A Classic Feedback Loop in Marriage for Many Unsatisfied Men

Flickr Creative Commons artist Jsome1

Flickr Creative Commons artist Jsome1

How does a man, who is a father and sole-provider, resent his wife after many years? Somehow he thinks it’s her fault that he bought into a role and abandoned himself and his needs. This justifies his “shut down” stance and perpetuates a classic feedback loop in the relationship where he is not emotionally or energetically available to his partner or kids. The loop goes like this:

His kids want more. His wife wants more. Life might even want more of him. He may start to feel overwhelmed or engulfed. He might check out, shut down, or pull away, which only increases his partner’s need and his kids’ needs (the loop). The wife and kids’ start to reach for him even more, until one day they give up and the relationship calcifies into complacency. The man successfully avoids more intimacy. Years go by and the wife pours her heart and intimacy needs into her children. Meanwhile the children lose respect for Dad and he has less and less authority over them. The couple stops having sex or barely relating. They become roommates that learn to get along with a mountain of resentments just under the surface. Yikes! Help!

To short-circuit this downward spiral and to not be this guy, the man must A) get the smackdown from a mid-life crisis, thus entering a massive personal growth journey, or B) learn to take better care of himself in relationship.

He must learn to get his own separateness needs met by setting skillful boundaries. He must think “me first.” Space, time to me. But not time to “check out” or avoid. Time to “check in.” To do this, he has to “want” to do it, rather than feel obligated to do it. (Sometimes the only thing that motivates him is his wife leaving him, a.k.a. mid-life crisis).

Next, he must be brave. The first thing he’ll have to face is his partner’s reaction to his boundaries, which is yet another opportunity to face his own discomfort. He’ll need to stop blaming her for his inability to take care of himself. At some point, he will begin to experience the benefits of getting to know himself and taking better care of himself in his intimate relationship.

He’ll slowly return to his wife and kids more resourced and ready for “more” connection.

A light bulb flickers on as he sees that “taking space” serves to create more connection and intimacy instead of less. Because he wants a different life, he is now motivated to be the change. He can examine more closely his fears of intimacy and why he’s so scared in relationship. Oxygen pours back in to the relationship as he fights for the one thing that has eluded him for so many years—love.

1 Comment

  • Jason

    Reply Reply May 31, 2013

    Great post, Jayson. It met me where I am with work & wife & kids & house on my mind.

    You have a gift for writing; I enjoy reading what you create.

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