Guiltless Conscience

In my first marriage, I was a terrible husband. I have stated that in numerous entries. I have carried around a lot of guilt for how I mishandled myself back then. I should have acted more maturely, but I didn’t. Luckily, I learned from my mistakes in the past and have tried my best to make each relationship after that time as successful as I could. Yes, there were mistakes I made in all of them, but nothing huge. I worked diligently to make each relationship successful. However, for one reason or another, each one ended in a breakup. Now, I am on the verge of yet another. My wife told me today, three days before I leave for America, that she won’t go to counseling with me.

She said it out of spite because I had accused her that she never does anything I want to do. We spoke via Skype, and she began talking about yet another job posting that she thought I should apply for. The job is in Taipei, and it is for someone to proofread a technical manual that had been translated from English to Portuguese. For some reason, possibly because I learned Portuguese as a missionary in Brazil, Shu Mei thought I would be qualified for the job. I tried to explain to her that I haven’t spoken that language for over 23 years, and even then I had a limited vocabulary. I certainly wasn’t knowledgeable enough to correct Portuguese grammar in a technical manual, and I’m even less so now. Unfortunately, when Shu Mei gets something in her mind, there is no backing down for her. She tried to make me feel bad, by saying that I was just too scared to apply for the job. She has sent me job postings in the past, ones that I was also entirely unqualified for, and she feels that I am just not trying hard enough to upgrade myself in my financial status.

I tried yet again to explain to her that I was not qualified for the job, so I feel it would be a waste of time to even apply for it. I tried to make an analogy that she would understand. I asked her if she could correct an English manual of the same nature. She said that her English wasn’t good enough to do that. I said, “Well, my Portuguese is even worse than your English.” It didn’t work. She missed the point entirely and continued to try and make me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough to get a better job. For Shu Mei, the only way for me to get more money is to get a better job. My plan, to make a computer-based English training program and market it throughout Asia, is utterly crazy to her. She has it in her mind that the best thing for me to do is get a better job, probably one in Taipei.

First and foremost, that isn’t the plan I have. Second, it would put me away from my sons for five (5) days at a time. Third, I don’t want to work for another big corporation, like the one I was with when I worked for the airlines. I enjoy having the freedom to conduct my job tasks as I see fit. I don’t aspire to have another corporate job where I have managers over me that monitor everything I do, managers that have less knowledge about my job I do.

Because she got so frustrated, Shu Mei ended up hanging up on me. It was just after I got frustrated that she wasn’t respecting my position. I said to her, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t have to do it just because you want me to. I mean, I have done almost everything that you’ve wanted me to do, but you have done nothing that I want you to do. So, don’t feel bad because I am not going to apply for that job. Just compare what I have done for you with what you have done for me.” She said, “I have done nothing for you!? Fine, I’m not going to counseling then.” I replied, “Well, I hope that you’re not going to counseling because I want you to go. I hope you’re doing it because you feel it is the right thing to do for us. I mean, I want you to go because you want to go, not because I want you to go.” Then, she disconnected.

This is the third time she has prematurely disconnected a conversation we have had on Skype since she’s been in America. She gets frustrated every time I disagree with her. Luckily for her, it is rare that I disagree. I know she will get frustrated, so I choose to go along with whatever she wants, most of the time, to avoid problems. I call this “throwing myself into the relationship.” There is very little I wouldn’t do to make my marriage work. I do not want another divorce. I do not want Billy and Tyley to have to go through what Cameron did. It is to that end that I am doing everything I possibly can to make my marriage successful. But, that doesn’t include being on a leash for Shu Mei to lead me around wherever she chooses. To me, that is not a marriage.

Communication is vital for our relationship to be successful. Sadly, Shu Mei is not a good communicator. That concerns me, as I don’t know how we’ll ever work through our problems unless I know what she is feeling. She projects herself on me by saying that I am not communicating with her, but that is extremely laughable. To prove that to you, the reader, I tallied up the email messages Shu Mei has sent me since she’s been in America and compared them to the email messages I have sent her during the same time frame. The differences are staggering.

First of all, Shu Mei has sent me a total of only ten (10) messages, five (5) of which were just links to job postings. On the other hand, I have sent her a total of twenty-seven (27) messages. I must admit that two of those were also just links to random job postings. I did that as an attempt to show her that she was as qualified for those random job postings as I was for the ones she was sending me, not in the least qualified. Now, that’s a five-to-one difference. However, when I ran our messages through a word count application, the difference was enormous! Shu Mei’s messages had a word count total of just one hundred and thirty-five (135) words. Mine had a total of a whopping eight thousand three hundred and ninety-nine (8,399) words! Now, who is communicating and who is not? Once again, there is “the pudding.”

I don’t know what will happen when I get to America if Shu Mei will end up going to counseling with me. But, I hope that if she does, she does it to try and make our marriage work out. I am tired of her making a bad situation worse. When we have these disagreements, they don’t need to be end-all happenings. I mean, people disagree. It’s normal. Shu Mei cannot understand that concept, though. To her, there should be no disagreements in our marriage. And that, my dear reader, isn’t possible. Well, it isn’t possible and have a successful marriage. The two don’t go hand-in-hand, slavery and love. I’ll only hope for the best and see what happens.


  1. Hey Brad =) I was on the phone with my mother, Janet, tonight and she mentioned Kay’s upcoming 50th birthday. During the course of the conversation she mentioned that you would be around and she suggested I drop by your blog. I haven’t read it all but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far. I don’t spend as much time on it lately, but I’ve enjoyed connecting with people on my blog. There is something cathartic about sharing your personal ramblings with the world. It is especially nice to find something you’ve said has impacted someone else.

    I found your post about your marriage really interesting. Christie and I have been married for 12 years and we’ve had our share of conflicts. Our rare negative interactions seemed insignificant to me – having occasional arguments are just what married people do… or so it seemed to me. But while I was in Iraq it became apparent to both of us that what was normal marital interactions were actually very dysfunctional and had eaten a hole in our marriage. It was a scary time for both of us. Divorce, a word that had never crossed our lips our even our minds suddenly became a looming and very real possibility. We knew something was terribly wrong but neither one of us could really name it. Because we didn’t know what was wrong, we couldn’t make it right. Had we not figured it out our marriage may not have survived. It scares me to even think about that time. It was probably the most soul-wrenching experience of my life.

    Luckily we stumbled across this marriage builders website that probably saved our marriage. The guy who wrote the site is a very successful author and marriage counselor name Willard Harley. His approach is different than most authors’ on the topic that I’m familiar with. His philosophy goes counter to a lot of popular concepts about marriage and even against people’s instincts when it comes to marriage. Some of the things he suggests seem very counter to how we would approach certain situations. But they work.

    For example, if you don’t mind, I could try to apply his approach to your situation. Issue number one that you identified is that you don’t feel your wife is a good communicator. She hardly writes you at all. Her lack of communication probably sends you a negative message like, “If she cared about me she would write more.” This message could be very destructive to your relationship over time. Your empty inbox, especially after a long, personal letter to her from you is really going to eat at you. I’m assuming you feel this way. Maybe you don’t. But if you did it would be totally understandable.

    Traditional marriage counselors would say, ‘Well, your wife just doesn’t like to talk or write about personal things. This is the way she is. You need to be happy and accept who she is.” Yet, if you have an emotional need for meaningful communication, that need goes unmet and you go unfulfilled. Kinda like saying, “Well, we have no food in the house. That’s just the way things are. You’re going to have to get used to being hungry.” Not very satisfying. Worse, the ‘hunger’ you feel for that kind of connection with your spouse leaves you extremely vulnerable to having that need met by someone else with potentially disastrous results.

    Harley would say that since you have a deep emotional need for communication, you wife needs to understand how to meet it and to then meet it – well and often. It will be difficult for her as it is not in her nature but she can learn and should learn to do it. Doing so must be pleasant and enjoyable for her but she can actually change her behavior when it comes to communication.

    The next topic you bring up is your job. Harley says that spouses should never do anything without the enthusiastic agreement of the other. This would include everything. Sounds tedious and the ideal probably is, but on major decisions, like employment, children, family, hobbies/pastimes etc it is very achievable. Instead of badgering each other on issues like your job you would both instead describe your position and what you would like to happen then brainstorm until you come up with a solution that would meet both of your needs in the area.

    I said two issues but there is another. You are both engaging in what Harley calls LoveBusters (yes he has all these catchy phrases but they aren’t as dumb as they sound when you read his stuff.) Specifically you are failing to be Open and Honest when you ‘go along’ with your wife just to avoid her reaction and she is engaging in Disrespectful Judgement when she criticizes you lack of enthusiasm for a particular job prospect. These may feel like normal interactions that all married couples have – and they are. This is why more marriage fail than succeed.

    Check out Harley’s site. He has tons of info for free. Click on the Basic Concepts link at the top and start from there. His books are worth the money.

    Hope you don’t mind me intruding but this is a topic that I think and talk a lot about since my and Christie near death experience in Iraq. Better if you can fix your problems before some big crisis.

  2. Talk about a belated response to a comment! Sorry, but I neglected to reply to this comment earlier. I happened upon it again, while cleaning up some spam comments. So, I figure that it’s better late than never! I just wanted to say that I did follow the referenced link and actually acquired a 3-part DVD series of theirs. It actually spawned some contention between my wife and me when we saw the first one.

    Dr. Harley began the video, which was a taping of one of this seminars, by listing the reasons someone knows that they are in love. My wife and I felt that we didn’t have even one of those reasons. I could see that Dr. Harley was heading toward a discussion of how to achieve those qualities in a relationship, so I was interested in listening further. My wife, on the other hand, became very depressed and refused to continue viewing the video.

    Several months later, we finally got through one of the videos together. We have as yet not watched the other two. We are currently at a standstill. I continue to hope that she will agree to family therapy. It is a daily struggle to keep a positive attitude, though.

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