Why Am I Impatient Only With My Nagging Wife?
QUESTION: About my nagging wife
Why is it that the only the person I am in a relationship with, (i.e. now my wife), irritates and upset me over small things (that I am normally very patient with people I don’t know very well)?
OUR RESPONSE ON CLARAPY:
Your question is a good one. Unfortunately, there are so many possibilities here, that without a dialogue with you, coming to a definite understanding about WHY you react to your wife the way you do is simply not possible. However, let me give you what I think are the two most common reasons for such reactions (you’ll have to decide which one, if any, fits for you). After that, I will try to give you some ideas on how to CHANGE your relationship and make it more positive. You see, unlike some in my field, I DO NOT believe that understanding WHY is always necessary to make the changes you desire. Hence, while I may or may not give you a clear understanding of WHY, I think I might be able to provide you with help on your relationship none the less.
Anyway…let’s get down to it.
Why do you react to your wife with impatience and irritability, when you do not do so with others?
Possibility #1: Unrealistic expectations for your spouse “nagging wife”.
Here the issue is that you have placed unrealistic expectations on how you feel your spouse should react to you, or handle difficulties, or meet her day-to-day obligations, etc. Such expectations are usually unspoken (sometimes not even conscious), but they are reflected in your feelings about how you think she SHOULD be. If we were to examine just one of the incidents in which you became “irritable and upset,” the question I would ask is “Why was what she did so awful or horrible to you?” More than likely your response would start with something like – “Because what she did was stupid, or wrong!…She SHOULD __________ !” (Here you can fill in the blank).
These “shoulds” are tied to particular relationship roles in our lives. Deep down, we all have some “shoulds” about how we think certain relationships (e.g., mothers, fathers, friends, spouses, children) ought to be. Strangely enough, though, we often only have these “shoulds” for one or perhaps two kinds of relationships in our lives. The others we are more accepting of and less demanding. Usually these “shoulds” become activated (we expect them) when the relationships they’re attached to are believed to be solidified (when you consciously come to the understanding that this person in your life has now taken on a particular role for you). Since you appear to be married, it would seem to me that your “should-ing” on your wife would have FIRST APPEARED relatively early in your relationship, possibly during your engagement or soon after your marriage. Once she became your “wife,” then a whole set of “preprogrammed” expectations clicked into play and Viola!! – She has now become a source of frustration to you.
However, you may be thinking – “But wait…after we got married, we had several GOOD months where she didn’t really seem to bother me. This has only happened recently! In the beginning of our marriage, things were fine!” If this is the case, then either (a) for the first few months you were also facing OTHER huge stressors in your life which totally preoccupied you, and kept you from focusing on her, or (b) we have the 2nd possibility….
Possibility #2: Relationship Meltdown due to Intense Stress.
Displacement is a word that mental health experts use to define the phenomenon of someone who is so stressed with “person/situation A,” but cannot fully express or control it, so they express their frustration on “person B,” who had nothing to do with it. This is a very common thing for all of us. We face the pressures of the workplace or finances, come home frustrated and angry, and then “spill out” that frustration and anger on those we love. Why not wait to give it to others? Because they are simply not as easily accessible. Ask yourself this question: “Have I been under extreme pressure for the past several weeks (or perhaps months)?” “Is it just possible that I have let this stress-pressure effect my patience and consideration for my spouse?”
Consider whether or not you have been able to TALK to your spouse about your pressures. If that seems weird to you, consider some other outlet for your frustration. Often men “vent” their anger not by talking, but by tinkering (such as working in the garage, lawn, or home-improvement project). The other method is mental focus on physical activity, either actual (playing a sport), or vicarious (watching a sport). Perhaps if your “nagging wife” was to just give you some down-time when you come home from work where you can release some of your stress, without trying to interact with her, you may find yourself in a better frame of mind to treat her more appropriately. Perhaps you could ask her nicely.
Now I don’t know for sure if either of these possibilities fits (perhaps both of them do, perhaps neither do). In any case, regardless of the reason, there are some things you can do to change this state of affairs. Let’s explore this….
Overcoming Impatience With Others
Have there been times when you didn’t allow the “small things” to get to you? In those moments, what did you do differently that kept you from feeling irritated and upset? What ever that was, try doing it again! Chances are, you had a different way of thinking about the situation. You experienced those moments with a “this is not such a big deal” kind of attitude. Anger is often a function of us making “mountains out of molehills.” Learning not to sweat the little things is very, very important for relationships to endure. Remember this point: YOU control your level of anger and irritation – NOT THE SITUATION. IT is simply a matter of how YOU CHOOSE TO LOOK AT IT and THINK ABOUT IT. When your wife does something equivalent to the “small things,” you may choose to look at it with irony (in this case you will smile), or look at it with gratitude that she made the effort in spite of the flub (in this case you will feel thankful), or look at it with fear about what negatively may come of it (in this case you will worry and feel anxious), or look at it with concern that YOU may not have explained clearly to her what you wanted (in this case you will feel a desire to explain yourself more clearly). Any of these feelings are possible – GIVEN THE SAME SITUATION. The difference lies not in your wife or in the situation, but in WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO THINK.
Remember this sequence: Situation – Thoughts – Feelings. It is the “automatic” thoughts that you are engaging in that are leading to your feelings of irritation. Try this exercise: Pick the most recent experience where this occurred with your wife. Ask yourself: “What was I thinking when I felt that way?” Then ask yourself: “What could I have thought INSTEAD, that would have made me feel less irritated…perhaps even different?” Consider these possibilities:
“I am inconvenienced by this, but that’s OK.”
“At least she tried, many would not.”
“I do not need to have everything go my way. I would like it. But I know that expecting that it SHOULD is simply irrational.”
“I wonder why she did it that way? I want to find out! I’ll ask her kindly.”
Perhaps you can think of other possibilities. Now the next time you find yourself feeling irritated and upset at your nagging wife, STOP and THINK. Try to replace your thoughts with one of the possibilities listed above (or one that you have created). You may find it hard at first to shift your thinking. After all, it is automatic in nature but you can practice with each experience, replacing your irritation-producing thoughts with thoughts that lead to kindness, consideration, communication, and gratitude. It may take some time, but you can make it happen.
In addition, take some time to go on a real “Date” with your spouse. Make any problems between the two of you off limits during the date. Talk about others, your friends, work… whatever…but enjoy yourself. Take some time to think and talk about what things were like when you started dating each other. Recall your feelings, how you got her attention (or vice-versa), and what you enjoyed about each other. Recalling such memories will help you find more caring and consideration for your spouse.
You are the master of your destiny and “nagging wife”.
I hope this has helped you in some way. If you want more relationship advice from a mans perspective check out relationship advice for men category. Check out our marriage problems section for more.