Sex and The City: Wife's rebellious nature causing strain on marriage

My wife has a lot of baggage of her past, especially her relationship with her father and her ex-boyfriends. This has transferred onto me, where she thinks I am trying to control her even if I make the gentlest of suggestion out of concern. I am very nurturing towards her, yet she rebels without a cause. But, she would comply and conform to her critical and controlling father as well as her controlling ex-boyfriends. I am hurt and feel she is living out her childhood with me. Relating with her is stressfull and I don’t feel sexually aroused with a petulant child. I wanted a mature woman and not a rebellious kid for a wife. What should I do?

The only way to get rid of the baggage is to stop carrying so many bags! Even an airline penalises you for bringing extra weight into the flight. We are often cornered by several unpalatable, unfair and unkind circumstances. What we take from these bitter experiences is a function of how we see these experiences. Do we see these experiences as experiences that limit our ‘joy’ or as experiences that show us ‘sorrow’ so that we can learn to value and respect ‘joy’? Our personal view and opinion of the world is merely a small and limited facet of how a situation can be seen.

A changed mindset can become the changing point for other things. Your wife would stand to gain a great deal from learning to let go of her past. However, this is easier said than done and may require her to visit a qualified psychotherapist, who can help give her some perspective and tools of self-healing. It’s quite possible that there is a fundamental attribution error at play here where the premise ‘all men are bad and are trying to make life hard for me’ may be getting played in her mind in a loop. This is what you are perhaps up against currently. This is, no doubt, difficult for you. However, if your wife is willing to look at these patterns as archaic and damaging to the relationship that you'll share, the work of therapy may very well begin there. It is important for her to see her rebellious streak.

For all we know, she may be thinking she is being extremely honest and assertive whereby she may be coming off as petulant, hostile, jumpy and defensive. If she was criticised and controlled by men in her past, she would stand to benefit from learning how to be assertive, which usually begins with learning to say ‘no’ without guilt. Sometimes saying ‘no’ isn't enough and new battle armour must be forged. It is common in many cultures for men to subjugate women to patriarchal constructs that establish men as ‘leaders’ and women as ‘followers’. These may sound old-fashioned to people living in urban environments, but you’ll be surprised at how many people and cultures still believe in ‘reining in their women towards a life of compliance’ and ‘whipping their sons into productive labour’.

These archaic ideas may involve asking women to ‘adjust’ to the whims of men or follow ‘directives’ set by men. Despite a change in zeitgeist, many people seldom update their beliefs on gender-equality. The unwritten rules for men and women are written differently and this can feel quite insulting for women. Maybe your wife has spent a long time in her life feeling slighted, ignored or bullied in and into situations.

This may have led her down a path of rebellion as the only sure-fire way to try and maybe erect some boundaries — in light of her unmet and unfulfilled expectations from herself. What if all your wife has ever wanted was to be acknowledged and respected? It’s important for us to be able to understand her needs. The intimacy between you two will improve once the communication improves.

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