“Things were going well all week with my wife and me, and I thought the tensions were behind us,” a client told me recently. “But no, last night, she got all upset again over nothing.”
If your marriage was disrupted by your wife exploding over her discovery of your behavior—like pornography use, cybersex, masturbation or misuse of money—you long for the day when things can get back to normal.
You just want to focus on enjoying each other’s company and getting things done—not enduring the latest installment of angry yelling, sarcastic insults, or insecure tears.
This is understandable. Her reactions following the trauma of her discovering your cheating actions—plus all the lies to cover them up—are a roller coaster ride that wears out both of you.
You never know when the next landmine will go off, as your wife is triggered by something, anything that reminds her of your deception and breach of trust.
And you have to be ready to respond patiently and lovingly to her needs rather than react defensively and selfishly. Or else pay dearly for it!
What could be worse than this walking on eggshells every day?
The opposite is worse
Your wife becoming cool, calm and collected. Breezing around your home, pleasantly doing what she needs to do. Reasonable, matter of fact, businesslike. Not real warm, not particularly affectionate. But no longer angry and blaming, no longer having tearful outbursts, no longer constantly bringing up your offense. Maybe not much action in the bedroom—maybe that’s the way its been even before—but there’s peace in the living room.
“Hey, that doesn’t sound so bad at all,” you might be thinking, “compared to the battleground at home right now.”
Don’t be naïve about the Walk Away Wife Syndrome, coined by Michelle Wiener Davis of “Divorce Busting” fame.
When a woman is still emotionally attached to a man, she will keep complaining if something is not right. She will fuss and nag and make demands. That means she is invested enough to want improvement.
When she stops complaining, it is for two possible reasons. One, she is content. Or two, she has given up on you and the relationship. She is quietly planning her departure (or yours!).
Uncomplaining means uncaring
“The opposite of love is not hate,” someone has wisely said. “The opposite of love is indifference.”
Your wife screaming, crying and everything in between means that she still cares. She is attached to you and so what you have done hurts her. She may want to hurt you just so you know what it feels like, but it means she’s bonded to you.
Even announcing that she will leave you means she is still connected and hopes that her words will get you to repair the damage between you.
When she no longer believes that you can ever be someone she can trust again, and find safety and security and build a future with, she will stop trying to get you to change. She will stop talking about it.
And she will start cutting off her feelings for you. That way she is no longer hurt by your actions. And once she begins dousing every flicker of love for you, it may be too late to reverse.
Leaving you alone = Leaving You
You see, no matter what you may do after that happens—you throw yourself into therapy, groups and reading every marriage book you can get your hands on, and become the best listener, most fun and romantic partner, and most devoted father—it makes no difference.
Her sense of self-preservation tells her she can no longer afford to care about you. She must not dare to open her heart to you again. So she refuses to believe what you are now doing is for real, or can last.
It is a tragic thing. I’ve seen men start to become the very fulfillment of their wives’ marital dreams, but it was “too little, too late,” as the women say. I’ve tried to persuade the wives to give their genuinely transformed husbands another chance. But the women just shrug and say, “Sorry. I’m done.”
So be grateful your wife cares enough to keep complaining. To keep screaming and crying and whatever. At least she is talking to you. At least she is engaged.
Beware the day when she becomes quiet, “reasonable,” and “finally” leaves you alone.
John Williams is a licensed mental health counselor and relationship coach specializing in pornography and sex addiction and infidelity. He is the owner of Bulletproof Integrity, a sexual integrity training and recovery coaching service. He is also a published author and sought-after presenter.