I found this letter from Dear Prudence via Pharyngula and hoo boy, is it ever trainwreckulous. Before we get into this, a massive head’s up: there is some abusive behavior discussed in this post. If you find that disturbing, you may not want to proceed any further. But if you’re okay with this, keep reading.
Three months ago, my wife and I had a calm disagreement over whether we should start a family. A few nights later, I replayed the conversation in my mind and got extremely angry about it. I went into the bathroom, flushed her birth control pills down the toilet, left the empty case on the counter, and then went back to bed. When I woke up in the morning, I was ashamed of myself, but I knew she had already seen what I’d done. She never confronted me about it but has displayed strange behavior since then. She is unusually quiet and acts withdrawn. Her body language has changed, and although we still have sex regularly, it is different than it was before. In addition, she is constantly taking phone calls in private and leaving the house on superfluous errands. I realize I made a mistake, but I don’t think it’s fair that she continues to punish me for it by avoiding me. I want to ask my wife for us both to give up our smartphones and share one car so we can work on our communication. I don’t want to fall into the same trap of doing something rash and then regretting it later. How can I talk to my wife calmly about her behavior?
Wow. Excuse me, but I need to go make a quick call. Be right back.
Or to put it another way:
There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s get to it, shall we?
To recap: You threw away your wife’s birth control, and now you want to rebuild trust by telling her to give up access to her phone and her car. “Sorry I violated your trust and autonomy, but I think it would help if you gave up more of your trust and autonomy” is not the marriage-saving solution you think it is. What you need right now is accountability, not increased control over your wife’s conversations and movements. Be honest with your friends, your relatives, and a therapist right away: “My wife and I talked about having children recently, and when the conversation didn’t go my way, I threw away her birth control pills and left the empty case where she could see it. I did this on purpose to frighten and intimidate her into giving me what I wanted. This was controlling, abusive, and wrong, and I need help holding myself accountable.”
You also need to apologize to your wife, not in order to extract forgiveness and renewed trust from her but because it’s the right thing to do. Then you need to back up that apology with action. Do not ask her to give up her phone and her car, don’t listen in on her conversations, and don’t try to stop her when she leaves the house. She has a right to privacy, to safety, and to make her own decisions about birth control, and no amount of “calmness” can mitigate the fact that you deliberately violated those rights. Take responsibility for your behavior. And although that may not save your marriage, it’s the first step toward building a life where you don’t harm the people closest to you.
Okay, this isn’t terrible advice, but I don’t think it’s great, either. It’s certainly more forgiving than what I would say but this entire scenario is also dependant upon a few crucial factors:
A) That this marriage is worth saving,
B) that the husband is willing to change
C) that the wife is willing to forgive on her own terms and not under coercion from said husband.
If both parties mutually agree to these terms, then yes, this could work.
Yes, I know: the above picture is a Photoshop. But it’s still ridiculously funny and I will never not use it. Because we could use some humor here. Now, on with the rest of the post.
Wow. Seriously. WOW.
I have read some absolute dumpster fires of advice columns but this takes every last crumb of the seriously fucked up cake. Holy hell, where do I even begin here?!
First off, you meddled with your wife’s medication. Not. Fucking. Cool. Now, it sounds like she’s using it for contraceptive purposes, but women do use birth control for other reasons, like regulating extremely bad or debilitating monthly cycles. To put it another way, if you were on high blood pressure meds and your wife decided to go naturopath and dumped your pills down the toilet, you’d be upset. For good reason. Remember, you’re not her doctor. You do not get to decide that she’s stopping a medication simply because you’re in a snit. You need to realize that.
Second of all, this wasn’t a rash decision. How do I know? You left the evidence of what you had done in plain sight. When your wife got up the next morning, she saw clear evidence of what you thought of her opinion and you made damn sure that she saw it. Don’t try to hide behind “I did this in anger” because leaving the empty case for her to find says otherwise.
You knew exactly what you were doing. You’re only upset about it now because you have to live with the fallout. Again, not fucking cool.
But the biggest thing here is the fact that it’s been three months and you haven’t apologized to your wife. Not once. Not one single “I’m sorry”. Yet you feel it’s unfair how she’s treating YOU?! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!
I am going to be completely honest with you: what your wife is doing isn’t punishing you. She’s mentally checked out of the relationship. All of those phone calls and errands? She’s planning her escape. The fact that she acts differently while you have sex? She might have said yes but she didn’t actually consent. She’s letting you get your rocks off because she’s seen what happens if you get pissy. But trust me, she doesn’t want you anywhere near her, let alone putting your hands on her. She’s going to leave you, dude and I don’t blame her in the least.
I will level with you here: things do not look good. If you really want a shot at reconciliation, you need to sit down with your wife and say, “I seriously fucked up. I take full responsibility for my actions and I apologise. I will never do anything like this again. Is there anything I can do to salvage our relationship?”
Notice the wording. I said “salvage”. I did not say “save”. Because I’m thinking you’ve done other horrible things but this one was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But I digress.
Once you’ve said this, you need to shut your damn mouth and listen to what your wife says, no matter what it may be. You need to remember that your wife doesn’t owe you forgiveness, let alone a relationship, so if she says that nothing can be done, it’s over, respect that and pack your bags. Or if your wife says that she wants a separation from you, book a hotel room and don’t say anything. But you need to start respecting her feelings and opinions, or the next time you have a conversation with your wife, it’ll be with a divorce lawyer as you decide who gets what.