Q. My husband and I have been struggling now for about seven years. We have different personalities and we have lost our ability to actually have conversations where meaningful information and feelings are exchanged. Only 10% of what I really want to say gets across. I have known for a few years now that if it weren’t for our young daughters, I would leave. I end up feeling intense feelings of anger, grief and more recently hatred. Sometimes these reactions end up in arguments. Then I feel like a horrible person, hating myself for being vicious and unable to love him or be kind. When I calm down and begin to try to have a reasonable conversation it goes nowhere and we are once again at an impasse and the cycle continues. I am doing so many things to work on myself, yet the progress is incredibly slow. I don’t know how much longer I can last in this relationship. I am not ready to leave and it’s been the hardest year of my life. How do I deal with this?
A. You have allowed yourself to stay in a tight pressure cooker in this relationship. You are extraordinarily committed to trying to work with your husband. I am not sure that it’s only because of your daughters. It seems something else is keeping you in the struggle—something within you. Could that be true? Do you still love him? Are you afraid of being alone? Do you have confidence that you could make it on your own if you had to? Clarifying your intentions to remain in the marriage and try to work with the highly charged gridlock moments will help you focus your conversations.
People who are able to learn in these awful relationships grow a tremendous amount, whether the marriage survives or ends. You get to see every nuance of your own personality. Although intensely painful, it also yields a lot of self-knowledge and humility. Additionally it builds strength—knowing that you can work through fear and doubt.
You will also learn a lot about him and begin to trust your own insights. Ultimately, we can only rely on our own instincts. Your cycle of emotions is actually quite normal. Anger and frustration arise even with reasonable, caring and loving spouses. Rather than getting caught in guilt, it’s valuable to explore what is being triggered within. Are you feeling threatened or betrayed?
Powerlessness is a common experience for many women in relationships. This can actually lead to hating the powerful partner. Treating yourself in a kind way is the beginning of healing. You will need to build with self-compassion and self-forgiveness practices. Self-regulation through kindness towards yourself is transformative.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com