When you are struggling in your marriage, it is perfectly natural to want to analyze everything that your spouse is saying. After all, you know that you are on shaky ground, but you just don't know how bad things are or how bad things are going to get. So, you listen carefully to your spouse and you pick apart any phrase that he might say for clues as to his meaning.

For example, you might hear a wife say: "for the past several months, I have noticed that my husband has been treating me differently. He is just not nearly as considerate or as interested in what I have to say or in what I do. The other day, he completely forgot about something that was very important to me in my career. The event came and went and my husband didn't even ask me how it turned out even though I'd been talking about the event for months. When I called my husband on this and told him how badly it hurt me that my own husband didn't care to ask about something so important to me, my husband then sighed deeply and replied: 'I just can't love you in the way that you want me too. You expect too much. You are so needy that you are like a bottomless pit. I can not responsible for your happiness.' I was so stunned by this. And honestly, I have no idea what he means by this. He loves me but not in the way that I deem appropriate? I worry that this means that he is going to leave or divorce me because of a lack of love. What does he mean by this?"

Any guess that I take here is only a guess. Only the husband might have known what he meant by this, and even he might be a little fuzzy on it since it was said in the heat of the moment and likely in frustration. I can give you some possible meanings and see if any of them strike a chord with you and then offer some suggestions as to how you might handle this.

He May Mean That He Feels That Your Standards Are Impossibly High: I have to tell you something that I hope you won't find too discouraging. Men sometimes fall short of remembering those little details that we ourselves would never ever forget. That is one major difference between men and women.

It's possible that your husband forgetting the event was very innocent and unintentional. Perhaps he had his own heavy load at his own job and it completely and innocently slipped his mind. So when you let him know how much he let you down, then he was just naturally defensive. And it was his natural inclination to attempt to get you to back up. One way to do that is to try to disarm you by telling you that you expect too much and that your expectations of his demonstrations of love are just too high for you to be satisfied.

Notice His Wording: His saying that he doesn't love you in the way that you want him to is carefully worded. Notice that he didn't say that he didn't love you. Instead, his words focused on your expectations and your wishes. His whole intention might have been to get you to lower your expectations a little bit so he doesn't feel like a bad husband.

He Could Be Preparing You For Something Else: I hesitate to even bring this up because I don't think that it is the case here, but sometimes when spouses start saying things like this, they are beginning to check out of your marriage and they are communicating the same thing to you. This is why I don't think that you should ever ignore a comment like this. (Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. You can read that story by clicking here.)

How To Respond: Frankly, you know your husband better than anyone else, so you might know the appropriate response better than I might. But I would suggest a comment like: "well, I certainly don't get to choose how you express your love to me. I know that you love me. And I never intended for this to cause a rift between us. It's just that this was very important to me and it hurts me that you didn't even ask about it. Because it makes me feel like you don't notice or don't care. I am not saying that my feelings are the reality and I am not making accusations. I am just saying that this is how the situation makes me feel. I will try to be more careful about how I bring things like this up so that it doesn't sound like an accusation. But I'd ask that you try to notice what is important to me so that I don't feel like my problems are mine alone. That's all. Because to me, marriage is about a partnership where two people have one another's backs. I do not expect you to be my only confidant and to handle my problems because that is my job. I would just like it if you would ask about my experiences a little more."

See if this can deflect the problem. If you still notice him making comments about your marriage or either of your demonstrations of love, then it may go well beyond the career issue, and then it is time to dig much more deeply.

It's very important to follow up on this.  Words like this are often clues of something deeper.  I know this all too well because ignoring my husband's sarcastic comments lead to my marital separation.  If you find it helpful, you're welcome to read the whole story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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