When You’re Walking On Eggshells

Much of what I’m talking about on the blog is stuff that’s really designed to get a relationship that’s in that somewhat below average sort of a slump to move upwards into something more vibrant. A lot of what I’m recommending boils down to just being playful with her. Some light teasing, some deep kissing, pulling her in towards you, a good long sex session and a playful slap on her ass.
It’s all good stuff and it really does work. However if things are really pretty difficult between you, awkward silence, distance and a trickle of tears at the kitchen sink, suddenly bouncing over to her and rubbing your crotch on her ass and staying “later baby” is going to be… ineffective.
She’s just not interested in that anymore. At this point you’re a negative in the equation over whether divorce happens, the positives are things like the house, the children liking you, the history together, and not having to start over again. “I need space” means “I need less of your negative factor in my face because I’d rather not divorce right now but you’re forcing me towards choosing that outcome.”
I’ve had a reasonably long email back and forth with a reader over the last two days about some of this. I’m not able to spill particular details on the person/couple, but the general stuff applies. The short version is that she asked him to just move out. As far as is known, there’s no other man involved here. (Which would vastly alter my advice here.)
“Initially, she was unwilling to do anything to try to patch things back up — no concerted effort, no counseling, nothing.  She just wanted me out of the house, so she could “think about things.”  She’s since backed off a bit and says she’d be willing to see a counselor.  I told her I wouldn’t move out (I work from the house, my kids live there, and, damnit!, it’s my house!), but as a compromise I’d shift my operations to the basement for a while.”
When it’s this far down the road towards splitting apart, there’s no time for games anymore. When she’s giddy for you, you can try something risky that’s potentially very exciting and hot or might just backfire on you. If she’s at 95% interest in you and you try something like pulling hard on her hair during doggy style, she either gets more excited and heads towards 100% interest level, or says “OW! THAT’S MY HAIR!” and has her interest level fall towards 90%. But either way the relationship doesn’t fail outright. If you take a big risk when she’s down around the 35% interest level and it fails, you can push her below that “I’m trying to stay together for the kids” threshold. That’s very very bad. Attorney bad. Game over man, game over.
So you have to play a bit more of a safety approach and just be utterly truthful about the reality of the situation. You have to tell her her you love her with total sincerity. You also have to tell her that you believe that she loves you. You tell her that you know that things right now are very bad between you both. That whether she wants it or not, you are going to try and turn things around, and if she is willing to start working with you, this is the lowest point in your marriage together.
“I’m a little concerned about striking the right balance between a) accepting my (large) share of the blame, and b) making myself more desirable by not being a total wimp.  That’s part of the reason, for example, I decided not to move out.  It’s a little like tucking your tail between your legs and slinking off.  Do you have any thoughts on that balance?”
It’s all in the framing of the thing. The point is not so much to assign blame for getting into the situation, you can do that until the cows come home and make no progress at all. He said, she said and it’s all just like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.
The way out is to frame that you are willing to take the lead to get you both out of it. At some point she will either come on board or she won’t. The trick is to find out what you do together when the relationship is working positively and focus on that as something to do more of. You can actually be quite verbally firm in framing this. You’re not trying to win a logical / rational argument here, you’re trying to win on a more emotional level that frames you as simply the stronger person.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about a very low key way to keep the pilot light of love alive. And again… this all assumes no other man is involved with your wife.

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Comments

  1. aphron says:

    I read a statistic that the majority of divorce is instigated by the woman, and the reason being that her needs aren't being met. There lies the problem: one cannot expect another to fulfill his/her needs.

    Like the reader you're conversing with, I am in a similar situation. My marriage is on the brink. It seems that all of the incidents over 17 years get brought up in each and every argument. It's difficult to sway that much resentment. The resentment isn't over big things like adultery or online porn or whatever. The resentment is over not answering the cell phone when she wants it answered, taking a couple of hours out of a day every six months for a hobby (flying an airplane to maintain some semblance of proficiency), having to be in complete control at all times while she can say anything she wants in any tone she wants, or whatever. It's like trying to turn the Queen Mary on a dime. That much inertia is too much to turn.

    To my mind, spouses must be willing to forgive each other. They made a promise to each other. No one is a shining example of perfection. Some people tend to be more forgiving than others. Those that are tend to hold resentment think of themselves as a victim. Victim-hood is difficult to let go of. Being a victim always allows one to have the moral high ground. This stifles any real discussion or open dialogue.

    So…what is the answer? One must forgive. Marriage is about something larger than self. By not being willing to forgive, one never let go of one's self. Holding resentment is a selfish act.

    Speaking from personal experience, my wife will not let go of resentment. Not just directed towards me, she resents her family for how she was treated 25 years ago (her opinions were not taken seriously).

    My $0.02. Sorry for the long comment. This post seemed to strike a chord with me.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good post Aphron. I'm a woman, and I have made some of the mistakes you talk about. I like the way you put it. I hope things get better between you and your spouse.

    Athol, your site is really helpful. Thanks for all you do.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Aphron, your story sounds a little like my situation. I think if a woman is constantly angry about what should be small things, then either she is a basically angry person OR she really doesn't want to be with her husband any more//or both. Female logic seems to be that if she's unhappy with a man, the anger threshold for almost everything goes way, way down.

    Men thinking about getting married should be very very careful if their prospective wife has a lot of anger, even if it's not directed at them–just wait, sooner or later it probably will be. If she tells you how bad her parents treat her, then in the flush of early love you'll be tempted to think it's all their fault. Maybe, maybe not. Same for bosses, girlfriends, former boyfriends, etc etc.

    If her level of anger at her husband over minor issues goes up and stays up, it does no good to either logically explain why the issue isn't really that important, nor does it usually work to placate her. 8 times out of 10, she's regretting being with him, and the best thing to do is to face the situation head-on.

  4. Athol Kay says:

    Aphron – it sounds like you just get to be the lightning rod for everything and anything she percieves as wrong in her life.

    You have to start bumping on some of that stuff or she will just continue to hammer on you forever. Asserting what you want and need more.

  5. MWMM says:

    As I've said on earlier posts this is very common issue with women at this time of the marriage. Mine was at 19 years, other neighbors were at similar stages. In every case the women initiates the separation. i watched one friend finally give up on the wife and move on. He's now happy with a stable family and new wife. The x-wife married the bar guy and yikes, what a mess. My other friend did the opposite which is try to win the wife back (ala typical counselor recommendation stuff). She was out the door asap.
    I think there are two main root causes; 1. the relative sex value of wife increased (doesn't matter how) or 2. Simple negligence of the husband. These require different approaches. You can't game the wife's best friend if the problem is you ignore your wife and treat her like crap. OTOH, you can't sit around saying I love you if your sex rank is low, you just look like a pussy. Again, this is when the wife initiates the separation. There are many good reasons why the husband would want to leave, but that's for another blog. BTW, I had case1 and I took the right approach and the marriage is better than ever.

  6. Doug1 says:

    Aphron and Anonymous—

    In both your cases it sounds to me as though the real problem isn’t your wives petty issues complaints. She may believe they are important but they aren’t almost certainly. The real issue is that she’s lost all or nearly all of her sense of sexual attractedness to you. The petty complaints are her construction for why, based on petty irritations that become real one when she isn’t feeling you. I bet in both your cases she is willing to have sex very infrequently and doesn’t orgasm from it. But that’s a tell for other things unless you rarely go down on her or manually excite her with fingers or toys.

    If you’ve put on a lot of weight that doesn’t help.

    But by far the biggest thing is that you’ve gone way too beta in the relationship almost certainly. This is something American wives and our culture these feminist days definitely encourages in sitcoms, her girlfriends, and so on, but it doesn’t make her happy long term. Not when it goes too far and she gets her way too much. You let your wives push you around too much rather than your having playful light dominance over her, leading her, being her rock. American mass entertainment culture tells you that’s what you should do to have a happy marriage but it’s feminist junk.

    Don’t accept blame for everything but don’t blame her either. Treat minor things like they’re minor, and deal with her emotions instead. Don’t try to fix everything but comfort her. Treat her like a young teen daughter caught up in drama sometimes. Be her rock. If you’ve done something you genuinely think was wrong apologize once, but then tell her you don’t want to hear it again and again, you’ve already apologized. As for things like household work allocation you should have the frame that you should allocate that so as to tend to equalize total necessary work, paid and unpaid.

    To supplement what Athol Kay does here, I STRONGLY urge both of you to read this post I link below from a year ago over at Citizen Renegade’s. It’ll give you examples of how to climb out of your hole. It’s a compilation of some of the best comments from Dave from Hawaii on Roissy’s blog (he’s calling himself Chateau these days) over about the prior six months. Dave f H turned around a failing marriage using relationship game – i.e. learning to act more alpha. He started from deeply in the hole. He’d read game books and sites. (Game is largely aimed at single guys trying to get decent or good at picking up cute to hot chicks but much of it has application to marriages.) There are over 700 comments, but the ones from Roissy (the blog owner) and Dave from Hawaii (he answers a lot of questions in the comments and adds material) should help you. (Do a find on those names.) Then read the rest of the Relationship Game Week posts, particularly the “Agree and Amplify” one. (The Dave from Hawaii post is the last of the RGW posts.)

  7. Doug1 says:

    What MWMM said for all the three cases discussed here. You've all got case 1. too. Your "sex value" dropped because you acted too beta with your wives. You all let your wives run over you, blame you for things that aren't that important etc. That's just symptomatic.

    To supplement Athol Kay’s advice for cases like yours, I STRONGLY urge both of you to read this post I link below from a year ago over at Citizen Renegade’s. It’ll give you examples of how to climb out of your hole. It’s a compilation of some of the best comments from Dave from Hawaii on Roissy’s blog (he’s calling himself Chateau these days) over about the prior six months. Dave f H turned around a failing marriage using relationship game – i.e. learning to act more alpha. He started from deeply in the hole. He’d read game books and sites. (Game is largely aimed at single guys trying to get decent or good at picking up cute to hot chicks but much of it has application to marriages.) There are over 700 comments, but the ones from Roissy and Dave from Hawaii (he answers a lot of questions in the comments and adds material) should help you. (Do a find on those names.) Then read the rest of the Relationship Game Week posts, particularly the “Agree and Amplify” one. (The Dave from Hawaii post is the last of the RGW posts. )

    http://roissy.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/relationship-game-week-a-readers-journey/

  8. Doug1 says:

    The real deal for all three cases sounds like the wives have lost most or all sexual attraction for their husbands. That will be reflected in the frequency and quality of sex. Your being way overweight isn’t gonna help. But…

    But by far the biggest thing is that you’ve gone way too beta in the relationship almost certainly. This is something American wives and our culture these feminist days definitely encourages in sitcoms, by her girlfriends, and so on, but it doesn’t make her happy long term. Not when it goes too far and she gets her way too much. You let your wives push you around too much rather than your having playful light dominance over her, leading her, being her rock. American mass entertainment culture tells you that’s what you should do to have a happy marriage but it’s feminist junk.

    Don’t accept blame for everything but don’t blame her either. Treat minor things like they’re minor, and deal with her emotions instead. Don’t try to fix everything but comfort her. Treat her like a young teen daughter caught up in drama sometimes. Be her rock. If you’ve done something you genuinely think was wrong apologize once, but then tell her you don’t want to hear it again and again, you’ve already apologized. As for things like household work allocation you should have the frame that you should allocate that so as to tend to equalize total necessary work, paid and unpaid.

    Oh you can find more good things are Chateau/Roissy's site Citizen Renegade by going to the category relationships on the ride side bar.

  9. Athol Kay says:

    Blogger has it's own auto spam filter that I have no control over. Doug1 9:34 let out of spam jail.

  10. MWMM says:

    Doug1, Amazing. That one post of Roissy's set me straight about a year ago. Best advise I ever got.
    Do this immediately: Hint that you've got a divorce lawyer giving you advice. For example tell her you will never leave the house, but she's free to move out if she's so miserable (abandoning the kids).

  11. Deansdale says:

    If your marriage is that bad, you should IMMEDIATELY read Michelle Langley's book Women's Infidelity.
    Her website: http://www.womensinfidelity.com/
    If you search for it on the web you can download it for free, but if you can't find it I can email it to you.

  12. Anonymous says:

    "Do this immediately: Hint that you've got a divorce lawyer giving you advice. For example tell her you will never leave the house, but she's free to move out if she's so miserable (abandoning the kids)."

    Better:
    1. Find out from a lawyer friend who the top 15-20 family law attorneys are in town.

    2. Schedule 30 minute consultations with all of them so that they will be conflicted if your ex tries to retain them.

    As a man you are hopelessly disadvantaged in family court. You need to be strategic. Try to save your marriage, but if your wife is already this alienating, she's already mentally checked out and probably has money stashed, etc. in preparation for the long rape in family court prior to administering the coup de grace.

    Maybe the marriage is salvageable, but remember, "????????, ?? ?????????" ("Trust, but verify").

  13. Confidunce says:

    Agree with Doug1. That post by Roissy was the single most influential thing I've ever read on reviving long-term relationships. Be warned that Roissy's blog has lately taken a poisonous turn toward emphatic misogyny. (I suspect that Roissy brought on other writers who have less insight but more zealotry on the whole "game" front.) Do *not* let that turn you off of the post that Doug1 linked.

    I will add two things. 1. Let your wife see you enjoying your life. Make it clear that she is welcome to join you in enjoying life, but don't beg her to follow along. Athol's post here (http://www.marriedmansexlife.com/2010/07/dealing-with-wifely-indecision-and.html), along with the comments, should jumpstart your brainstorming. Athol's article seems to be about indecision, but really it's about leading by example. That goes hand-in-hand with reminding your wife that you're a fun person.

    2. I hate to say it, but you really need to gut-check whether your wife is capable of letting the relationship be revived. Example question: is she fixating on ten-year-old arguments because you're still doing the same things deficiently? Or is she faxing on ten-year-old arguments *despite* improvement? If it's the former, you need to figure out a way to give her catharsis. If the latter, she may be, fundamentally, a negative person.

    Anyway, couple's therapy is a must. This can be a good starting place for your alpha: tell her shit's not going to change, one way or the other, until you've gone to couple's therapy for six sessions at least. This should have the added benefit of making it harder for her to cast you as a bad guy in case she does go running to a lawyer.

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