Open the door to a heart that you’ve hurt

I was flipping through the radio stations today while I was in the car…and I heard a song I’ve never heard before. I stayed on the station for the rest of the song, because the lyrics caught my attention:

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Being in the “troubled marriage” business, means that I work with couples who are experiencing pain in their relationship. Too often, I hear the frustration of women who have become increasingly unhappy in their relationship…and they cajole, encourage, and generally work hard to get his attention.


They hang in there, waiting for him to catch on, to see how desperately unhappy she is.


Then, one day, months after the decision is made internally, she announces that she’s done. She’s burnt out working on this marriage alone, and she’s given up. She starts to pack her bags.

He panics. He calls me.

He’s desperate to fix it. He really is. He loves her, wants it to work, has always wanted to make it work. He just didn’t know. He didn’t hear her. He really didn’t. And now…well now he gets it. But it’s too late. He tries to figure out how to fix it…but his efforts are months too late.

My ability to work in these situations is limited. It takes two hands to clap. Without something to work with, we’re doomed before we start.

Problem is, I feel for the guy. He’s not malicious, he’s not a jerk. He’s a guy who hears his wife be upset about his husbanding. He has sensed her dissastisfaction, and has tried to please her in ways he knows how, in ways he can manage. Often it’s “stuff”–“I’ll provide for her well”. “Stuff” doesn’t make for a rich marriage.

He starts to spend time where he feels he is appreciated, where he feels competent–at work, with the guys, coaching. He’s good at that so “why not play to your strengths?”. Why hang around at home when he sense the cloud of disappointment around him? He withdraws from her farther–not because he doesn’t want to be with her, but because he can’t tolerate the complaints and criticism…they hurt too much.

And so the distance increases–not deliberately, but by the ugly pattern of wife pursuing, husband withdrawing (occasionally it is the other way around).

If your partner was on this website and sat you down to look at this video, read the above carefully. It’s a lot harder than it might appear to work at this…as a marriage counsellor, I’ve worked with enough withdrawers to recognize the difficulties and to respect the person behind the challenges. But don’t make the call once your partner is several months past “enough”.

If your partner is showing you the below video, take her seriously. Agree to attend the appointment she’s asking you to attend with her. Open the door to the heart that you’ve hurt.

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