Feeling kinda discouraged

Submitted by CuriousFellow on
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Last weekend I needed to use Zoe's car, drop her off somewhere, and run another errand, so I got into the driver's seat. I had somewhat forgotten about the criticism I get from her whenever I drive. When I first put the car into motion, I was a bit heavy on the gas, and the car jerked. Zoe immediately complained. "Zoe!" I said with some exasperation (how nice to start the trip with her criticizing my driving!) "I'm not used to driving your car. It has a lot more power than mine does." "Don't rebel against my suggestions," she said. Sure enough, after the next stop, I was able to take off smoothly. Then, at the next stop light, I stopped about four feet behind the car in front of me, and Zoe thought that was too close. "What if a car hits us from behind? You would hit the car in front of you." Then I drove 45 in a 40 MPH zone, and Zoe complained about that. When I slowed down to 40, people started passing us on the right. So I got in the right lane, and Zoe wasn't happy with that either. "You'll get in the way of people who want to turn right. If people want to go over the speed limit, that's their problem. You could drive 25 here, I wouldn't mind." When I dropped her off, I turned to give her a hug. She just glared at me, got out of the car, and told me to "Hurry up!" Rather ironic, given that 1. she had just lectured me about going over the speed limit, and 2. there was absolutely no need to hurry to complete my remaining errand.

The next day, Zoe was standing at the top of the stairway in our home talking to me, and I was downstairs looking up at her. She sat down on the top step, as if she was going to continue talking for a while. So I went up the stairs and sat next to her. I was feeling... a bit less loving than other times, so I didn't try to put my arm around her. I just listened politely. After a couple minutes she stopped talking, got up and walked away.

If there is one cheerful note in this blog entry, this is it: maybe I have found a way to make Zoe stop talking - just sit down next to her!

In the last several months, Zoe has been buying stuff for the house - cooking paraphernalia (that she rarely uses), bed coverings, decorations... On the one hand, it's encouraging. Apparently she is planning to stick around for a while. On the other hand, it seems like she is trying to fill a void in her life with material things. She just bought a $3000 washer/dryer set (on credit), she is talking about getting a $1000 ventilator for the kitchen (I have visions of a ventilator so powerful it causes all the windows in the house to implode when it is turned on!), and a few days ago I got a follow-up call from a car dealer. Apparently Zoe is looking at new cars.

It seems as if there is never a good time for me to approach Zoe to talk about anything. I work days, she works nights, so when we cross paths usually one of us has to rush off to work. I was hoping this Thanksgiving holiday might be a good time to talk.

Last night, Zoe told me she mentioned to our son that when we were old (and poor), we might have to live with him. Again, I thought that was encouraging in a way, because she said WE would live with him. This morning, after she had had a night's sleep, I went to talk to her. She was busy sorting out some papers and didn't look very approachable, so I didn't try to sit next to her and put my arm around her. On the other hand, it's difficult to find opportunities to talk, and there was no guarantee that I could find a better time, so I talked to her then. I asked her if we would sleep in the same room if we lived with our son. She immediately jumped back to the subject of money and said, "When you've payed back the money you owe me, then we can talk about that." I asked, "Can we actually sleep together then, or just 'talk about it'? When I repay you, are you going to have some other requirements before we can sleep together? As long as I'm making progress paying you back, can't we sleep together now?" I also said, "I'm not chasing you to have sex with you. I know you don't like that. Things are a lot different now. I just want to hold you and sleep with you, not have sex. I think a husband and wife should have a bit of love for each other, not be like strangers." Zoe was adamant: "When you've payed me back every penny, then we can talk about it."

That doesn't give me much incentive to pay back in installments, does it? Maybe I'll just save it all up until I can pay the whole amount, and then "we can talk about it." Well, that's how I'm feeling about it right now. Kinda grumpy and discouraged.


I don't blame you

Frankly, her attitude is disgusting (although, as you suggest, it may just be another excuse for the way she copes with the "separation virus"). However it sure seems to me like sex and money are appropriate between prostitutes and customers, not between spouses. Both spouses *need* bonding behaviors to function at their best. It is very unkind to withhold them.

I wish I were clever about these situations, but I'm too much like a bulldozer. Wink Maybe someone else will have a strategy.

Here's my one thought. Gary and I saw a dog-training show while we were traveling recently. Apparently if you don't like the fact that your dog lunges to get out the door, or to "greet" a guest when the bell rings, you simply close the door in its face until it calms down and sits. In other words, instead of fighting with it, you simply *do the opposite of what it wants,* quite calmly.

Perhaps you could slow down the repayment schedule, since you don't have the benefit of her company. And tell her you think sleeping together will help you repay it faster. (Quite true...as greater wholeness leads to greater abundance.) Just put most of the money you would pay her in a savings account for now instead.

If she doesn't like it, tell her that you don't like it either. And that she is the one who is acting like a prostitute, so it seems reasonable for you to bargain with her like she is one. (Remind her that she started it.) Tell her that if she doesn't like it, you'd be happy to treat her like your respected wife if she'll act like one and engage in some loving affection. With no more financial deals.

And why is she buying major appliances without your agreement? Am I missing something here? Is that OK with you? You're right that her loneliness can cause her to shop irresponsibly. Women friends have noticed this when they're too much on their own, or feeling discouraged about their relationship. You guys often hunt (prowl) when feeling low. We often "gather." Smile That doesn't make it sensible.


I don't understand this issue of 'repayment'. Maybe you explained it elsewhere, and I missed it. Why do you owe your wife money?


There were several years when I worked on and off as a consultant. Individual health insurance is very expensive, so we get health insurance through Zoe's employer. She wants me to pay the additional amount it costs her to cover me and the kids with her insurance. There were several months when I couldn't pay her, hence I "owe" her about $3000.

Nevermind that I've been paying all of the mortgage, electricity, water, telephone, gas, both our car's insurance, and one kid's college tuition and expenses all this time. But I used up all my retirement savings to do so.

Marnia, about the major appliances, Zoe more or less told me, in advance, that she was going to get them. Perhaps I could have talked her out of it, but I didn't want to get into yet another argument. And if she pays for it with her own money, I don't much care. But yeah, it's nuts. We could have fixed the old washer for $200, I bet. A Maytag - lasted 22 years!


I find your story bizarre. Granted, every marriage is different, and the way income and capital is divided up is very personal, and depends on how individuals see their partnership; but it seems, in strictly monitory terms, your wife 'owes' you far more than you 'owe' her; and yet you appear to have agreed with her, at least tacitly, that not only are you the one with the debt, you must suffer in other areas of your life as a direct consequence!

I doubt it's coincidental Zoe should have bought, on credit, an expensive but unnecessary piece of equipment for the exact same amount you 'owe' her. It is as if she is symbolically 'taking you to the cleaners' - with a washer/dryer set.

Something odd is going on; because $3000, in and of itself, simply isn't enough of an amount of money to stall a marriage on.

I hope you find your way out of this intolerable situation with your 'softly, softly' approach; but I suspect something much more intensive may be needed.

Taken to the cleaners

LOL! That's a good one, Sood.

Maybe she wants to get the uber-ventilator to express her feeling that being married to me sucks?

Zoe is a very controlling type of person, as I mentioned in my first blog entry. Her "suggestions" are really orders - woe to you if you don't do what she says. I, on the other hand, don't like to be given orders. I won't argue, but I just won't do it if I don't feel like it and I can get away with it.

So I think she is just punishing me for not following her "suggestions" about where and how to find employment, not doing housework, not supporting her in disciplining the kids when I thought she was being overly harsh, and so on. The $3000 is an excuse for not sleeping with me (to punish me), and if/when I pay it, she will have some other demand that I have to meet.

I feel sad for her. I think she would be a lot happier if she could "let go", not try to control everyone around her, and stop holding grudges against people that displease her for whatever reason. But I have no clue about how to get her to see that. She won't sit still and listen to such ideas.

That's just it...

...I couldn't have put it better. You certainly don't owe her,--it seems like a well balanced partnership, in some material sense. I'm not even sure you should take Zoe's behavior personally. She seems OCD. Neurotic, her behavior seeks to avoid some existential truth that she finds unpalatable. You can choose to work with this...I don't know...? :) Galileo


I know Freud's not popular on this site, but I do like his breakdown of the human personality into Superego, Ego and Id. Or, Parent, Adult and Child, as Transactional Analysis has it. Ideally, 'being in love' encourages Child/Child engagement, which is probably the greatest fun a couple can have. As soon as a Parent makes its appearance, the fun is over. Adults are too practical to have fun, though they play an essential role in making sure bread is on the table.

Zoe seems to have taken up permanent root in her domineering Parent, which tends to bring out your recalcitrant Child. Your recent posts (prior to this last one) have described valiant attempts by your Adult to engage with Zoe's Adult, which of course is the only 'rational' way out of the maze.

Are there any prospects of you engaging as Child to Child? I've no idea how you would do this. What's the most fun thing you could possibly do together? Or is fun a thing of the past?

Personality change is a fascinating subject. I've known a lot of people who wanted change, or said they wanted change, and who went to great lengths in order to achieve it, such as analysis, therapy, 'growth' work, etc; but all that resulted in was a more agonised version of the person they always had been. Real, transformative change seems to require a different approach. The easiest appears to be having a Near Death Experience. I've heard many favourable reports that this brings out the very best in people. Actually, an easier way could be to get malaria. I knew a woman whose Superego was completely blown away for a year or more as a result of the high fever following a single mosquito bite. During that time, she barely had a functioning Adult, and her Child revelled in a sort of babbling freedom that was both a joy and a worry to those around her. Her husband (they were in their late fifties) said it was like a second honeymoon, because all sexual restrictions previously imposed by the puritanical Parent had vanished. Although she returned eventually to a semblance of normality, she was never the same person again, though nor would she have wanted to be.

There are a couple of Est style encounter weekends I've known people attend - Life Training, one's called - which can have a profound effect on personality. I've known several people who looked, sounded, behaved and acted in staggeringly different ways after attending one of these. All the changes I noted were for the better; and I was very envious of their bravery in going through something undoubtedly uncomfortable to emerge as better versions of themselves. It was as if they went in as rough, encrusted ore, and came out as gleaming iron. The most notable feature was their smiles. Absolutely beautific. And the alert, yet effortlessly relaxed nature of their bodies. The effect wore off eventually, as they came down to earth, but as with the mosquito lady, they never completely reverted to their old selves.

I only mention this because I suspect Zoe would benefit from some sort of personality upheaval that allowed her Child a bit more of a look in; but, of course, this is dependant on one of two things: choice or chance; and at the moment, her choice seems to be to stay as she is.

I wish you luck in your relationship.

I had another thought last night,

and it ties in closely with Sood's "find the inner child" idea. (We can't *both* be wrong, can we??? *chuckle*)

Gary and I have been making friends with a feral cat that lives under our deck. It was very skittish, and particularly afraid of males. After a year, though, it comes in, sits on his lap (on the floor), rolls around on the floor to be petted, and genuinely seems to enjoy affection...most days. It is more "intimate" with Gary than with me these days!

Gary couldn't negotiate with the cat. By that I mean that he couldn't engage the cat's "inner adult," anymore than you can engage Zoe's. Unlike you (with Zoe), however, Gary didn't wait for the cat to indicate that it "liked" affection...to take the first step.

As soon as it would let us pet its head, Gary just occasionally picked it up and *put* it on his lap, or petted it quite vigorously. He did this even while the cat was still pretty sure that being picked up and "mugged" was *not* a great idea. He did it in small doses, but almost daily.

The cat has come to like it. Sometimes it visits when it's not even hungry...just to be loved up.

My theory is that when we haven't had enough bonding behaviors going on...at first we're not sure we like them. The solution? We need **DAILY** affectionate contact. Not for long periods, and it doesn't have to be particularly intimate contact, but we need it daily. And, at first, we need it whether we indicate we like it, or not.

The part of our brain that acts as our inner guardian...the amygdala...the "judge" in the reward circuitry....has only a two-way switch. It's either "on guard," or it's relaxed and open. Guess what helps it open? Oxytocin and bonding behaviors! So there's a "chicken and egg" dilemma at first, when we've been without bonding behaviors. We are not open. We feel closed, or guarded, and bonding behaviors can feel "intrusive" at first.

I think Zoe's switch is in the "on guard" position. If so, she needs *more frequent* touch and hugs, even if she pushes them away at first, or even "hisses" a bit, like the feral cat did occasionally. Wink I think that more hugs, and more vigorous, playful affection, may soothe her amygdala...and you may see the real Zoe again...the Zoe with a happy, open amygdala. Smile

The reason I say this is because you report that she actually has smiled sometimes when you hug her or kiss her, even if she slaps your head. Can you try stepping things up a bit by doing something of this sort daily, for a few weeks?

We'll all cross our fingers!

By the way, Freud is not off limits. I just found it fascinating that his cases that "proved" sexual repression was at the root of our problems by supposedly discovering, through analysis, that patients wanted to sleep with their parents, etc., did not, in fact, produce cures. I certainly can't blame a guy for trying his best to sell an idea though. Wink

The malarial mosquitos sound good

Could you send me some, Sood?

I'll look for more opportunities to give Zoe hugs. Right now Zoe is hissing and fur is standing on end, so I'm leery of getting near her for fear of getting scratched and bitten.

I'm wondering if it's PMS. I don't know what else could have caused such an abrupt change in her attitude, about a week ago. She used to have PMS... for a few days she would be impossible to be around and I would wonder what was going on, then her period would come and she would be all sweetness and light.

I say

grab her from behind and give her a quick bear hug, and then go on about your business. You may be losing her respect by being unwilling to look past her wrath.

By being a playful "hit and run hugger," you may help her not to take her insanity so seriously.

About the 'ending up old and poor' bit...

...if I were concerned about ending up this way I would not be buying anything on credit! I just found that bit really ironic.

Anyway best of luck CF, and remember that we are all imperfect beings who need to be shown some boundaries from time to time. It sounds like your lovely Zoe is in need of this at present. :)


...you are very brave, CuriousFellow. I deeply respect your commitment in maintaining such a strained relationship. It takes courage to endure such an unfair treatment. She sounds quite the narcissist :(

Hang in there.