Author Topic: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)  (Read 1940 times)

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Offline Roscoe

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Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« on: March 24, 2012, 12:17:44 AM »
Hi all!  I'm hoping possibly someone would be able to share some wisdom on my current trial.

So the situation is this:

Background info:
My wife (we've been married seven years) "Beth" grew up with an overprotective mother, whom we believe to have a mild degree of emotional instability.  Throughout her childhood and young adulthood Beth was treated like a child, expected to be at her mom's side every day, and ultimately sheltered by the constant presence of her mom.  If she did not do so, Beth's mom would endlessly guilt trip Beth until she could take it no longer.  So years went on and on pacifying Beth's mom to "keep the peace," many times at my expense from Beth choosing her mom over me.

Last year God moved in a major way, and Beth and I and our 4 year old son had to move across the country.  This of course devastated her mom, and we got a lot of grief and zero support from her.  Whereas in the past Beth would cave into her mom's endless rants, she realized that in this case the chips were down, and that me and our son came first.  To this day 11 months later, Beth still has to occasional argument with her mom over this.  The woman is unstable.

But my wife is the most amazing woman who's ever lived, and for the first time in our marriage I feel like I'm #1.  She stands up to her mom and doesn't allow her to tear her down anymore!

The issue:
Now that we've "defeated" her mom, Beth needs to realize the world around her.  We are in a new place with new people, and we need Beth to open up.  Beth's mom is full of fear and worry, and Beth has received some of that too.  Beth is generally distrustful of people she doesn't know, scared to death of little things like driving in places she isn't familiar with, and unwilling to try anything new without me there.

I'm convinced this stems entirely from Beth's mom sheltering her throughout her life.  Simply put, this is the first time Beth is out on her own away from mommy, and I think she was never prepared for this situation.  SO.. it's up to me.  I will say: God has provided SO WELL through this whole relocation situation (scary!), and I have no doubt He will do so here as well.

The Question:
How can I lovingly, and in a Christ-like way, teach my wife to be more social, more adventurous, and more resourceful (for example, instead of being scared to drive around our new town, breaking out a map and plotting a course herself)?  I want to handle this delicately, because she has come so far through all of this and I don't want to look unappreciative.

Ladies, you may want to chime in and get a woman's perspective.  Men of God, if you have any advice on how to be a supporter to Beth, that's welcome too!

Thanks!  Sorry it's so long, it's too complicated to explain briefly.

Take care and God bless!
Roscoe

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Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« on: March 24, 2012, 12:17:44 AM »

Offline TJW

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2012, 02:00:59 AM »

It looks like God is surely at work, to me. 

I think that some of the best marital advice, whether applied to the woman toward the man, or the man toward the woman, is found in 1 Peter 2:1 - 3:1.

The general idea is that all we can do is to lead by example, and don't enable.  Don't allow yourself to be supplanted into her mother's role.
 

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2012, 02:00:59 AM »

happypromises

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2012, 03:28:28 AM »
I think it sounds like God has already done some amazing things in your lives together - so why not trust Him to gently finish the job?    ::smile::

On a practical level - speaking as a woman, I think you have to get the balance right.  I am pretty independent because my job involves a lot of overseas travel so out of necessity, I've had to jump on planes to some very remote places, but when I am at home, I can get really stressed about driving.  I have no natural sense of direction and easily get lost.  Plus,  I like to feel that sense of being 'protected' when my other half takes control and helps me with my route, or helps with things related to the car.   It makes me feel like a 'woman' and like he is responsible for part of my well-being.   Sure, if he forced me to read a map on my own, I might get better at it - but we have assumed different responsibilities - his is navigation!   And I have no inclination to learn!   ::smile::

But, if your wife is bound up in fear, then you can gently encourage her, but also, without being sneaky, why not engineer a situation where you can't help her and she is 'forced' into doing something.  So, for example, say she hates going into social gatherings on her own and she has agreed to meet you there.   Tell her to go on ahead and then just be a little late...nothing to cause alarm, but just to gently give her the nudge to do stuff without you.   She will almost definitely find that the more she does stuff on her own, that it's nowhere near as difficult as she thought it was.  And it will get easier too!

Another example - one of my relatives is super reliant on his wife, to help him 'think'.  He's always been real bad at remembering details, like names and places and it's gotten to the point now where he can barely finish a sentence without her finishing it for him.  She and I both felt this wasn't healthy, because as he gets older, we felt he needed to keep his brain active. So, we resolved to stop finishing his sentences for him.  He's by no means elderly....but all of a sudden when he looks to her to finish the sentence, she just opens her eyes wide, as if to say 'sorry, not sure what the word is...' and he is forced to think....and within seconds, yep, he's got the word he was looking for.  In other words, she's not lying or being sneaky - she's just forcing him to do it for himself....out of love and consideration for him.   

That's something to consider. 

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2012, 03:28:28 AM »

Offline johndoo

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2012, 05:38:58 AM »
God bless you in this new stage of your life.

1.  I would suggest a Christian therapist for your wife or as a couple.  There is a lot to work through.


2.  It doesn't work to "parent" your spouse.  You can encourage.  You can give advice when asked.  Pushing doesn't work so well.  Complement her progress.  You can't force her to be something she isn't so accept some things as her uniqueness.
 

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2012, 05:38:58 AM »

Offline Roscoe

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2012, 11:25:19 AM »
These are great thoughts, everyone!  Thanks so much for sharing!!

I realize that the biggest problem is that Beth has never been away from having a parent around.  Now, in the case of HER mom the word "parent" never quit meaning the type of parent a 12-year old should have.

I realize that the last thing she needs is an overbearing parent.  To me it looks like someone who was never taught how to be fully self-sufficient, but rather always reliant and dependent.  That's why it's so tricky for me, because I am ultra-independent and have a great working knowledge about how the real world works.  Her family has been in the southeast for generations, never had a reason to move, and they think that our moving is some type of betrayal.  It's sickening.

Believe me, this whole situation has caused a lot of drama with her mom.  To this date she's the only person who not only disapproves of us moving to Arizona, and the only person who actually gives us opposition.  It's been hard on Beth, but even though I hate to see it be so difficult, I was thrilled that first day she had a heated argument on the phone with her mom and Beth said, "Mom, I made this decision for my family.  Not every decision has to be made around YOU.  You call me back when you can be rational about this!".. and hung up.  I never thought I'd see her confront her mom like that, and I know God prepared her for handling her mom after we moved.

She's confronted it so well, and I know she's going to do fine in the end.  I just don't want to smother her too, ya know?  ::smile::


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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2012, 11:25:19 AM »



Offline Deborah4God

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2012, 11:26:24 AM »
That sounds very promising to me!! I'd add that some people are naturally introverted... she could have inherited that from her mom. In that case I'd say slow and easy does it, little by little, there's no need to rush her or it might just stress her out. If she's willing to do what she's already done then I think that's an awesome start and personally I wouldn't be pushing out, maybe just drop suggestions here and there and take inventory in a few months about it-- like is she still super isolated? happy? doing a little more?

my two cents!

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2012, 11:26:24 AM »

Offline anx

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2012, 11:52:19 AM »
Perhaps she is a good balance to your ultra independence. I am often a loner, and usually happ ::shrug::y like that. I have a church men's group I like (perhaps a women's group is something your wife would enjoy.

However, maybe she is fine if she is ok with not being very open. A counselor may be a good idea, but many people aren't ok with going to or being asked to go to a counselor. It's like saying that they are broken or wrong for being who they are.

You said she needs to open up and realize the world around her. Why does she need to? What is happening or will happen if she doesn't?

Blessings

Offline Roscoe

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2012, 02:08:11 PM »
You guys all absolutely rule!  I feel better and better with every response.

As it is at the moment, Beth is a stay-at-home mommy to our son.  It is easy for me to take for granted that I go to work four days out of the week and have my job to distract me.  She likely has a degree of cabin fever.

We have tried to find a part-time job for her.  She and I both agree the primary objective for this is to get her acclimated to new people.  The second income is not incredibly necessary or even a high priority, but it will be nice just the same.  We put in a few applications (Chick-fil-A) but her hours of availability are built around my work schedule and it would be hard to find a place willing to hire someone for 6am-11am.  We're taking this slowly, but I'm thinking we need to find her something.  She'll be much happier, I think.

But given the drama of the last year, this is small cookies compared to what we've already been through.  God is good!   ::smile::

Offline chosenone

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2012, 03:40:06 PM »
Hi Roscoe
Let her go at her own pace. Now that she has broken free from her mothers control, she will grow and begin to be her own person. She will mature gradually as she should have been allowed to do many many years ago. She has a lot of changing and growing to do now that she is free. Just pray for her and support her, but don't pressure her.
I know several young adults(men actually) who have controlling and over protective mothers, and it has deeply affected them. They are unable to make decisions, or to stand up for themselves, or to decide anything without their mothers, or to cut the apron strings or move out and be independent. They do nothing of their own making, rely on their parents to give them lifts everywhere, still go on holidays with their parents in their mid 20's, have few friends or interests of their own, no girlfriends(I mean who wants to go out with a mummy's boy?), and cant fight their own battles. Its tragic to see, and thank God that He has made a way for your wife to break away by moving.
Sometimes it has to be that drastic to make it happen.  

The more things that she does and gets involved in, the more confident she will get, but take it one step at a time. God is clearly in control. God bought my husband to the other side of the world to get him away from his controlling mother, and now He has done the same with my husbands older son, to get him away from his mother(my husband's ex, also very controlling and over protective), and he is now living in OZ! Amazing what God does.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 07:22:22 PM by chosenone »
In Him I live and move and have my being.

My determined purpose is that I may know Him - that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly."

It is by Grace we have been saved though Faith and not by works so that no one can boast.

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2012, 03:40:06 PM »

Offline Roscoe

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2012, 03:48:40 PM »
Daaaaaang...

I think chosenone must be someone who knows us, because that description of my wife's family situation is SPOT ON.

That describes my wife to a tee.  She struggles with all of those issues to one degree or more.  Yes, progress is being made and my mother-in-law is nowhere near in control of things as she used to be.  I'm so glad all of this happened, it was certainly a gift from God.  That being said, I want to do the most with it, and I don't want us to miss out on ANY of the blessings He has in mind for this!

Thanks again, I'm loving this forum more and more!

roscoe

Offline MELKEDOODUM

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2012, 12:12:29 AM »
Great thoughts...
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Offline jesuslover

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2012, 03:42:11 PM »
You sound like a great husband  ::smile:: I agree with many of the comments on here. I would just like to maybe say that you need to be sensitive that you don't sound like you're patronising her. Woman's definition of patronising is different to mens as well...so check up on that

Offline Nathanael

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Re: Helping my wife come out of her shell (sorry it's long!)
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2012, 04:58:13 AM »
Hi Roscoe, I would just want to add that its good to be aware and on guard for certain things. You may find that Beth changes somewhat, and you might have to navigate this. We all mature and grow and marriage has to be strong and full of love to take the strain of two people going through this together. In your case it may be amplified.

I was married to someone sounding very like Beth. I failed to be understanding enough and also the big changes between her at 19 when we married and 30 was hard to handle.

I am not saying its a dead certainty, just something to be ready for. You will need to be keeping in mind her perspective and also possible outside pressures. Seems like you are sensitive to things, so keep up the vigilance. God bless.