Q&A with Geoff: I blew up at my wife and now we’re separatedJan 12, 2022
I’ve been with my spouse for two years now. In the beginning, we would have some meaningless arguments via text messages. We managed to settle them once we sat down in person and spoke. This past 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.
She 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 our 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 that point and why I’ve felt so much stress lately.
I wish I could talk to her, to tell her everything I’ve done within just a few days. I’m about to pick up the phone to call her, I’m afraid if it’s too soon. I need some advice. I don’t know what to do.
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 turn into the “hurry up guy” and rush this process.
You scared your wife to the point where she didn’t want you in the house. Now, I recognize I don’t know all 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 still a difference in the ways that women and men experience fear. It’s unfortunate, but most women spend much of their lives feeling more physically vulnerable in the world than men do.
Another sad reality is that 1 out of 4 women are sexually abused by the time they’re 18 years old. Girls grow up more physically 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).
However, most women live with this fear of physical harm as a constant possibility.
I recognize this probably sounds like some antiquated chauvinistic statement, but modern research still backs up this reality. There was a study conducted at UC Berkeley where they unexpectedly fired off a gunshot behind their volunteer subjects. The men reported feeling angry and wanted to get back at whoever 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 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 automatically 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 going to be 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 should 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. Your abusive behaviors not only involve physical actions but also a mindset that needs to change.
The best thing you can do is continue getting help and doing everything you can to understand how your actions impacted her safety and your child’s safety. This accountability will show up in your treatment of her. You will own your behaviors, be more patient and show more understanding. You will give her permission to take the time she needs.
You won’t be entitled to her reassurance about your future. Remember that reacting in anger was your quick fix to your frustration, so don’t keep looking for more quick fixes. This can’t be solved right now. You’re taking the appropriate steps, but she needs to see you can be in control. She needs to know you are trustworthy. She needs to know that you’ll do what you say.
The only way she can know this is through the passing of time and watching you become a more protective man.
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