The Withholding Husband
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 16, 2012
Abey, fifty, always felt inadequate in her family of four brothers. She is the youngest, and although she is an attorney, happy in her career, financially successful, she feels that compared to her investment banker brothers, she is the “poor relation.” Not surprisingly, she marries a man who never tells her she is pretty, smart or successful. Also, not surprisingly she feels she is “missing something” from her relationships. Abey suffers from underappreciating herself and thereby cultivating relationships in which ultimately she feels taken for granted. When Abey came to realize this dynamic, she was married for thirty years and taken aback by her tolerance for such little appreciation. This understanding led to some relief and some despair. “Do you know what it is like to be married to a man who has never told me I am pretty?” She asks, not wanting an answer, but wanting an appreciation for her deprivation. “I guess you recreated a relationship which was all too familiar for you,” I say, expressing compassion, understanding and sorrow. “Yes, but now what am I supposed to do?” She asks, this time expecting an answer. “Maybe you should begin by appreciating yourself?” I say, pointing to the fundamental problem that Abey has no sense of her own achievements and her own beauty. “I don’t know how to do that,” she says with tears. “I know. That is a big first step.” I say, helping her begin to tackle this larger issue of self-admiration, thereby changing the focus away from her husband and on to herself.