Yesterday, I received an email from a devastated wife. She and her husband had been arguing and, in retaliation, the husband blurted out that he had “settled” when he married her and that he wasn’t sure that she was the right person for him or that the marriage would survive. Needless to say, the wife was floored. The husband had never said anything like this before, and when she considered the way that he’d been acting, she suspected that there was some truth in this statement.
I tried to make the wife feel better by telling her that people will often say things in anger that they don’t really mean. This could’ve been the case here. The wife did not completely buy this, however. She said that looking back, she could not see that their relationship had never been one of passion or wild attraction. She always sort of suspected that he didn’t love her in the way that he should. But, she never wanted to make a big deal about it and rock the boat. For the most part, they were happy enough early on. It was just recently that things began to fall apart.
The wife didn’t know how to proceed. She was clear on the fact that she loved her husband and did not want to end the marriage. But, she wasn’t sure that she could be with someone who didn’t love her and did not want to be with her. That wasn’t the life that she wanted for herself. She wanted to know if there was any way to move forward with any degree of confidence. I’ll tell you what I told her in the following article.
Why The Husband May Have Thought That He Had Settled: I suspected that, like many things said in the heat of the moment, the husband’s claim that he’d settled might not be 100% true. Sure, he might have thought that it was true at this moment in time. But, many times, when people are struggling or experiencing stress in other areas of their lives, they will project their frustration onto the thing or person that is closest enough to them to be convenient – their spouses and their marriage.
You often see the same sort of thing happen with husbands who are frustrated in many areas of their lives as well as where their marriage is going and then proclaim that they’re not “in love” with their wives anymore. Yes, they think this is true and they will often push the wife away. But usually, with some very specific action and the changing of priorities, they’ll often change their minds quite quickly.
This was quite possible in this case. Yes, the marriage had been a disappointment at this time. Sure, the husband may have felt unappreciated. The other stressors in his life may have contributed to him feeling resentful that the marriage hadn’t been his safe place to fall. All of these things can affect his perceptions of and feelings about, the marriage. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that his declaration is 100% true.
The Choices That The Wife Had As To How To Respond To The Husband’s Claims Of “Settling”: There’s no question that the husband had deeply hurt the wife. She was reeling over this. And, she was almost inclined to walk away and just give up. Self respect can make you think that you don’t want to push yourself on someone who never wanted to be with you to begin with.
But, I felt strongly that if the wife understood that the husband’s claim were likely just a reaction to his frustrations, she might see her choices going forward. In truth, she could allow this one phrase on one day to derail her marriage for the rest of her life. Or, she could see it for what it was and attempt to improve the situation and the marriage. Since she repeatedly told me that did not want to lose her husband, it seemed that the choice was pretty clear.
The wife ended up calming down, returning home, and telling the husband that his words had deeply hurt her. She offered to give him some time to sort things out, if that’s what he needed. And she told him that she just wanted the both of them to ultimately be happy rather than miserable.
The husband was not expecting this reaction. It sort of disarmed him and he didn’t know how to respond. He basically told the wife that they would “sleep on it” and decide how to proceed later. When later came, I felt strongly that the wife should begin some specific and swift actions to restore the marriage. As painful as all the “I settled” talk was, it did provide the wife with some important information and warnings that she could take to heart that could bring about some action.
Not all wives get this luxury. Many husbands will only tell you these sorts of things after they have filed divorce papers. So, while the wife did not feel lucky, in some ways, she was. She did have an opportunity to address this while they were still married. And although she was in pain, it was important that she see this as a window of possibilities. After all, even she admitted that she had not been all that happy lately either. But, on the flip side, she knew in her heart that they were a very happy couple once upon a time. So, the time was now to begin the work to restore what they had in the past and to work through what they were facing in the present and in the future.