Dear Amy: I have been married to my husband for almost 10 years. I feel like I don’t get enough support from him, either at home or at work.
When we got married, he was in a supervisory position. He wasn’t my boss, but we couldn’t work together. When I would try to vent, about work, he indicated that he couldn’t help me due to him being a manager.
Even now that he is no longer a supervisor, he sometimes doesn’t want to listen to me or allow me to vent.
I have told him, countless times, that I don’t want his help. I just want him to listen!
The same goes with our children. Anytime there is a problem, he leaves it up to me to speak to my son (his stepson).
Then, when I try to talk to him about it, he gets mad at me and tunes me out. Even when we get into a discussion in the car, if I am quiet and am looking out the window, he will get mad and say that I am giving him the silent treatment. I tell him that I am internalizing his comments.
Amy, I get to the point where I just don’t want to say anything because I know it will lead to him getting mad and telling me that I am taking things too literally or sometimes he will make a hurtful joke at my expense.
He has been very supportive about other things, and was my rock (still is) after my daughter (his stepdaughter) was murdered five years ago.
Can you help? —Dismissed Wife
Dear Wife: It’s easy to communicate when times are good: a loving glance will do it. I believe that the man you describe as your “rock” after an almost unimaginable tragedy is still there, but the grief and stress of your lives has interrupted your ability to communicate lovingly and effectively.
Some of what you describe falls into classic stereotypes of how women and men communicate differently: Women want to vent, men want to “fix.” When you talk about problems at work, your husband’s inner voice instinctively responds, “I can be a hero to my wife and offer some platinum-plated advice!” Your inner voice says, “Dude, I just want to talk. Don’t tell me what to do. You love me best by listening.”
I hope that you and your husband (and son) have received some grief counseling. Touching base with a support group like Compassionate Friends (compassionatefriends.org) would help all of you. A couples counselor would also coach you to review your communication style. This is fixable; recognition of your individual differences in expression will inspire you to alter your own responses, and understand each other better. Your marriage, and your parenting, will be transformed.
Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for four decades. Years ago, I found out he was having an affair and it completely broke my heart.
He kept denying it but there was just too much evidence. I took his mother’s advice and stayed with him because of the children and things finally got better.
About a year ago, I found a text he had sent someone very close to our family. It was very flirty. This opened a lot of old wounds and brought back many unanswered questions that have haunted me all these years. I want to know who the woman was that he had the affair with, if he loved her and why he ended that relationship. I think I need answers to these questions so that I can finally get some closure. I just can’t let go of the pain of not knowing, but he refuses to tell me.
What can I do? —In Pain
Dear In Pain: You’ve spent a year sitting on the questions raised by this triggering event. Unfortunately, I think you may have to face the reality that the truth here might not set you free. Getting answers might not provide you with the closure you seek. A professional counselor could help to coach you through your anxieties, questions and choices. Go with (or without) your husband.
Dear Readers: My own life is probably a lot like yours. I’ve experienced poverty, prosperity, marriage, divorce, remarriage, step-parenting, caretaking, loss and grief. If you’ve ever been curious about the life behind the advice column, I hope you’ll consider picking up my memoir, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home.” (2017, Hachette).