I hate my husband.
The response to these four little (or big) words has been huge. This means there are a lot of women out there who are hating their hubbies. (I am sure the guys are feeling some bad vibes too … If Dateline is any indication).
First, let me say that it is normal for many people to go through periods of extreme tension in their marriages/partnerships. Hate is a strong word, and some couples never get to that point. However, extreme anger is part of the human condition. We do tend to show not only our best parts but also our darkest parts to those we are paired up with, especially if we are with them over a long period of time.
Here are some examples of really “hatey couples” in history and in more recent pop culture:
1. Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.
3. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger
4. Newt Gingrich and ex-wife Jackie
5. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in The War of the Roses.
These are all good instances of how bad things can get. Especially for that Anne Boleyn girl who lost her head to her hatey husband, Henry. Can anyone say narcissist?
Why is that? Why do people get so mad that there are literally millions of people typing this “hate” word into Google right now?
After 20+ years of couples counseling and listening to my friends talk about their partnerships, here are six of the most popular reasons couples start getting really pissed:
1. Lack of shared priorities
One person wants to spend time together connecting, talking and sharing activities like hiking or going to concerts. Meanwhile, the other person just wants them around to be there while they live their life by themselves. Maybe they love to read, go out with their friends only, or do other self-only activities like play crossword puzzles. This can feel incredibly rejecting and frustrating to the other partner.
2. Undiagnosed issues like Adult ADD
Few people are more frustrated than the spouses I have met whose partners have undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This means their spouse can appear extremely smart and hyper-focused at times, but then they can be thoughtless, forgetful, have trouble completing tasks, and screw up a lot. Their inattention and procrastination can feel frustrating and infuriating because it can seem passive-aggressive or intentional. Except that adult ADD is a mental condition that highly impacts one’s ability to function. People with this diagnosis appear to be fine, especially if they are super smart, so it is often undiagnosed.
I like the book Driven To Distraction as it explains this issue thoroughly and addresses issues for spouses of those with ADD.
3. Money troubles
Money has tremendous power. Therefore, it will have tremendous power in your relationship. I have seen a lot of couples where one person gets the other person into trouble financially. For example, they stop paying the mortgage, or they rack up credit card bills without the other person knowing. If your partner has “issues” with money, you need to be wise about what is shared and what isn’t.
Try to be creative in your partnership and set up your finances in a way that accurately reflects your individual strengths. Spread the power around so not one person has all of it. I have a girlfriend who has been happily married for years. She is the breadwinner, pays the mortgage and all of the bills. She says she keeps all her money separate though because, “What if he runs off with someone? No way is he taking my hard-earned cash!” It happens. My friend told me her brother’s wife just cleared out their accounts, let the house drop and ran off. He’s starting over financially. Men and women alike are going through difficulties.
4. Lying and deceitful behavior
Bad. Bad. Bad. Once a partner lies or deceives, this is incredibly damaging to the relationship. Interestingly, the person who lies has difficulty comprehending why it is so arduous to get the trust back after its been lost. They stand there saying, “Haven’t I shown you I am trustworthy over the past week?”
Often in the couples counseling that I do, I see one partner’s expectations for trusting again to be inaccurate. It is usually way too soon for them to expect their partner to trust them again. Consistent truth over and over, plus time, are the only things that will engender trusting feelings again from a spouse or partner—but sometimes that isn’t enough either. If there is an undiagnosed addiction like alcohol or sex, this issue will come up again and again.
5. Inaccurate division of labor
This is particularly a big issue in parenting. Exhausted people who are tired of doing too much can quickly start a spreadsheet in their heads about what is fair and who isn’t holding up his or her end of the deal. Next comes anger and resentment. Help each other out.
6. Sex imbalance
Speaking of spreadsheets? Did any of you hear about the guy who did the spreadsheet on his wife’s sexual overture refusals?
His wife apparently turned him down so often for sex that he kept a record of when and the reasons she gave. Then he put it on the internet. Funny for the reader but a horrible thing to do if you want any type of marital resurrection in the bedroom. Good luck with that turn- on approach!
The reality is that I often meet couples that are imbalanced in one way or another with sex. One wants it every week, the other could wait a month. Another could be happy with every day while the spouse is an “I am too tired” kinda person. This inequality could be for all kinds of reasons: hormonal issues, resentment or just unequal sexual desire levels. This can be quite difficult and physiologically frustrating for a couple when one of them isn’t getting their carnal/sensual needs met.
More Learning To Be Done
There is often some big learning to be done in resolving your relationship issues with each other if you are feeling all hatey. In addition, if you have a partner who isn’t willing to resolve these issues with you, there is still great learning to be done within yourself and with your life. Be compassionate with yourself while you work through this difficult stuff. Share some of your experiences and some of the learning you may have done.
Your experience can help others: Do you have a festering resentment with your spouse? What are you frustrated about? Did anything work to resolve this issue?
About the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook pageand/or subscribing for updates. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.
Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. For more information or to arrange a speaking engagement or small group, contact Cherilynn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stop Giving It Away the book will be published Spring 2015.