Strict, but fair, he raises his children to settle for nothing less than excellence. He is known for how well-behaved his children are and how strongly he guides them. The other fathers all around have far fewer expectations for their children, and it shows. Yet the marriage is crumbling.
I am assisting this lady inasmuch as I can — I do babysitting for her sometimes, and am the only person she really talks to about this, because we have known each other for years and can relate on certain issues. If you present this to the general public, please leave all references to any particular person out of it, for obvious reasons.
Observations, takes, advice you could give the wife — all would be welcome.
My impression and general advice is all I can give as I don’t know these people. The reader has provided a lot of details but without being able to see the individual details–or even hear their delivery of them–it is difficult to know how to interpret them and determine the causes.
So, what is my impression? These people are really normal and need to deal with really normal problems. Deal with them they must, though. Frankly: They sound vain and undisciplined…very much like my wife and I can be. A slight by one is quickly greeted by hurt feelings in the other. She wants to be lead under her control, and he wants her to leave him alone and follow him. (stet)
You asked specifically for advice for the wife. Here it is:
- Stop crying. Is she in America? No one here but a man in arrears for child support goes to jail for debt. Her husband (according to the missive) is a conscientious provider (even if undisciplined) and will not let them starve or go homeless. Credit is a profoundly corrupting influence, and the loss of it is not worth crying about.
- If she must cry (and sometimes we must) then she absolutely should go cry to her husband, or make very sure that he is totally unaware. If she is too ashamed to cry to him directly, then she probably should not do it at all. Under other circumstances Crying within earshot or his knowledge him is a terrible idea, and is essentially passive-aggressive. It destroys trust within him if he is aware of the crying, and it destroys her ability to decide to trust him because she’s telling herself that she cannot; feeling sorry for herself. It sounds as if she has told herself that too many times already.
- She should ask him to make a budget for her to manage, and she should swear like a pagan on her favorite granny’s grave that she will hold to it come Hell or high water; that except that he tells her different she will do what he says, and that she will always welcome his guidance in this even if he gets angry. Has he hit her? Words can hurt, but it sounds as if she is too on-guard, and perhaps a bit precious to start with. I know a lot of conservative/traditional people think that money or finance is the man’s domain, but I believe the responsibility should be held together: He makes it, and says where it is spent, and she takes it, and spends it the way he says…even if every fiber of her being tells her its wrong. Chances are, she’s not anymore right than him and doing it her “right way” only adds rebellion to the mix. Just like he must walk with her through her life, she must walk with him through his. It might be wise for her to never answer a creditor’s call again. No past-due bill is worth an unhappy home.
- When, as with the pizza incident, her husband goes on a rant about her shortcomings, she should say nothing except: “I will do what you tell me.” In all likelihood, it’s not about her dinner preparations (as I’m sure she acutely feels), but then the thing to do is push those feelings to the side and take a strong stance on what she knows are her duties; which is to obey her husband. If he is a good man, it will burn him like fire.
- She should pray for him, but she should NOT pray for him to improve! She should pray he has a blessed day; for him to have peace at work; that she would be pleasing to him. Women often praise themselves on their ability to intuit problems. She should put that to use here to intuit her husbands concerns, and pray specifically for those concerns to be removed, resolved, or blessed for him.
- She should never miss an opportunity to forget that she’s unhappy with him; to kiss him and thank him for providing food and shelter. There was no mention of issues with the hierarchy of the children, but she should make an effort to let him know that he comes before the children. Women can be bad about this, and kind or nice men (not the same thing) won’t know how to address it. It can make them angry though they don’t know why, and then angry at themselves for being angry about it. If he protests, it gives her an opportunity to say, “I like to serve you.” Prepare his plate before the children’s; without his asking bring him coffee at the times he likes coffee; announce the completion of tasks that he gave her; that sort of thing. Employees do this sort of thing for their bosses all the time (kissing notwithstanding). Those employees are favored.
- No yelling. Period.
We are told there is wisdom in the counsel of many, so I encourage my readers to offer their suggestions in the comments. Please do be respectful.