Maybe She’s Cheating . . . With Her Job (book review included)

cecil says:
on October 17th, 2007 at 8:28 am –my wife does not want any touching or kissing, and . . . she has a whole new set of slang she talks, she goes no where with the kids and i ,not even ballgames. she never wants to talk to me and is always angry. at home she dresses like a wreck but come work time she looks like miss america. can you tell me could she be cheating with someone at her work?

Dear Cecil,

Most likely, she is cheating on you–but with her work itself rather than someone at her work. What I mean by that is, from what you’ve told me, she’s fallen into the trap so many working mothers fall into: giving 100% to their careers–and giving the left overs (often close to nada) to her family.

The saddest part of this situation? The women themselves are usually as unhappy about this as their husbands and children on some level. They’ve just bought into the lie that they can have it all, and worse, that they must have it all to be whole, healthy, secure, well adjusted human beings.

So they give their all to the job they (usually or have come to) hate then come home and take their frustrations out on the family they love and really would love to give more of themselves to, but don’t have anything left (and to be fair, men fall into similar traps as well.)

And somehow it’s all your fault–if only you helped out more around the house, I would have more time for the kids, and wouldn’t be too tired at bedtime. Statements to this effect are something these ladies are likely to say to their husbands, for instance.

It’s easy for resentment to build up. You need to find time have an honest, loving but open discussion about how her focus on her career at the expense of your marriage and the kids is hurting you personally and your family. Listen to what she has to say, really listen, and share honestly your own feelings and needs, but try to get both of your focuses off your own self and onto what’s best for each other, your marriage, and your family. Use I-language, “I feel” rather than “You never . . . ”

Now, in these situations, it *is* possible for work relationships to cross the line, especially if she has a male coworker her job has her spending vast amounts of time with. I would try to share this fear with her, but make sure to do it in a non-threatening, non-condemnatory manner. You love her, and it’s natural and normal to be jealous of her time and affection. Even God Himself feels jealousy when we give what is rightfully his to another. Just make sure the love is what gets communicated, not possessiveness, selfishness, etc. But most likely, it’s exhaustion and stress, not another guy, disrupting your love life.

If she dismisses your emotions, as women have a bad habit of, try to point out what she’s doing and how she would react if you did the same to her. But if you get slammed with a wall of defensiveness and the wicked double standard so many women have, I would suggest bringing in a mediator-such as your pastor, an older married couple in the Church with experience at building healthy marriage, or a professional marriage counselor.

I’d also recommend she read Dr. Laura’s Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. The good doctor tends to put a tad too much of the responsiblity on women–men are simpler than women, but not simpletons. Healthy men are likewise easier to please and lower maintenance than women tend to be, but you’re not mindless animals driven by instinct alone as one might wrongly conclude from Dr. Laura’s book, though I don’t think that’s a conscious thought she had.

But for the woman wanting a better marriage, the book is an excellent resource–my one caveat: the lady’s Jewish, and the OT law (Tanach) allows divorce, so you have to understand that perspective is there even though she obviously knows her audience–as well as that most of us don’t take the NT law on divorce too seriously, or at least that we have some traditions of our own, such as permitting spouses of alcoholics and abusers to divorce, or more to the point, remarry, when this latter isn’t biblical.

But as I was saying, the Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, for all it’s flaws, is still an excellent resource for women who want to better understand their husband’s basic needs, and who wants to change her marriage for the better, by giving her practical advice on steps she can take to not only take better care of you, but to get her own needs addressed as well. In that regards, it’s a very empowering book for women. But I can see how husbands could benefit from reading it as well. Better understanding yourself never hurt and I think there’s more a need for the “Proper Care and Feeding of Wives” than Dr. Laura would think. Change might come easier if it begins with the woman in general, she’s almost certainly right there. But that’s not helpful in situations where it’s the husband who’s most willing to change.

My advice? Treat her like she looks like Mrs. America rather than a “wreck” as you put it. it. At least once a month, send the kids to trusted friends or family for the weekend, and romance her like you did when you were dating. And try to do this before that serious talk at all possible, or at least send the kids on a sleep over and eliminate as many stressors as you can. Give her a “night off,” get the chores and any other distractions taken care of, and wash her feet if she’ll allow it (ask her to trust you–most normal, sane women will absolutely love such pampering if they give it half a chance.)

And offer her opportunities to destress–let her share the inevitable frustrations she’s having at work without offering any advice or commentary unless she specifically requests it. Most women are more interested in venting than solutions. If there’s any potential for confusion, ask if she’s wanting your advice or just venting. I realize this is a tough one for a lot of guys–but it’ll really mean a lot to her. I know your drive to help, but sometimes, the help we need/want is just to have you listening.