Relationship Connection: My wife is asking me to do all the changing in the marriage

Photo by Slphotography/iStock/Getty Images Plus; St. George News

Question

My wife has a strong bond with her own family that I feel is much stronger than our six-year marriage. We come from different cultures. By a stronger bond I mean, loyalty, friendship, secrets and so forth. We have differences in hobbies and activities that each of us likes to do, but we do have fun together.

I have made several changes she’s asked me to make in order to make this marriage work and she still remains unchanged. She will not give any loyalty to me. My biggest complaint is that she is closer to her family than she is to me.

She asked me to stop drinking, which I was willing to do. It was causing problems and even pushed us to the brink of divorce within the first few months of our marriage.

At times I just feel like we are just roommates. She’d rather act like nothing is happening and kiss me in the morning and tell me she loves me before going to work. I just feel it is just a play so she can later say she does that every day. I feel betrayed and shammed out of this marriage.

I’m not even sure if I even want to stay married.

Answer

You’re in a lot of pain and it’s natural to want to jettison the marriage to end your misery. However, it sounds like there are still some redeeming qualities of your marriage that you may want to keep working with before you make your final decision.

Every marriage (even when couples from the same backgrounds) experiences a clash of cultures. Every family has its own culture that we have to learn to understand and accept if we’re going to succeed in our marriages.

Please recognize that “accept” isn’t the same as “agree.” Obviously, her family culture is so difficult for you that it’s escalated to the level of contemplating divorce.

It’s hard to agree with something that feels so hurtful. You don’t have to agree with it. In fact, I recommend you share your disagreement with your wife and invest in some heartfelt conversations about the impact her family culture is having on your marriage.

Acceptance happens when you stop fighting the fact that this is a family culture you’ll have to navigate for the rest of this marriage. In my experience, as long as you can continue to see openness and progress in your conversations and joint efforts, it’s worth staying in the marriage. Since every marriage brings it’s own culture, don’t assume that switching marriages will prevent you from having to experience these types of conversations.

Let’s talk about how you can address the dynamics you’re experiencing in the marriage. It’s important for you to clarify in your own mind why her relationship with her family is so painful to you.

Instead of criticizing her behaviors, you’re going to have to show her some vulnerability and describe what it’s like for you to feel like you’re second place. Let her know what has changed in how you see her, yourself and your marriage. Let her know you don’t know how to be more important in her life.

Don’t become defensive about changes you have made and start blaming. Instead, let her know how devastating it is to be in this position. This will feel risky to you, but this is part of trying everything you can before you walk away.

You can’t change the pull her family culture exerts on her, but you can step up and use your voice more actively to let her know what’s happening to you.

Another consideration is for you to actively join her family culture and work to understand why this is so strong for her. Ask questions as nondefensively as possible to better understand why her family has been so difficult for her to leave. Stay curious and open as you ask questions to help reflect back the culture she may not even understand herself.

If she senses that you’re willing to understand, she might be willing to make adjustments that are more loyal to your marriage.

If I were meeting with the two of you, I would want to understand why her family comes before you. It’s easier for me to ask those questions because it’s not my marriage that’s on the line. So, I recognize the position you’re in is more difficult and vulnerable.

Hopefully she can hear how painful this is for you. Give her plenty of opportunities to hear you. It’s worth bringing up in as many different ways as possible.

I’m not asking you to do all of the changing. Your wife clearly needs to make some serious adjustments in her marital priorities. You’ve asked the question, so I’m giving you some places to start. Invite her to reflect on how her choices are affecting you and the marriage. Stay soft and vulnerable as you talk. That approach is more likely to touch her heart and move her to turn back to you and her marriage.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer  

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

8 Comments

  • high5 July 19, 2017 at 8:20 am

    You were You when She Married You-
    Asking or demanding you to Change is impossible
    Sounds like Mormon Mahem?
    Been there – walk while you can Bro or Run??

  • Hataalii July 19, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Something you did not address in the letter is whether or not there are children in the marriage. If there are not, please don’t consider having a child, “to help the marriage.” That would not be fair to the child, and would not, in the long term, help the marriage.
    I believe there are some questions you need to ask yourself, even before you start trying to work through what Mr. Steurer has suggested. First off, you need to know for absolute certain that you want to stay in this marriage. Unless you can answer this question with an unqualified yes, perhaps this would be a good time to split.
    Another question you need to ask is if you believe she feels the same way. If not, you really don’t have much hope for the marriage.
    Another question you need to ask, is where you want the marriage to be in five years. Ten years. Are you able to project into the future enough to actually know what you want.
    How does she feel about the same questions.
    Keep in mind that marriage is definitely not a 50-50 relationship! There will be very few periods of time when one of you doesn’t need more than that. The key to this, is not having the same person be the one that needs more.
    This should be obvious, but believe it or not, many couples never ask this question; if you were not married to this person, would you even be interested in becoming friends with her? Would she with you? What would be the basis of that friendship?
    These are just some of the questions you need to figure out the answer to.
    I do not believe there is anything sadder than staying in a wrong marriage for years.

  • hiker75 July 19, 2017 at 10:09 am

    And?

  • ladybugavenger July 19, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Sounds like a manipulation game: here’s how you play it- you get real involved with her family. Be kind, generous, loving and soon enough they will love you and talk about what a wonderful person you are. This will drive her insane. And you win lol

    Or…..
    Divorce her now! While you aren’t too deep in.

  • ladybugavenger July 19, 2017 at 11:52 am

    You don’t have to have intent with neglect. It’s just simple neglect. Neglect that causes death is punishable and should not be a get out of jail free card by calling it an “accident”

    • ladybugavenger July 19, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Oops wrong story….sorry folks

  • Uncle Rico July 19, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    I agree with Hataalii’s comment, very good points were made. Here’s my 2 cents. If you do not have children, I suggest you cut and run like hell. This woman will not take your side over her family, and over time, things will only get worse. Don’t make the same mistake that many men like yourself have made. Remember, your happiness is very important, and WILL affect the rest of your life. Good luck!

  • utahdiablo July 20, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Yep, been there done that….Divorce is the only answer, just do not have any kids before that happens. Then take the time and meet someone as I did who loves you for you as you are, and you love her as she is as well, that is the only answer to true happiness….and putting one’s family before their husband or wife? Nope, your there to help each others family as needed, but never before or above the spouse

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.