Accommodation

Accommodation for too many wives has become the norm. I sometimes wonder if the biblical concept of submission gets twisted into and applied as accommodation. The idea being that in order to be a ‘good wife’ I have to accommodate my husband and his needs. Which, in theory, doesn’t sound all that bad. If there is reciprocity in fact it could make for a really sweet relationship! But what ends up happening is that the accommodation becomes license to live dysfunctionally.

It shows up in so many ways. Accommodating by having sex when there’s no real intimacy, by acquiescing to irresponsible trips or purchases that hurt the household finances, by overlooking emotional abuse because there’s no physical scars. It also happens around the kids. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from women in their 50’s and 60’s whose husbands were so tangled up in the barbed wire of their own ego, that the wives ended up basically single-parenting and making excuses for why dad wasn’t present or engaged. They were willing to sacrifice on behalf of the kids, which is amazing, but along the way ended up giving him license to shelf his responsibility to his family.

Taking it a step further, it happens on a micro level in my office. I’ll see wives who’ve become so desensitized to it that they take care of making the appointments, they supply a pen and paper for him to take notes and they remind him that he has homework. It’s painful to watch.

Now don’t confuse accommodation with codependency. I’m not talking about wives finding some identity in this. Although that may happen, I’m simply speaking to the unhealthy and dysfunctional pattern of doing life that too easily becomes the norm.

If you can see that your wife has grown accustomed to accommodating, I urge you to take a stand against it. Be the one to call attention to it and go out of your way to ensure she doesn’t have to. She’ll probably thank you in the long run.

Disappointment

 

There’s an interesting, confusing dynamic that happens for some men and their wives in the recovery process. It’s about disappointment. Specifically, when the past comes back up; when a wife is triggered, or when something on tv or radio or at church reminds us of how badly we’ve hurt the person we love the most on the planet. We feel disappointed with ourselves for causing our wives’ to feel disappointed in us.

It’s actually an empathic response, but it has a threshold where we can’t handle it anymore.  Many guys, when they hit that wall, will shut down. They’ll sulk and mope, and sometimes even move into a space that looks victim-like. It’ll become a pity-party of one. Others, once at critical mass with the disappointment, will get angry and defensive. This can feel like punishment to an already hurting wife. And for those men, it’s like they are so in the “bad box” (thanks to Bob for that word picture) to be present with anymore of it feels like torture. Their shame has piled up and they can’t see straight, much less actually feel meaningful empathy.

What we want to shoot for is expressing the empathy in a tender and gentle way. To let our wives know that we hurt for them feeling disappointed, not just for ourselves feeling like a disappointment. It can’t be a patronizing, “aww I’m sorry you stubbed your toe” kind of communication either. It has to be connected to the heart. Say what surrounds it. Try to put to words what you wish your wife could know. A client recently said to his wife in one of these moments:

I hurt that you hurt. I hate that you hurt. I hate that I’m the cause of your hurt, because you don’t deserve it. It’s cruel and unfair. You shouldn’t have to endure this.

And he meant it. You could see it in his eyes, hear it in his words, feel it in your bones. Even as the words came out of his mouth you could tell he desperately wanted her to believe it.

She didn’t. But he still needed to feel it and communicate it. For his sake. And because one day she will.