Updated: Jan 3
In this article, as a counsellor I answer the challenges you face.
What do you do when you feel a prisoner in your own home...
Email from Beth
Since this lockdown started, my husband has changed. He flips back and forth between being the loving and caring man I knew, to a control freak and it scares the hell out of me.
For some reason, I can't seem to do anything right anymore. He criticises me for taking too long at the shops, he tells me I look drab and shouts at me when I don't cook our meals in the way he wants them. I'm finding him very unreasonable and can't understand him anymore.
I'm beginning to lose my mind.
The thing is, everytime I stand my ground and say I've had enough, I don't care about our relationship anymore and that I'm going to leave, he becomes as nice as pie to me. It's like he has a personality change - like when he used to drink a lot. Actually, I had heard he was a bully at work, but I didn't believe the stories because he was so nice to me at home. Now I see what they mean. It's like he's slowly eroding my confidence. When I say I'll stay, things go quiet for a while but then he slowly reverts back to 'owning' me again.
It's like he's trying to make me weak and he seems to be succeeding because I haven't got the energy to keep arguing all the time and I especially don't like him shouting at me. I wish he could just be 'normal', whatever normal is these days. He never used to be like this as he used to compliment me all the time, he made me feel wanted and he appreciated the things I did for him. Incidentally, we haven't shared anything in the bedroom since the lockdown began. Why? Because, firstly, I was scared of catching corona, but now it's because I don't feel attracted to him anymore.
Please can you help me?
Rather than urging couples to 'take a break' or to 'separate' and go down the path towards divorce, or blaming one partner for being a certain personality type and labelling them, I am an advocate for healing relationships and cementing them in a positive way.
I love to help couples find the complement in their contrasts
This is so that they can live the dream, go to the end and have the 'happy ever after'. And it is possible.
People who have been married for a good many years often begin to neglect the very things that brought them together. It quite often happens when the children have grown up and left home to fulfill their own destinies. This, inevitably, refocuses the attention back on the couples themselves - when is when they often find themselves lost in a sea of unchartered emotion.
Due to the worldwide restrictions in movement, Beth and her husband have found themselves thrown together for the first time in a long time. Sometimes this is a good thing, if it is planned. However, shocks like this can instill a kind of fear in our hearts. It's this fear that has us acting in ways that we would ordinarily just take in our stride.
When I read Beth's letter, I was struck by how confient she really is, but that she needs to recognise this herself. This confidence is the key to her husband's change of attitude towards her. She has acknowledged that when she is strong and:
decides what she wants and doesn't want
stands her own ground
clarifies her own boundaries
Her husband 'backs down' and is 'nice' to her.
And, until she was confined in the house with her husband 24/7, she didn't realise what her husband's attitude was really like and now realises that perhaps the accusations of bullying in the workplace could (possibly) have been true. Now they are sharing their lives 24/7, there's no outlet for his behaviour. All her husband's 'male energy' is being directed at the only person in the vicinity: Beth.
Unfortunately, this is a natural response to a most unnatural situation.
What I always teach people is that whatever situation you are dealing with, the strength to overcome it, needs to come from within you.
When Beth heard this, she began to learn that there was another way to communicate with her husband. All she needed to do was recognise the subtle differences and work with them.
When she felt as though her husband was 'controlling' her, I asked her to reframe the situation and to see his behaviour, instead, as his need to 'protect' her.
Have you noticed how men always seem to stick with women who are strong? That's because most men 'respond' to women. When he believes she has got herself together, she is confident, he can relax and go about his business of 'building his empire'. When a woman shows signs of weakness, and he is unable to 'fix' the issue, his feels helpless and, in turn, weak himself.
In Beth's case, it is clear that as soon as she stands up to her husband's 'controlling' behaviour, he backs down - and it doesn't take a shouting match to do it. It merely gives her husband the indication that she's strong enough and he doesn't need to worry.
When Beth completed the Emotional Needs form on my website, it showed me that she didn't feel a sense of:
security in her shared home space
intimacy with her husband
From these brief points, it seems that Beth needs to feel appreciated. She wants her husband to praise her. When she said he doesn't offer her compliments anymore so she doesn't feel able to give of herself anymore.
Beth has proved to be a good wife -
7/11 breathing technique. This is a quick and easy thing to do wherever you are and whatever place you are in. What you need to do is breathe in quickly (to the count of 7) and breathe out very slowly (to the count of 11 or more). As you do, push out your tummy when you breathe in and pull your tummy in when you breathe out. This fills up the lungs with fresh air, then clears any stale air out.
Create a safe space. Each family member needs to know they are safe. Beth's husband needs to know Beth can go somewhere to feel safe. Beth needs to know she is can build her confidence back up within her own time-frame and own way..
Beth booked a therapy session with me after which she thought it best to have relationship counselling, as soon as she felt she could talk to her husband about it. Beth found it difficult to talk about this with her husband, but we went through building her confidence so she could at least approach the subject with him.
Once a session was booked, I explained the way male/female communication works, both Beth and her husband found their 'confined' situation became a lot clearer and a lot easier.
If you're a woman who wants a stronger relationship with a man, you could also buy my book: Slippery Frog or Faithful Dog - which do you wanna kiss? It's a short book with some comical line drawings done by me personally!.
If you should need my help, simply fill in the form on the Contact page and I'll get in touch with you.
Kaye Bewley MA
PLEASE NOTE: Names, dates and places have been changed to protect the client.
Kaye is a freelance publisher, author and certified psychotherapist with over three decades of experience. She is also a writer for various blogs about writing, publishing, travelling and health care.
Feel free to visit her BewleyBooks.com site, where you can sign-up to follow her on her various social media platforms.