Marriage Problems

Why Men Feel Trapped

Every day, providers (husbands) can feel a strange tension between wanting to be depended on and feeling trapped by that responsibility. The vast majority of men who put in long hours do so not just because they want to get ahead, but because they believe, “there is no other option.” And they get frustrated when we don’t understand that—particularly when they feel we are the source of some of the pressure.

One very direct survey response made me wince. This man wished he could tell his wife, “I feel confused. You want me home more, yet you want a new house, nice things, substantial income, etc. Please understand the cartch-22 I am in. I feel like I am pushing two big rocks up a hill.”

So How Do Wives Respond?

Reconsider existing areas of conflict:
We must face the fact that our mate feels caught, with few options, on provider issues. And he probably also feels deeply misunderstood by us. Some women might suddenly realize the pressure they have inadvertently been putting on their husbands by coming home with shopping bags every day, while others may grasp just how painful it is for their husbands to earn less than they do. Others may understand “the stress of feeling that you are asking him to choose between one huge need (to provide financial security) and another (to show you he really does care about family time).”

Help relieve the pressure:
Many of us have faced difficult financial seasons, and obviously that’s hard for us as women too. It is easy to get nervous and blame our husband or pressure him to “do something.” But most men don’t need more pressure.
Instead, they need our steadfast belief that they will solve this problem and our steadfast offer to help them do what it takes to stay afloat. That may mean showing our willingness to bring in more income ourselves or expressing excitement about staying at the beach in the off-season instead of going on that romantic Caribbean vacation. (I say excitement rather than willingness because a man will internalize your disappointment as a personal failure to provide.)

Several men have told me that, most of all, the best thing their mate can do is to show that she realizes how tight things are by refusing to spend money unnecessarily. That, combined with our emotional support, does wonders for the man’s feeling that “we can get through this.”

Encourage and appreciate him:
One man gave a great summation of what a man needs most, whether a couple is “in plenty or in want.” “Thank him regularly for providing. He forgets quickly.”

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  • Maximus_Manimal

    I think you have a few interesting things to say, but I also think you’ve barely managed to scratch the surface of the topic. I am on the other side of the article you’ve posted here, a very frustrated father and husband who feels he cannot express his feelings openly without significant reprisal and putting the future of the marriage at risk. I have been bottling up issue after issue for years and have grown so emotionally distant that it now seems an unrealistic and daunting task to try to connect again.

    The times I try to reach out or comment on behavior that is bothersome are either met with complete apathy or a wall of emotion that shuts the entire conversation down.

    I feel trapped in this relationship with no positive way forward (a different article on this site “Why men feel trapped” is what brought me here, and likewise barely scratched the surface). I can honestly say, that if I had it to do over again I would never have gotten married (and would not have the two children I have now). We go through the daily grind with nothing to say to one another until bedtime.

    I could go on for pages, but no one wants to hear me rant. Suffice it to say that, if you’re interested, there is a wealth of material in this idea that remains unexplored.

    • BJ_Foster

      Just read this comment – a little late. Sorry to hear you are in this situation. It sounds really hard. I wouldn’t mind hearing more. Don’t lose hope. A couple of questions – Has bottling things up and growing emotionally distant put the marriage at less risk than expressing your feelings? Is there a different way to express your feelings that might be received better? Have you considered couples counseling?

  • Name

    So many things in this article ring true for me. I found this on the web as I was searching for something to justify how angry I felt rather than communicate this frustration to my husband.

    I know the key changing my marriage is letting him understand my needs but he is so defensive however careful I am about the language I use and the time I discuss it. We are trapped in a cycle where has learnt that if he opposes what I ask for strongly enough I will back down and let him have his way beacuse I love him.

    This behavior has built up a huge ball of resentment inside me whilst conditioning him to respond in a negative way to my requests rather than openly discussing them. Now I’ve reached a point where I’m no longer willing to keep surpressing my needs he seems unable to talk an issue through without being judgmental or critical.
    I still love him. I know he is unhappy and needs help to be the man I fell in love with again but it becomes harder to keep going every day. I also need his support and respect to be true to myself in return.
    Each time we have a rocky patch like this the emphasis is on the need for me to change. He won’t consider joint counselling and despite some steps forward things keep slipping back. I don’t want to loose him but at the same time I can’t get him to open up to me calmly.

    • Liza

      Name, thank you for opening up and sharing your story and experience. I truly sympathize with you and find your love for your husband inspiring. I can’t help but wonder what might happen if you ran to your husband in need of help. Perhaps you can frame up the conversation this way…”I want to be closer to you and relate to each other in a better way. I need your help. How can we fix this?” It is difficult to predict how a person will respond, especially when they assume confrontation. You can’t change him, but maybe you can frame the conversation in a way where he doesn’t feel indicted. Most importantly, I would just beg God to provide the words for you to speak and cause a heart change and ultimately bring your marriage to a good place. I will be praying for your conversations to come. Don’t lose hope.

  • Lila

    I think the first thing I would do is get on my knees (literally) and thank God for my spouse; their bad attitude, pride/selfishness, all of it. Then ask for forgiveness for my own shortcomings. I would ask Him to show me how He sees them, and to give me the heart and the words that will begin turning the ship in the right direction. Release your spouse and your marriage to Him, and give Him permission to do His work in them. I am lifting you both up in prayer.