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Wife withdrawn and resentful

Community Member

Hi, my wife and I are married since 20 years. The marriage was good for 15 years, except her constant silent treatment when we have a conflict. I asked her several times to stop that, use communication but without any success. In general I am the more patient, giving, mellow person, more of a people pleaser.

3 years ago we had a peak of her silent treatment and I started to research. It started with silent treatment and ended with narcissism. Unfortunately I have to say that she shows some covert narcissistic traits.

Since that time I changed quite a bit. I ignored her silent treatment, I started to implement boundaries, looked more after myself and stopped to panic when she was in a bad mood, etc.

2 years ago she found out that I researched narcissim quite extensively but kept quite.

1 year ago she told me and was very sad about it. She felt betrayaled and is since that time quite withdrawn and resentful.

I already apologized and explained the background of it but it seems there is something brocken between us. Some days are OK but every small issue, difference, different opinion, wrong word, wrong tone, etc. and she swithes into victim mode and is withdrawn again.

Any ideas?

28 Replies 28

Hi Duesentrieb

I want to pick up therising’s point about depression. Depression can present in subtle ways and in many cases the depressed person doesn’t realise their depressed. This is especially true if the depression is insidious in it’s onset.

Moving away from depression, your wife strikes me as a person who is unhappy and probably resentful. Some spouses who aren’t happy in a marriage but don’t want to end it, can shift the blame and responsibility to their partner and silent treatment is often the expression of that blame.

If a spouse can’t bring themselves to end a marriage (cultural, religious, family or fear of the unknown), but are nevertheless unhappy in the marriage, they will often use passive aggressive behaviour to force the other spouse to end the marriage. I have seen this happen.

That way they can save some face. I tried hard to save my marriage but he just wasn’t prepared to put in the work. It’s sad, but it’s probably for the best in the long run.

I agree with your counsellor. Call her out on her behaviour and watch her reaction. If she explodes, you may have to end the marriage.

Hi, first a big thank you to all of you.

Depression? Of course I am not a doctor but it is possible. Since 12 months she has a few minor health issues which have seemingly no real cause. Allergy, skin issues painful back due to tense shoulder/back muscles. When I can give it a date I would say the 'depression' started maybe 1-2 years ago.

But now the big BUT… if I would mention it, she would call my crazy. And by herself she would never go to a doctor.

BTW that is and was for her always an issue. She does not go to any checkup. She almost died because of a food poisoning. And she has a mole on her shoulder and our GP recommended to remove it and send it for examination. I had so many arguments with her about it. She is not doing it.

The silent treatment doesn't bother me anymore. I let her sulk and do my thing. But it is so destructive as the original issue never gets solved and what really worries me she still feels that she is right. I know that she is reading a lot too nowerdays. I am certain that she knows by now that it is a passive agressive form of abuse.

For me it is not possible to shower her with love, anymore. I did that in the past and it only got worse. Today, I am normal. I ask if she wants to talk, or if she needs something but that's it.
But since I ignore it the silent treatment got less frequent.

I believe she is still very angry about the fact that I was reading about all these topics like narcissism, toxic behaviour, etc.

@Betternow… I had the same idea. Maybe she wants to end it but don't want to loose face. Her religion (muslim), background (Malay) does not really support the idea that the woman is initiating a seperation. Plus she is very cautious what other people may think and she would look better in front of our son if I go.

It just crossed my mind. Years ago we had a huge fight when she suggested to buy an investment property in our neighborhood. I spend quite some time to look at the pros and cons and came to the conclusion that it makes no sense for us. She was furious as her colleagues (all uni professors in finance) highly recommended that. Basically she accused me to be too stupid (just an electronics engineer) and I am not a risk taker.

Because I was in love I looked into alternatives not in our area, but she wasn't interested. A few weeks later I listen to the radio and heard a joke… the moderator team (female & male) was joking about an investment property. She wanted to get an investment property near their house and he was wondering why… she replied… if we would separate I kick out the tennant, have a house and the kids can walk from your house to my house, not much of a hassle, school stays the same, neighbors stay the same, friends stay the same, shopping stays the same and the distance is just ideal.. Maybe I am sensitive but at that time it crossed my mind for the first time that she maybe has an agenda and therefore this drama..

I really do not know. My sister assumes an affair but I can rule that out except for a purely emotional affair…

When I remember back, silent treatment and not openly talking about what makes her angry is an issue since the very beginning. There was not one date when she was punctual. Slight self-centerness and exploytive behaviour was obvious since year 4 I would say. But at that time she was into me, looked after me, etc. so I never saw the little red flags. Since around 7 years this stopped.

What happened at that time? We had a lot of problems at this time. Just bought our house, got cheated by our financial adviser and almost lost the house and we were broke. I lost my job and my mother passed away very surprisingly. All that happend within 6 months. Shortly after that her affection, attention, etc. towards me got lesser and lesser. Maybe it started before. I am not totally sure.

I remember at that time I did a lot for her. Writing applications with key selection criteria in the evenings when she was watching TV or was sleeping. Maybe I thought such a favour would make her more affectionate towards me , etc. but the relationship just stalled. There was a time she would constantly nag at me…

But at the same time her job situation became more serious too.

Hope that helps.. thanks again

Hi Duesentrieb

I just have to say you sound like a truly amazing, incredibly tolerant, deeply caring inspirational person who deserves better than the careless actions/behaviour you are facing. In all honesty, I don't believe I could have tolerated what you have, for so long.

Even in my days of depression, I was never so ungrateful, degrading and self serving. I took every action I could think of to try and make a difference for my husband and kids, so they wouldn't have to face my depression with a sense of hopelessness. From managing through trying to talk things out through to that potentially soul destroying quest for the right anti depressant, I always felt I owed those around me a better life. I never excused myself from trying to make a difference.

I'm wondering if the following inspirational words have ever come to mind for you, or something like it 'You gotta get your sh** together and stop tolerating all this behaviour'. There are even times where I feel inspired by not just these words but also 'It's time to take your filter off and just call that person out on their behaviour'. Calling someone out might sound a little like 'You're being thoroughly degrading and thoughtless. You need to grow up and develop a few strategies for constructive self expression'.

I'm wondering what you feel you have to lose by regularly calling your wife out on her behaviour. The reason I ask this question is based on having asked it of myself, in my own marriage. I've dealt with a lot of unreasonable behaviour over the years (I'm no angel myself by the way) but one day the words came to mind 'What do you have to lose by being yourself?' By freely and regularly expressing myself and potentially triggering my husband to agitation or sulking, I believed I would eventually lose my marriage, certain comforts in my life I'd come to enjoy, financial ease and a full time partner in raising our children. What came to mind next was what completely changed my attitude. The inspirational words, 'Are you prepared to lose these things in order to regain your self?' The short answer: 'Yes'. It's so hard to live a life where we're not being our natural self. When we can't be our natural self, for fear of upsetting someone (through words that must be said), for fear of ridicule (over who we enjoy being) or for fear of being degraded (to the point of feeling worthless) this can feel soul destroying.

Finding your natural self, without fear, is a truly fascinating journey.


Hi, last thing.

The last few days she is less resentful and more relaxed which is good. Maybe it is because she is currently struggling with her health a bit. I really do not know.

When I hug her, she returns it but it feels like I get hugged by my aunt, some female friends or anybody else. Everything relationship feels flat and dull. There are no deep conversations, it is all more the practical stuff.

If I would tell her she would say I just imagine that or she feels critcised and would say it is because of my shortcomings. When I ask her about these shortcomings I will get no real answers. She will say I would be mean, belittle her, be snappy, etc. but she hardly can give me an example or the example is 12 months old.

I asked her some time ago if she still loves me. She told me of course, do you think I would do all these things (cooking, household, etc.) when I wouldn't love you?

Maybe after 20 years of relationship things become just practical and less romantic.

Ok, time to get up. All of you have a great day...

Thank you so much for your words. I really needed that.

Yes, I have to admit that is not the first time that I hear that about me. I know that I am a conflict-avoidant, codependent, nice guy, people pleaser and I am not happy about that.

Today I believe that I spoiled her too much and enabled her bad behaviour. I would have done anything for her. I understand as well that this kind of partner (me) is not easy to handle. Even though I am patient, nice, etc. this type of personality has its downsides, too.

I guess she got used to the good sides and the advantages that come with it, big time. There are plenty of examples that show that her behaviour is/was unreasonable.

Since roughly one year this dynamic changes. I started to ignore her silent treatment (until then her biggest weapon), ignore her sarcastic comments, etc. I even put together a few things in my mind how to react if I would be faced with her (miss) behaviour again. I am at a point if she would threaten me to move out, I would ignore that too. Maybe some of you will say where is your fighting spirit, but I am just tired of all that BS.

I guess that change creates a lot of stress for her. Due to that, she behaves just strange, health issues, etc. and the longer I think about it, she has a problem. When I drive the car she is the most scared passenger I know and I really do not drive risky. At home, she is very jumpy and when I move towards her too fast she acts as I want to hit her or have beaten her up in the past. Before someone asks, never happened and will never happen.

It hurts to see her suffering but I can't sacrifice myself. But I am certain that she is not willing to accept that I possibly change, definitely not.

Currently, she is quite clever. She sticks to her routine, minimizes contact and she makes sure she is not acting out, showing attitude, etc. There is nothing to call her out on, at this moment.

I really like your reply (I will read it again and again) and as mentioned above I still have a long way ahead to find myself. The current situation doesn't make it easier.

Once she met my work colleagues at our Christmas party and she didn't like any of them. Then I realised that all of them are quite dominant, very testosterone-driven, etc.... BTW, all are nice guys...

Thanks again...

Reading carefully again through all your posts (especially the last two), I remain convinced that your wife is harbouring resentment towards you. Long held resentment is the worst poison for a marriage. Long term resentment leads to disrespect, passive/aggresive behaviour and a general disdain for the other partner.

It could be that your wife is disappointed in what she sees as past behaviour on your part. It can be as simple as something as the refusal to buy the investment property. Your story about the radio chat using investment property as escape accommodation was interesting. Nothing in this world surprises me anymore.

I also have to support therising comments on constructive self expression.

A person can easily lose their independence and self confidence in a marriage. This is not uncommon. It's called co dependence. It usually occurs when one person loves the other person more than the love returned. The spouse who has developed unhealthy co dependent behaviours relies too heavily on their partners emotional attitude as the basis for their own happiness. If the spouse is happy, the co dependent partner is happy. If the spouse is gloomy and sullen, the co dependent spouse becomes sad and retreats hoping their spouse's mood won't last too long.

These situations will continue for many years until either one of two things happen. The co dependent spouse realises they have lost their sense of self and learns strategies to regain their power. Alternatively, one of the spouses initiates a separation. You write that your wife has improved her behaviour recently. That is good but it also carries a risk for you. You become so pleased at her improvement that you rejoice and think everything is fine and then if she reverts to previous behaviours, you're back here posting on this forum. Again this push away and pull together back and forth is common in co dependency.

Again, I agree with your therapist. Have a date in your mind that is your final point of no return. Call your wife out when she behaves poorly. Stand tall and show her the new you. If she kicks and screams, you have your answer.

Thank you again for your replies.

The radio thing was really strange. Normally I don't listen to that station and then I couldn't believe it. It immediately reminded me at our fight, then I thought it is just coincidence. But then I realized that she was only interested in a property in our area and that made me wonder.. I mean there are thousands of investment opportunities and/or properties. But i think I will never find out.

I can see her pain and struggle and it hurts me. On the other hand I know if I change back to that codependent husband I am going under and even though, there will be no guarantee that things will get better on her side.

Yes, she keeps her grunges for a very very long time. 6 months ago I said that I am not particular about food. She felt immediately attacked as she is the one that cooks. Fair enough. For the next 6 months she gave me every single day a sarcastic comment because of that. It just stopped recently.
Just want to clarify that this was a total neutral comment as I am the easiest eater in the family. My son is a picky eater, my wife not so much but it must be satisfying and I eat simply everything just to survive.
Why does she not say… look when you say something like that it hurts my feelings, especially when I am the one that cooks. It sounds like you do not appreciate my food. Point taken, I will apologize for it and make sure that I won't say something like that in the future. I talked to her about that as an alternative strategy to express herself and that inthat way she does not need to hold grudges.

I just worry so much about my son and how that will turn out. He is a mummy's boy and he would see that I am the one leaving. And she would use that somehow against me.

It is so strange. A friend of hers just went through a seperation were the husband left. My wife was quite shocked about it as he is a very quite guy. When it comes to us no reaction or change, especially when considering that we are walking on thin ice.

I think before she is going to do one step, one compromise, etc. towards me she will let go the relationship. Currently I can't imagine that she will make that effort. For her that would be a sign of weakness or a confession that she is possibly part of the problem.

I think I know what to do... I guess I stick to the plan of my therapist and get prepared. To set a date is so difficult with the situation.

Thanks again... you helped me a lot.

Hi, thanks again for all your replies.

I am still in my finding process but I am certain that I don't want to live like that forever...