Yesterday I ended with “If you are easily or often offended, that is not about the people around you, it is about you. Deal with it.” I know some of you were thinking, “Tell that to my wife!”
For what it’s worth, my bride links to that post in her Generous Wife post for today. I pray God will use that to wake up a few women. However, what if your wife is like this and just keeps doing it? Odds are telling her that it is about her and she needs to deal with it will not get you anything but her being offended. Yes, she should listen and apply, but if she will not what then?
The next avenue of dealing with this is figuring out why she chooses to be offended. The good news is it almost certainly is not about you, or at least did not start with you. The bad news is that means you cannot fix what you did to cause it, because you did not cause it. You can and should look for places where you have make it worse and deal with those, but that will not stop the behaviour.
As I said yesterday, we tend to think that being offended makes us right, or powerful, or entitled. If your wife has ever felt powerless (and that is more common for women than for men), she may have started using being offended as a way to deal with that lack of power. If she has a poor self-image, her wanting something may not seem to her to be enough of a reason to get what she wants, but if she is offended, things might be given to her to appease her. Usually this kind of thing traces back to her family of origin, but it can come from school, a past intimate relationship, or it might have started with you.
Trying to stop this behaviour is a two-step process. First, you have to do your best to avoid legitimate “offences”. One possible result of living with someone who looks for things at which to be offended is that you stop caring. You know she will find something to be offended about, so you just do whatever and see her regular taking offence as a part of life. This can mean you are doing things you should not, things that would upset her even if she were a reasonable person. Even if she goes out of her way to find things and turn them into offences, on some level she knows what is unreasonable. If she has an occasional “justified” reason, she will focus on that and ignore all the places where her being upset is unreasonable. Removing the things she has cause to be upset about removes her cover, and may force her to face the truth.
The second part of dealing with this is to decide you will no longer be blackmailed. Do what is right, be fair, but do not do things for her just because she is upset. Do not allow her manufactured offence, and the anger that goes with it, to cause you to do or not do anything. Of course, this is going to be badly received. She has learned that being offended gets her what she wants, and if you stop playing that game, she will be very upset. She will escalate, thinking greater anger (or withdrawal) will force you back into playing the game. If you give in, you reinforce the idea that she can get what she wants by being offended, and any future attempts to stop her behaviour will be far more difficult. Hold out! Do not give in – not even when she plays the no sex card. Be as loving and reasonable as you can, even as she becomes less loving and reasonable. Teach her that this game can no longer get her what she wants, and eventually she will back off. The habit is still there, so it may continue off and on, but if she knows it will not work it is no longer worth her time and energy.
When there is a break, you need to help her form a new pattern. Teach her that asking for what she wants is the best way to get what she wants. Teach her that when she is reasonable, she benefits. Teach her that you care about her, and her needs, and will try to give her what she needs and wants because you love her, not because she makes your life miserable.
Image Credit: © David Castillo Dominici | freedigitalphotos.net