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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  • Andrea

    thank you for this great reminder. marriage is joyful. marriage is hard. marriage is challenging. marriage is a gift. marriage is complicated. marriage is LOVE. we don’t get a “how to do marriage well” book to study prior to our marriage.
    I Praise God for your uplifting message today
    A. Sisler

  • Jodi B

    Thank you! I am struggling right now. The idea that it is winter is incredibly helpful. Thank you! Thank you!

  • Mary Lu

    Thank you for reminding me that winter is as important as the other three seasons. There must be sunshine and rain to make a rainbow…

  • Laura

    I love the analogy here. best explanation I’ve heard. I think we are actually in the spring and fall right now. … much better than the winter we’ve been through though!

  • Liz Lacy

    We are in the Fall of transitions. Sending kids off to college and other kids changing schools, cross country practices, home work and our own jobs. It is hard to find time for each other, but we try even if it is little snippets here and there. We try to have a “wrap up” at the end of the day, even if it is a couple of minutes because we are tired.

  • Barbara Vega

    great article. Thanks

  • nitrocat

    Now flip the tables because everything that is in this article is how he is with me. I am the one that would be in that situation. I get compared to his exwife, I get old that I am lazy fat and I’m loving not compassionate. I could go on and on. I’d a marriage worth trying to save when all you get is bullied, browbeaten, undeminded, and just flat out verbally and men t ally abused? I have prayed about it so much but nothing has changed it has only gotten worse. The name calling I get and the name calling of my children that I have to hear. I don’t think that tha think his is a healthy one at all. And yes counseling has been suggested but he says no because he doesn’t have a problem and he won’t let me play tha think his he victim.