When the difficult person in your life is your spouse...

My first real post - I did post in the meet/great as well. Where to start… I guess I’ll let this thread go where it needs to go though I’ll start with the here and now with a specific question and seeking advise, then elaborate.

How do I deal with my wife when she is hysterically screaming - in a rage - in my face? Needless to say, I don’t handle being screamed at well and I have sinned in anger and what I have said back to her. Not a very loving environment.

This is supposed to be a Catholic marriage. 22 years now. I am the lifelong Catholic; she converted when we married. I am practicing Catholic (with some downtime) and she is not and she hasn’t for years. We are ‘older’ me mid fifties, she is looking at sixty in the rear view mirror (7 year spread in age). Maybe the marriage was doomed to fail. I hadn’t found the nice Catholic girl my mother wished I had married when I was young. I met my wife in my early 30’s and she was my first sexual partner out of wedlock. She was interested in Catholicism and she wasn’t particularly religious at the time, though from a fundamentalist (Southern) bible based religious background. I think now she converted to Catholicism as a novelty. She never really ‘got into it’. But we’ve existed for years with me practicing and her dabbling at it as far as Mass attendance etc. She used age as an after the fact excuse to not want children, though I didn’t push the subject either. Intimacy in the marriage went the way of the dinosaur a long time ago.

Over the years, she’s admittedly had hard knocks of life. Injury. She stopped working years back, partly due to her skills and moving for my professional job. Now - she stays at home and licks her wounds and has become an angry depressed person. She has no friends. She is estranged from her sisters (parents deceased). She resent me staying close to my mother and brothers, as if it takes time I should give to her. She’s come up with a list of physical ailments that she’s declared herself “disabled” - though she’s not disabled in the legal sense. Were I not here, she’d be able to take care of herself. But given her issues, she’s put it on me to basically do everything that she says she can’t -namely most of the household chores, laundry, etc due to her allergies. And her fatigue.

I work full time in a demanding professional job - my career. We live on my income. Saving for retirement now on my income. I have no time to myself outside of work because of her insistence that I basically am her chambermaid, maid, errand runner… She uses guilt to manipulate me.

Back to the original question - she is full of anger and frustration over her condition in life. I get that. But since I’m the only human being she interacts with on a daily basis, she takes it all out on me. And not little anger bursts with hugs and kisses later. Raw anger and rage - screaming sessions well into the night. And I’ve become resentful of her demands that I devote every spare minute to cleaning and taking care of her long needs list - I mean she won’t even drive out to a store to run her own errands. When I voice my frustration or get angry and lose my temper, she throws my religion in my face and points out what a hypocrite I am going to Church and “warming a pew” as she says. She thinks being Catholic means I should be like Jesus, especially when it comes to her. My duty in life - according to her - is to take care of her. I think it’s her perversion of the marriage vow - especially a sacramental Catholic marriage vow.

We’ve talked about divorce. One practical conclusion - we can’t afford it. I talked to the parish Priest - some good advise from him about making time for myself, my own prayer life (which I am working on) and the possibility that separation is an option if things didn’t improve. Which they haven’t. But the kicker - she says it’s all my fault - that I have changed over the years and she’s the same person she always was. She wants the good sweet man back that she married. She won’t admit she’s changed and things she does are fanning the flames.

So, yes, there are issues. So to kick it off, the question: how do I deal with a wife screaming in my face without sinning? I am not very good at it.

Had you tried marriage counseling, yet? If she won’t go, you might want to consider going by yourself in the meantime, because you probably need the emotional support.

hi Clear Water… yes I have been to counseling several times - by myself. Both secular counseling and priest. It infuriates her that I went to counseling. Her response to me (she has a psychology BS degree) is that counseling does not work. And she’s been to lots of counseling herself for depression issues. One of my counselors said it best: “if you are here for help in developing a thicker skin, I can’t help you” She won’t go to joint counseling needless to say. She says I need to change myself in my head. Seriously.

Dear henpecked
You already know you need some time to yourself just to “be”. If there is adoration at your parish, or one nearby, start going regularly–do it for yourself and for Jesus. Make it as important as going to work. I believe you will grow to love it and hopefully will feel the comfort that spending time with Jesus brings. This won’t “fix” it but it’s amazing how a one hour respite in the middle of the week can really help! You are in my prayers.

First off, I want to tell you that I’m praying for both you and your wife’s marriage. I think that it’s very important for you to take your priest’s advice in finding some time for yourself. Yes, I know your wife won’t like it, but you truly need to step back and decompress every now and then so you can stay sane in a situation like this. I also think it is key to remain calm when your wife is screaming at you. Let her know that you love her, but you refuse to be her verbal punching bag. Walk away if she continues to be abusive. Finally, you might want to consider scaling back on the things you are doing for her. It’s one thing to be compassionate and help someone, but if someone is relying on you for their daily existence, when it is evident that they will not help themselves, it becomes a deeper issue. It becomes even more of an issue when that person is using you as a crutch, instead of getting the professional help that they so desperately are in need of.

Walk out and go do something that you like. A long drive, read a book at a coffee shop, go to church, whatever… set some clear boundaries and when she crosses them disengage for a time until she calms down.

You are in a hard place because people seldom change (especially if they don’t think they have a problem). Take care of yourself first! It’s like when on a plane and they tell you to put the air mask on yourself first before helping others. Both of you rely on your income and your being functional. That need to be your first priority.

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. The only real advice I have to offer (besides praying for her, of course), is that you read the books “Boundaries” and “Boundaries in Marriage.” You can’t force her to change, but you may be able to change how you deal with this situation. You may have to draw some lines in the sand, and be prepared for it to go either way.

Some have disagreed with my approach, but here is what worked for me in a much less sever case…

Whenever she starts yelling at you, say nothing and walk out the door of your home. Take a walk. Go to the store…whatever. Give it a few minutes or an hour. Then come back.

If she starts again, you immediately turn around and walk out again. Say nothing; just go.

I only needed to walk out the door two times in my entire marriage to establish the yelling/screaming boundary. It may take a lot longer in your case. You may even need to stay overnight some times out of your home.

But you just keep repeating walking out when she yells at you. And the key - do not say a single word while she is spewing venom at you. Talk if and only if she is calm and respectful.

Good luck

actually, I do that. and she’s very good at what she does - she’s able to spin it as me infuriating her even more. And afterall - she says - something I did caused her to explode in the first place. I can appreciate people not having a support network of family and friends - literally not having anywhere to go. My family is long distance. And no close local friends for a couch to sleep on. Situation does make me empathic to other people’s plights.

I just wanted to back this up. This is REALLY good advice. Worked for me- made the irrational person in my life screaming at me to really understand that this was not acceptable behavior. It also makes the problem THEIRS, and not yours. No adult on the street would take such behavior towards them and when adults act this way there is a communication breakdown somewhere- either with the person themselves or within the relationship. Walking away stops the argument from escalating or you getting caught up in it. Walking away is your choice- and one you are most definitely allowed to take. You don’t have to be someone’s punching bag. Being a Christian does not mean you are anyone’s patsy to push around. … only God’s. ;):smiley: ( <I meant that last thing tongue in cheek, but doI hope that was ok to say!)

I do want to add though, when saying not a word and leaving, also do not display anything in your behavior either. Just go. When someone is screaming at another like that, I found they are really saying “don’t go”. Control is all they have to keep someone… how sad really! They need to realize that their behavior does exactly what they fear until they realize they need to approach in a better way if they have needs/hopes/desires. etc. Its important not to be cocky about it though -that is, when leaving… no door slamming, no throwing things around- be calm- no rubbing it in someone’s face. Leave* with* love, for love. Anything else and you may be cooperating with the agitation, making things worse. Make sure at other times, in little ways the person still knows they are loved. You never know when a person might take something harsh, or has been pushed too far, or take something too far and commit suicide- so do be kind. But this doesn’t mean you have to be their slave. Choose those things which you feel are necessary for you to do to fit the Lord’s definition of love.

I hope this helps. I’m so sorry for your situation. Have hope that some people do change, even after several years. Sometimes we have to give the Lord some good soil in order for Him to hit the person over the head with His grace to wake them up. I pray the Lord will give you new awakenings in your marriage and swift grace to help the both of you find happiness again.

You are absolutely right about being calm and treating her with love and respect in other moments. Thanks for bringing that up.

I wouldn’t stick around long enough to hear her excuses as to why she is behaving that way. Have to be very consistent with this - the first word the yelling starts, it’s out the door.

Maybe stay in a hotel occasionally if you absolutely need to? But I would think if you leave and come back enough times, even if it is well into the evening, she eventually has to rest.

The only caveat I’ll mention is if she is deeply mentally disturbed and you are afraid of physical harm. That situation would be well above my pay grade.

hi, good comment - actually good comments from everyone. That’s why I decided to try and participate here. Where it’s ok to bring God and religion into the equation. But to your point - actually she is insomniac and hardly ever sleeps :(. But occassionally she does burn herself out and shuts down. And I realize there are mental issues at play here but I am not afraid of physical harm. I know I/we need help of both human and Devine kind.

That sleep issue is bad, since insomnia can cause depression. Depression can cause insomnia. It’s too bad that can’t get under better control even with an over-the-counter sleep aid, possibly, in the meantime, but really, it’d be good to bring this all up for a doctor.

Sorry to hear she wouldn’t go to counseling. You just can’t do this all by yourself. A priest here in Mexico compared marriage to trying to lift a really heavy table, together. In some marriages, it’s as if one person is doing all the heavy lifting, and it doesn’t work that way.

I’m sorry I can’t really give many more ideas. I’m getting “tapped out”.

It’s just rough if she refuses to cooperate on any level.

I don’t know what your spiritual life is like, or your wife’s. Marriage is a Holy Sacrament, with it’s graces to help us to live a Christian life. It is a two way street. If there is no real inclusion of God in your marriage then you are both working at a real disadvantage. I don’t know if you realize that without God, Satan strives to destroy your marriage, and both of you. Another important point that people don’t realize is that one can not give what one does not have.the fruit of grace, love, peace and holiness in faith. When we demand what one can not give it causes frustration on both parties Anger is not love, it is related to hate. Life without love in marriage is hell on earth. People living just for themselves is so empty and unfulfilling. Your wife may be suffering from some mental problem as well. We can not enable one to continue a life that is not happy or right, having one’s way if it is wrong. I would say that you both need the grace of God to resolve your problems. The hardest test of true love is to accept the person who hurts you, demeans you, and ask God to give you spiritual strength to cope, and in the meantime pray for His intervention into your problems. Pray for her, and for yourself. You may sweat bullets for awhile. It takes two to argue, as suggested, you may have to walk away for awhile. When she throws a tantrum, let her talk to herself, don’t fall into the trap of being sucked into an argument. Arguments solve nothing. Still be kind in a Christina way not expecting kindness in return. You have a spiritual mountain to climb and so does she. Ask Christ to reach out to both of you, you are not fighting “flesh and blood…” There is no situation that God can not heal or resolve, but you must do it His way. His way is always to love, and it’s not always easy, but it has great rewards.

Some people handle screaming saying they won’t respond till the person calms down and stops hollaring.

Oh, very good advice above. When finally yelling has stopped and you have returned home, do do those basic household items. For example, wash dishes & prepare food for the next day etc. (Fatigue & allergies are real) Of course any screaming and you will have to leave mid-task.

Prepare the places you can go/things you need in advance before starting this; where you can walk, when is the church open, library hours, the reasonably priced hotel, clothes for the next days work etc.

Also prepare what prayer you will pray each time you must leave. Maybe the Hail Mary or maybe repeating “Jesus, help!” Or “Jesus, have mercy on us!” Practice mentally praying before the situation arises.

I also second the advice about doing “Holy Hour”. It will give you some much needed peace in your difficult situation…

Prayers & God bless you.

Why don’t you go to counseling, by yourself, whether it infuriates her or not?

I’m glad you brought this up. The priest that did our marriage prep was very blunt on this very topic. He pointed out that 50% of US marriages fail. He used his brother as an example and pointed out that God was missing in the marriage. I admit, as the supposed lifelong ‘devout’ Catholic, I should have brought that more strongly into the marriage and our home life. I’ve been lazy in that regard. Lesson to others - it’s hard to turn the ship after so many years. But my priest pointed out that ultimately I’m not responsible for her soul - it’s between her and God. But I need to be a good example and supportive, which is hard when she’s in an anger rage. Don’t know if any of you have dealt with rage people before, but it’s like they turn into someone else for that time. My pastor suggested I could invite him over for dinner and he’d give his opinion as to psychological vs other causes. I never took him up on that.

I should - and I’ve gotten enough from the counseling I have attended to know the basics - make time for myself, strengthen the prayer life (a lot), exercise to manage stress, and have good like minded Christian friends to do things with. Still working on these things.

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