I am in a tumultuous marriage. I have been on the spiritual path for over two decades. I have cultivated my sense of inner peace, and I have many tools to help myself stay centered. What I don’t seem to have is a way to relate harmoniously with my wife. Well, some days I do but then things change in an instant. My wife goes from loving me to hating me. It seems there is no amount of compassion I can offer her when she is in that state. She just despises me and has venomous anger. In my opinion, she does not have the inner resources to move these feelings and beliefs. Truly, I feel stuck in these moments. My current strategy is to love her and withdraw.
Please let me know if you have advice you can offer me.
Dear Feeling Stuck,
Essentially, you are asking if there is a way for you to influence or control your wife’s behavior. You want your wife to stop despising you and behaving in an angry manner toward you. The truth is: you cannot control her feelings or her behavior. If she changes, the change will come from within her. Paradoxically, she is more likely to change – on her own – if you accept her as she is. Perhaps you can build upon your current strategy of loving her by communicating acceptance. You might reflect back to her, “You really hate me right now,” or, “You want me to be different than I am,” or, “You are very unhappy.” These statements meet her experience without expressing a desire for her to change; she is likely to feel seen and heard, which all of us want from our partners. You might then go further by asking her genuine questions about her concerns from a place of curiosity within yourself. This style of relating to her can be the beginning of authentic conversation that unlocks dead end communication patterns that aren’t working for the two of you.
I imagine that at times you react, internally and/or verbally, to her attacks. As is true of all difficult situations, these problems with your wife are tailor-made to reflect back to you the stuck places inside yourself. You are being invited to pursue your spiritual path to an even deeper level by investigating and releasing your emotional patterns that have not yet been fully explored. When you find yourself focusing on your wife’s challenging behavior, you might instead, and more fruitfully, turn your attention to the beliefs you hold that are feeding your reactions. You are likely to find that there are ways you are resisting reality that are disturbing your sense of inner peace. No matter what happens, then, you will have used the experience to free yourself and be more fully alive. I admire your courage and offer you my full support.
My response to your concerns provides a starting point. You might feel the need to seek the services of a professional to help you integrate these suggestions.