Monday, January 01, 2007

Dismaying Story #97: The "Untainted" Woman

Dear Andrew,

One year ago, at the age of 41, I married a man that I had been with for 5 years. Those years were tumultuous, full of growth that was brought on by a lot of arguments. Somehow, we decided to marry, thinking we could continue to grow into a healthy relationship. This is my first marriage, and his second. I had not had a lot of intimate relationships before this, and he has had many women in his life. He says that one of the reasons he chose me is that because I am "untainted" in regards to men.

I have some insecurities that are based in my childhood. I have worked to grow past them and have done a relatively good job so far, with a bit more traveling to do. The big problem is that I cry. I cry when my husband says something that hurts. This further irritates the problem between us. He gets angry, which makes me cry more.

When this happens, he will reach out to other women via the internet (not meeting them in person, as far as I know). He tells me he is not getting his needs met emotionally from me, so he seeks that out elsewhere. I call him on it, he denies it at first, then admits that yes, he is chatting with other women. He says it is a "distraction". Of course, this does nothing but to make me feel more insecure.

I need to learn how to deal with my insecurities and how they feed into the problems we have in our marriage. I also need to make the tough decision as to whether I should leave the marriage, and more than likely spend the rest of my life alone and bitter. This man has a lot of qualities that I admire. I searched far and wide to find someone that met my very specific criteria for a mate. When I met him, I felt he was the one I wanted to be with.

My questions for you:
  • How does a woman meet the needs of her husband emotionally?
  • -From your perspective on the limited information I have written here, am I wasting my time in this marriage?
I did not marry to get divorced, yet this is causing a lot of stress in my life that is affecting me in other areas.

Signed, Wondering What to Do

Dear Wondering,

I have been wandering around on this planet for quite a number of years now and to the best of my knowledge I have never met a tainted woman. The fact that your husband views women who have had previous relationships as somehow spoiled or corrupted as a result ... well, that seems bigoted and highly conceited.

When you display distress (crying) it makes him ... angry? I understand it would be stressful and frustrating for him when you display emotion he doesn't understand and therefore feels powerless to remedy. I would expect a supportive husband, however, to react to distress on your part with concern, compassion, caring, a desire to help you -- something along those lines.

"He tells me he is not getting his needs met emotionally from me, so he seeks that out elsewhere." Wow. What an emotional blow to the head that is. "You know honey, you're just not good enough for me. And by the way, whenever I feel dissatisfied (which happens all the time), I'll just get my jollies from other women instead." He is having emotional affairs with these other women, which are every bit as destructive to your marriage as sexual affairs. And it wouldn't surprise me if someone with his obvious lack of commitment is headed for sex as well, if he hasn't been there already.

Are you kidding me? Does he honestly believe these are reasonable behaviors within a marriage? You don't say what criteria you were looking for in a husband, but I can't believe your goal was to find someone who is bigoted, unsupportive and unfaithful. There are clearly reasons why he has gone through a large number of failed relationships.

I honestly don't know what kind of wife could meet the emotional needs of a guy like that. I expect she would have to care only about his needs and have none of her own, let him do whatever he wants without complaint, and never present him with any kind of problem. Have you ever met a woman like that? I haven't and I hope not to, because it would make me sad; she would be an empty shell of a person.

How much better it is to have a wife who yearns for life, who has normal needs and desires. Sure, we all come with our own form of baggage, but that's just the normal price of admission for playing the game called marriage. When he said those vows, he agreed to stick with you in good times and bad, which means helping you with any problems you might have. Your crying is not "the problem." It is merely a symptom of your distress. He's not living up to his end of the bargain; he's simply running away instead.

Your letter implies that you have somehow let him down by not meeting his needs. I don't see it that way. You both have needs. He refuses to help with yours and then runs away so you have no opportunity to address his.

You have described two major issues in your relationship. The first is your fear and insecurity, which arises from childhood events and circumstances. I guarantee this has contributed not only to the difficulties you have had in this marriage, but also in your apparent reluctance to get into a relationship at all. Your personal road to happiness lies directly through the resolution of these issues from your past. This is not something you need to fix in the context of your marriage, but simply for yourself. If you have not already done so, I highly recommend you find a coach or therapist to help you with this resolution.

The second major issue is your husband. He needs to understand that he is not stepping up and being a man in this relationship. He is acting like a spoiled little brat who is used to getting his way and who runs off and cries to someone else if that doesn't happen. He needs to learn how to be empathetic, giving of his time and emotion, and supportive of your needs. He doesn't yet understand that doing so is the only way for his needs to be met; that is the only way he can ever have a partner who shows him how loved and appreciated he is for all his support.

With work, patience and the right help, you should be able to resolve the first issue. I don't know how likely it is, though, that you can resolve the second issue. It sounds like he believes you are the problem, and he would probably resist the idea that he should change. Even if he did come to that realization, he would have to be willing to address long-standing attitudes and poor relationship skills. And at this point he is clearly not committed to you, your needs or your marriage. He would have to swing a long way over to the side of supportiveness and openness, and stay that way for quite a while to heal the considerable hurt he has caused you.

I can't recommend which way you should jump, but you clearly have a steep hill to climb if you want to turn this relationship into a happy place to be.

Finally, I completely disagree that you would likely end up alone and bitter for the rest of your life if this marriage fails. I have seen incredible turnarounds in people's lives when they get the coaching help they need to quiet those inner voices that keep reminding them about the traumas from their past. You will be amazed at the difference this can make for you, and the possibilities it can open up for your life, regardless of who you end up with. I wish you luck in achieving that peace and happiness.

All the best,

And to everyone else who is reading along, I wish each and every one of you the very best for 2007! May you all find peace, happiness and satisfaction in glorious achievement in this new year.


  1. Anonymous1:21 PM

    Well put, Doc. He apparently wants his cake and eat it, too. Don't settle for his 'crumbs', honey. You're too precious to do that.

  2. Catharine4:13 PM

    My heart aches when I read this. I have been blamed for alot with my ex- I know that feeling of being dismissed as a person. May you grow stronger every day!

  3. Thomas K. Matthews4:22 PM

    How often I work with women who suffer from the misconception that have to meet their husband’s needs emotionally. Generally men are not that complicated. They want to know they are loved, attractive and appreciated. Any husband who punishes his spouse with irrational criticism and emotional cheating is not a keeper.

    “He tells me he is not getting his needs met emotionally from me, so he seeks that out elsewhere.” is a manipulation and a way of keeping this woman on off balance. In my practice I have the opportunity to coach men with these controlling and insecure issue and find they usually cannot commit out of fear of rejection, so they do the rejecting. There are two issues working in this relationship. The writer suffers from self worth deficiencies and the husband suffers from the same, but each expresses it differently. He by acting macho and indifferent and she by being overly emotional.

    Unless one or the other takes action to change the dynamic, the relationship is doomed. Either she will becomes angry and leave for her own emotional salvation, or he will cheat and destroy the relationship as a avoidance mechanism of his own damaged emotional core. My professional experience foretells he will be the less likely to admit his faults and get help, so it is her cross to bear. Either she gets help through self talk and self worth coaching and tolerate the relationship his demeanor, or she has to get help and leave.

    I have said this many times before, but I must say it again. We cannot find the man/woman of our dreams until we are the man/woman of theirs. She must take action to eliminate her poor self talk voices or be destined to creating a negative reality that may well have her alone. It does not have to be that way. Remember, we are responsible for our own happiness. It sounds like he does not want to be happy and she is struggling to recognize her own capacity.

  4. He is a very self-centered man who does not care for you at all. I'd rather be single than live in a relationship that's constantly under threat of ...if you do not meet my needs then i shall look for someone who will...

    It's a new year- new beginnings and hope that it will be a great one for all of us.