I’m at my wit’s end with this lonely marriage!

strong woman  A dear reader, Paula has written a long comment in AskNora, that pushed me to reflect about the limitations of my work here. She tells about her lonely marriage. And I can't personally embrace her, I can't support her day-to-day up until the moment when she has her life back...so what can I still do?

This is the situation where she is trapped: too many years in a passive aggressive marriage, where mainly her role has been to appease and coddle the husband, compounded now by her lack of education, income, and family help.

Her husband, very wisely, restricts his abusive behavior to moments when they are alone, representing the dedicated, attentive and gentle husband to friends and family. She goes along with his charade, in front of friends and family...not even her children know about the abuse!

She is almost at the point when, if you dare to say something about the domestic emotional violence happening to you, nobody will believe her! It's so frightening...reminds me of the gas lighting examples, where her own reality is smothered by his behavior, and nobody shares her reality.

Perhaps we can come up with a rescue plan, but first we need to know if finally, she is ready to build up her own reality leaving the shadow that her husband has projected upon her. This "shadow" is the alienated situation where silence, denigration and put downs, confine her to be a non-entity. She has become a person who can't control her own life, her own personal meaning (who she really is?) and of course, her place in the family. Her emotional needs are constantly frustrated and she lives a life of utter unhappiness.

I will begin here with a suggestion: I'd tell Paula get out of the house and find something to do: volunteer somewhere, visit a sick person, get a daily walk. Only by being alone, with herself, Paula can get connected with her feelings and thoughts. Even sitting on a bench at the park, by myself, has been an emotional refuge, in times of utter crisis. It allows you to center and appreciate your own life, and get to the point when you love yourself and feel that your own life is precious.

After that, who knows? I'm opening this conversation to you, my readers, and inviting you to provide one suggestion to help Paula get back to herself. Please, leave comments here, so I can weave a response with your suggestions and support? Thanks!

 PD. Did you know that we recently published a second edition of the Kindle book:  "The Silent Marriage: How Passive Aggression Steals Your Happiness"?

It is completely updated, with more suggestions about how to respond to your husband's cold shoulder and other painful behaviors than ever, and very helpful to develop self-esteem and respect. You get a lot of support for a very affordable price!

  1. Mo, 07 July, 2015

    I agree Paula can get her own life outside of the home. I’ve done that, even though I have a disability which I believe is part of the reason he feels “power” over me. I am no longer the “powerful career woman”.

    I also feel that she should tell him that his behavior is cruel and unacceptable and that if he refuses to go to counseling, she will leave.

    I’ve been there. I’ve been married for just 25 years and we were in counseling at year 5. When I recently asked him to go back, after so many years of “denial”, he said that he didn’t need to pay someone to tell him he was an “a$$hole” (sorry for the word).

    I won’t leave my home…my mom lives with us and so does my now 24 year old daughter who is going to grad school,

    This is a tough road and if anything, the only thing I did to save my “sanity” was to actually spend time “getting over him”…yes, falling out of love. It was a long and painful process, But I did it because I had a feeling I would be stuck here for the rest of my life. I may be.

    You have my sympathy and I’m with you. If you come up with something amazing…..short of running away, please let me know. 🙂
    Thank you!

  2. Sue, 07 July, 2015

    I think that it is so important to understand as a woman why did I marry and/or become involved with a passive-aggressive man in the first place.
    There is a specific reason. I am a rescuer. The person who comes in to save him and the day. There are other types too. I think until you can understand your role and find out if you are meeting some unhealthy need in your life it will be difficult to get to the bottom.
    I thought I was the victim in this situation until I understood my part in it. Once you realize what is really going on you can then begin to unravel the web and see yourself as a separate person and discover who you really are.
    I hope all goes well for Paula.

  3. Neil Warner, 07 July, 2015

    Dear Sue,
    thanks for the wonderful response! I find it liberating always to ask myself what is my own stake in the perpetuation of marital misery…Not easy, but when you answer the question: “why do I stay put here, what is my reward?” then you can pinpoint the inside hook that keeps you there. Women are trained to help/rescue others in peril, so it’s easy to end up with a person with serious deficits. I’m not saying we should not help others…what I think is that while helping others we forget to identify and nurture our own needs. And there is the damage! If you can train yourself to know, every time, that you can’t help others being undernourished yourself, you will get the right perspective. We can help others only when we know who we are, what is our life mission, and how to keep ourselves happy. Otherwise, helping while being empty-handed is self-destructive and doesn’t even help the others we intend to rescue. Get your own “happiness pieces” every day: a walk in the park, a nice book, meditation, gentle exercise, dancing, a bit of chocolate, whatever nurtures yourself first. Being compassionate with yourself is the first step!

  4. Neil Warner, 07 July, 2015

    Sue, there is an older post in the blog that refers exactly to your comment..thanks for mentioning the wife’s need to be needed!
    http://passiveaggressivehusband.com/tango-passive-aggressive-husband-victim-wife/

  5. juliey, 08 July, 2015

    I try to go out for dinner once a week with an old retiree from work.

    When home I sew to concentrate on my project. This way I ignore all that is around me.

  6. Paula, 08 July, 2015

    Thank you all for your encouraging responses:)!!! I’ll keep it shorter this time:) Dear Neil,
    I do have some education…I quit working for someone else and started my own business in 06…went back to school and got my certificate for this business. Six months after I started it the housing market crashed! I did have a project here and there, but not enough to call it even a part time income.
    A year ago we started another business together with my husband, so he told me I needed to put my own business on hold to continue the education and training needed for this one, but it’s so darn hard to put on a brave face and go to all these meetings and act like nothings wrong! So far we haven’t made dime from this new business of ours! I do get out of the house to do errands and things for business, but never do anything fun on my own without him!

    I know now the reason why we’re having more and more fights, because our daughter got married a few years ago and no longer in the house so he doesn’t have to hide his PA!

    For a week now I’ve been researching and reading about Passive Aggression to educate myself about this kind of abuse. Yesterday I finally went to watch a comedy movie with someone else other than him!
    I’ve been trying to come up on how to confront him on this PA behavior of his. I know he’ll deny it! I’ve bought a book on PA thinking of asking him to read it…maybe that will his open eyes…hopefully he will read it.
    Any suggestions on how to confront him with out me losing it?

  7. Neil Warner, 08 July, 2015

    Dear Paula,
    I hear about your decision of having more fun in your life, congratulations! however, there is a lot to catch up as to have a strong self-esteem. I mention this because you are immediately asking how to confront him. Please, don’t! have six months of fun, pleasure and creativity; learn to love your life and be secure of what you want. If you read postings by other women here, you will see how time wasting and energy wasting is to confront him now. He is an expert in putting you down, and you have just began the path of recovering yourself. He will not be motivated enough to change either…will think that this new attitude of yours is a passing fantasy, and will wait up until you crawl into your hole again. Please, build your strength, get to the point in which you are getting so strong that he has to convince you to abandon your own project to work with him, as he did already and this time reject his offer. You need to know what you are worth doing something that is your project. And, instead of fighting with him, have so many tasks linked to your wonderful projects that you have no time to fight with him! You will be coming and going and doing interesting things…Remember, this is your life, so grab it and see how far you can go enjoying it!

  8. Annie, 09 July, 2015

    I live in Pakistan… Here being passive aggressive is very normal…. Until the person is educated to spot the problem. I’m doing my PhD in clinical psychology… Having two kids …now I start working with them.my husband don’t allow me to go out from home… So I have to find my activities at home… Pray for me.thanks

  9. Nora Femenia, 09 July, 2015

    Dear Annie,
    I’m amazed at your determination to study psychology in Pakistan. I know it’s hard and you have a long battle in front of you. On the other hand, taking my psychology classes saved my sanity and brain when I was living under a controlling husband and taking care of my four children all day. I would push the dinner plates to the side, grab my book and study when all the rest were sleeping. It changed finally my life, allowing me to get the life I love, working as a clinical psychologist and teaching. Please, keep going and appreciate your courage and feel secure in your will to improve yourself! I respect you and send all my appreciation for your determination!

  10. MHMC, 15 July, 2015

    Paula, there is a lot to Your story, but I will just say this: when I went to counseling to try to understand my pa husband, my counselor told me to go ahead and do what I want to fix as far as getting out and having a good time. She said I could even ask him to join me and if he says no, just say ok, see you in a couple hours, and go by myself. He tried using it against me saying I was going out too much (I usually had the kids with me, so I wasn’t partying or anything like that). Marriage shouldn’t be a prison. We should still be able to enjoy ourselves separately from our spouse, yet still come together and enjoy each other when together. If you let him back and you want to mend the marriage, you will need to be very strong, and stop covering his behavior. Do not bail him out. Do not make excuses for him, or cover it in front of family. Be respectful, but honest. Yup you don’t need to pour out the abuse to everyone, but allowing him to reveal his true colors is appropriate. And certainly do not share a bed until hes willing to get help and stick with counseling for more than a day. You need separate counseling before you can do marriage counseling. If he refuses, then I suggest you go ahead and go by yourself. Best of luck to you. I know this is hard, but you can do it.

  11. geri, 05 October, 2015

    OMG! U can’t just tell a woman that has lived under PA abuse to just go sit on a park bench and collect herself! Hate to tell u it will take a lot more than a few spare minutes alone to get ur head together! Not to mention the repercussions of getting away from it! Puleeese! We feel like victims, or we wouldn’t have put up with it this long, & then there r religious reasons, etc, etc etc. this guy has a good heart, he just hates me, and always will. And he thinks he is the world victim, which really chaps my hide, such a pussy attitude. All goes back to the bad parenting dad, he was abusive to my sweet, yes sweet mother in law. Life just sucks for some of us, 34 years wasted. Sure he supported me but always got that hate in, someway.
    .

  12. Nora Femenia, 05 October, 2015

    Geri, yes I can say that. She needs to find herself, and her self-esteem, and her inner strength, and that is impossible under the onslaught of abuse. And at some time, you need to be able to pay the price for fighting four your own sanity. Being by myself at the park I could breathe again, note the difference I felt in my stress level only by leaving the house and his proximity, breathing in and out, calming my brain, slowly accepting and LOVING myself. Of course it takes longer to heal, but at least, you disconnect from the insanity and re-connect with your soul.After that, you can be brave and imagine a different life…What about packing and leaving for three days, to see some relative you need to visit? You can come up with a legit reason…and have a bit more of mental freedom..and so it goes the process of recovering your own self.

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