Relationship Connection: I blew up at my wife, she’s afraid; now we’re separated

Question

I’ve been with my spouse for two years now. In our beginning, we would have some meaningless arguments via text messages. We managed to settle them once we sat down in person and spoke. Recently this week, after who knows how long since a fight, we had two back-to-back in-person heated fights.

I got emotional and lost my temper during the second fight. My wife told me to leave the house. After begging her to let me stay, to calm down and for us to talk, I finally left. I took it upon myself to find a support group to help me stay in control of my emotions so that if we ever fight, I can stay calm so it never escalates. I don’t want to be an abusive husband and I never want to get to a point where I lay a hand on her or her baby.

I’m now in a support group, have a therapist and have also done some reading and reflection on my actions. I’m trying to understand why it got to this point and why I’ve felt so much stress lately.

I wish I could talk to my wife, to tell her everything I’ve done within just a few days. But every time I’m about to pick up the phone to call her, I’m afraid it’s too soon. I need some advice; I don’t know what to do.

Answer

I’m glad you’re taking personal accountability for your behavior. This is the first and most important step after making any mistake. A support group, therapy and reading are all going to help you become the kind of man you want to be. Remember one thing, though: Don’t rush this process.

You scared your wife to the point that she didn’t want you in the house. Now, I recognize I know nothing of the details. I don’t know what was said, how you behaved or how she behaved. So, I’m going to answer your question based on the assumption that whatever you did was threatening enough to warrant a separation.

Even though we live in a modern world where women and men are empowered to direct their lives, there is a still a difference in the ways that women and men experience fear. It’s unfortunate, but most women spend much of their lives in this world feeling more physically vulnerable than men do.

Another sad reality is that one 1 in 4 women are sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old. Girls grow up more vulnerable than boys, which doesn’t automatically disappear after they reach adulthood.

Most men have never been afraid for their physical safety (unless they’ve been in combat or through a traumatic life-threatening experience).

Most women live with this fear of physical harm as a constant possibility.

I recognize these ideas probably sound antiquated and chauvinistic but modern research still backs up this reality. There was a study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, in which they unexpectedly fired off a gunshot behind their volunteer subjects. The men reported feeling angry and wanted to get back at the person who shot the gun. The women, however, simply felt afraid. They felt fear.

Most men don’t recognize that when they raise their voice at a woman it can invoke a fear in her – a fear that doesn’t happen to him when she raises her voice at him. Yes, he may feel stressed when she raises her voice at him, but he doesn’t feel afraid for his physical safety. Most women feel physically afraid. This is a biological reality.

Women are smaller, have less muscle mass and aren’t built for physically dominating another person. Men who don’t understand and respect this difference aren’t safe around women.

You’ve scared your wife. She doesn’t feel safe with you. You’re doing things to repair your mistake. However, your anxiety and energy around proving that you’re safe may backfire on you.

If you come to her with intensity, frustration and expectations that she feel safe with you now that you’re getting professional help, she’ll likely feel pressured and pushed to move ahead before she feels comfortable.

The best thing you can do is continue getting help and doing everything you can do to understand how your actions affected her sense of her own and her child’s safety. Your accountability will show up in how you treat her. You will be more patient, understanding, and compassionate. You will give her permission to take the time she needs. You won’t be entitled.

Anger was a quick fix to your frustration, so you don’t want to keep looking for quick fixes.

Your wife needs to know you are trustworthy. She needs to know that you’ll do what you say. And the only way she can know this is through the passing of time and watching you become a more protective man.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • ladybugavenger February 17, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Not enough info here to evaluate the situation. But that’s not gonna stop me. If you went to get help obviously you’re the problem. Just sayin’ ’cause you can’t change her and if you weren’t the problem you’d be okay and count your lossEs. Perhaps, she’s the problem?

  • anybody home February 17, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Mister, you are not fixed. You are not well. You are looking to get back with your wife right away but that’s not going to happen, nor should it. I was with someone who behaved just the way you describe your behavior. I gave him more than one chance to set things right, but every time it ended in another frightening explosion. I’m now several hundred miles away, happy in a new life. I applaud your efforts and hope that perhaps next time you meet a woman you care about, you’ll behave better. I don’t hold any hope for you with the woman here. And frankly, I think it would just happen again. Something about her set you off and it will another time, too. Move on and let her move on as well. I’m curious – you mention not hurting her or “her baby.” Is this your baby, too, or someone else’s?

  • .... February 17, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    You should of married of a Mormon girl because they have no say about anything

  • 42214 February 18, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Geoff’s stories is like watching Jerry Springer. Staged and boring.

  • .... February 21, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Yep

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