Any complaint that causes your husband to disconnect from your marriage, to distance himself from you, or to consider a separation hurts. There is no scenario where this isn’t painful. But I suspect that it can feel a little more painful when the reason for his distance seems personal.
What I mean by that is that sometimes, a man will be unhappy because of reasons that have to do with him. He may be having a midlife crisis. He may believe that marriage doesn’t suit his ideology. He may be having a personal crisis. I am not saying that these scenarios are not horribly painful. They are. But at least the wife has no reason to blame herself.
And then there are the scenarios where things do feel personal. These are the instances where your husband is blaming the issues in the marriage on the wife. It could be something that she has done or something about her, about her actions, or about her personality that is the supposed problem.
Here’s an example. A husband might tell his wife that being with her is “exhausting.” She might explain: “for the past three months or so, I have been noticing my husband acting distant and weird. I confronted him about it right away, but he denied that there was a problem. Then we were at a family gathering this weekend and it was held outside in 90 degree heat. Like everyone else, I said it was hot and wanted to leave after dinner because I felt sick. My husband got angry at me and said he was tired of dealing with my ‘high maintenance personality.’ As we were leaving, he said that being married to me is ‘exhausting’ and that he may want a separation because he can not stand living his life this way anymore. He says that nothing makes me happy and that I can’t just sit back and roll with the punches of life like a normal person. He says that I am spoiled. He says that he feels like he always has to pick up the slack. I admit that I am not as thick skinned as some when it comes to sitting in the heat all day, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. And he knew that when he married me. I told him that I could try to change and he said that people like me never change and that we are just not compatible. He says that I make him ‘feel tired’ and he doesn’t want to feel that way anymore. Where does that leave me? I don’t want to lose my husband. This really hurts my feelings and feels like a personal attack. But I could forgive it and move on if he would give me the chance. The problem is that he does not seem at all receptive to me right now.”
I understand why you are hurt. These types of issues can feel, and sound, like a criticism. When someone tells you that you are ‘exhausting,’ that phrase makes it seem as if they no longer want to do the work to keep up with you. Of course it hurts.
Understand The Context In Which The Comments Were Made: I think that your husband’s ‘fatigue’ might be due to the fact that the maintenance issue may have bothered him for a while, but he sat silent and said nothing – even when you asked him what was bothering him. So things built up until they exploded. His silence is not your fault. And things may have been easier now if he had addressed the problem much earlier – before he became so angry that he lashed out at you.
Know That Context Doesn’t Mean That It Isn’t Time To Take Action: It’s normal to hope that this will blow over. And it may – for now. But any time a husband is uttering words that indicate he is tired of your marriage or thinks that there is a compatibility issue, you want to pay very close attention and you want to take action right away. I say this not to scare you, but from the concerned place of someone who was in a similar situation. I hoped for the problem to pass over, but I ultimately ending up separated. I think that I possibly could have avoided that fate by taking action at the first sign of trouble.
Moving Forward Quickly: It’s unfortunate that your husband waited so long to share that this issue has been bothering him, but you can’t undo that at this point. What you can do, however, is be careful of what (and who) you are presenting to him moving forward. It doesn’t sound as if he has made definite plans to move out or to pursue a separation, which means that you may have some time to address this.
Sit back and be really honest with yourself. Which of his concerns have some validity? What is he right about? Is this issue something that other friends and family members have expressed? If so, then there is nothing wrong with addressing it. Sometimes, it takes a painful situation to stimulate growth. If you take this and use it to move you forward so that you grow and improve in some way, then at least the pain will have been for something. At least you can use this as a stimulus to improve your marriage.
If you are very honest and you find that his words do not have validity, then you may went to dig a little deeper. Sometimes, a husband will project another problem onto to what is obvious or handy. It may not have been the heat or your personality at all during that family gathering. But the situation might have given your husband an easy explanation. Sometimes, a husband can be frustrated and not quite sure why. That’s one more reason why it’s very important to be extremely observant right now – so that you are taking action on the items that are truly at issue.