Why Is My Husband So Mean to Me?

For more than 40 years I have been helping men and the women who love them. In recent years, more and more women are contacting me who are concerned about their husband’s anger and how its impacting their lives. Here’s how one woman described her confusion and concern:

“For about a year now, I have gradually felt my husband of twenty-two years pulling away from me and our family. He has become more sullen, angry, and mean. The thing that bothers me the most is how unaffectionate he has become. My husband used to be the most positive, upbeat, funny person I knew. Now it’s like living with an angry brick. I want my husband back. Can you help us?”

I developed a quiz for men and for women who were asking why the man in their lives had suddenly become more irritable and angry. It was eventually filled out by more than 60,000 men and women. When the results were in, I thought of writing a book titled The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome. This seemed to capture the way a man could change from being loving and supportive to being angry and mean.

In reminded me of the novella by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, written in 1886, titled “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The novella’s impact is such that it has become a part of the language, with the very phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” coming to mean a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next.

Another woman described her husband’s changes in similar terms. “My husband’s personality suddenly changed from my funny, loving Dr. Jekyll into an angry, resentful, and controlling Mr. Hyde. He grew increasingly angry with me and seemed to withdraw from our marriage. I just can’t be happy staying at home, especially when I’m slapped in the face with a bunch of criticism and anger. What is going on here?”

But though the transformation from “Mr. Nice to Mr. Mean” was clear, there was still a mystery about what causes the change. My first clue about the root cause of this shift came from a Scottish biologist in Edinburgh, Dr. Gerald Lincoln, who was studying the impact of hormonal changes on animal mood and behavior. He found when testosterone levels dropped the animals became irritable, ill-tempered, and edgy. These were some of the same symptoms I was seeing in my own work. [Read more…]

Why Donald Trump’s Presidency Will, Surprisingly, Be the World’s Greatest Gift

In the run-up to the election, someone said that if Hillary Clinton was elected, we would get a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” We would celebrate a woman being the first president and would appreciate her wide-ranging experience in politics. But we would fail to recognize that this is not a time in human history for someone who supports an old system that is dying. If Donald Trump were elected, it was said, we would get “a wolf in wolf’s clothing.” Donald Trump doesn’t hide who he is, what he believes, or his priorities. He tweets them out daily and his cabinet choices demonstrate his commitment to the rich and powerful.

Let me be clear about my own political leanings. I supported Bernie Sanders, believing he was someone who was committed to real change and could bring the country together. When he didn’t get the Democratic nomination, I voted for Hillary Clinton. I felt she was the best next-step to a better future. I believe I was wrong. I think the people are wise in ways that are not apparent. I believe that Donald Trump may bring out the best in the American people and perhaps the office of the Presidency will bring out the best in Donald Trump.

One of the things I liked about Bernie Sander’s message was his recognition that if the people didn’t rise up and come together in support of a better world, no matter who we elected as President, it wouldn’t do much good. I believe Donald Trump’s Presidency can bring people together in a way that can create “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible,” as Charles Eisenstein articulates it.

In May, 2016 I wrote an article, “The Real Reason Donald Trump Will Be Our Next President.” In it I said our presidential candidate, in many ways, reflects the subconscious view we hold of ourselves. “We may like to hear slogans that tell us ‘we’re the best, America is number 1.’ But the truth is deep inside we don’t like ourselves very well. And the reality is we’re not very likeable.

“It’s hard to feel good about ourselves when we continue to destroy other people and the life-support system on planet Earth. As Charles Eisenstein says in his book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible,

‘Who could have foreseen, two generations ago when the story of progress was strong, that the twenty-first century would be a time of school massacres, of rampant obesity, of growing indebtedness, of pervasive insecurity, of intensifying concentration of wealth, of unabated world hunger, and of environmental degradation that threatens civilization?’ [Read more…]

How to Live with An Angry Man and What To Do If He Becomes President

how to live with an angry manMy wife should probably write this article, but she’s busy living her life and glad that the angry man she has been living with for 36 years has done enough healing that he can write about it. The healing began for me when she went to see a doctor and began getting help for her depression. As she started to get better, it became evident to her that I could also benefit from getting help with my own depression.

I, of course, insisted that I was just fine and didn’t need any help. I attributed my angry outbursts (rage attacks) to a normal reaction to her hurtful behavior. Occasionally I would blow up with her and she would close down for weeks or months. Like many angry men I didn’t recognize how destructive my anger was, how it impacted my wife, or how damaging and long-lasting was the trauma of anger. Usually I wouldn’t blow up, I’d just give her that look. She would say, “You get that beady-eyed look that chills me to the bone.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I was a nice guy, I told myself. Not the beady-eyed monster she was seeing.

Actually, she wasn’t seeing a monster. She was just seeing an angry man who was both self-destructive and was pulling her down with him. The monster was what I saw in my dreams, but was afraid to confront in my waking life. It was much easier to have inner dialogues that blamed her for my anger. “Who wouldn’t be angry,” I would tell myself, “when their wife is always complaining and nagging. It’s like getting hit in the head with a 2 X 4. I can’t let her get away with that.”

In the professional world, of which I’m a long-time member with a Ph.D. in International Health and a clinical license to prove it, we call the kind of thinking I was engaged in “delusional.” Twelve Step recovery groups simply call it “stinkin’ thinkin’.” [Read more…]

6 Ways to Prevent Irritable Male Syndrome from Ruining Valentine’s Day (and the Rest of Your Life)

414059057_3ac9ecef5a_zThe true story of “Valentine’s Day” may tell us more about anger, irritability and violence than about candy, hearts, and flowers. Back in 269 AD a good priest named Valentine ran afoul of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation. Talk about extreme irritable male syndrome. Getting irritable occasionally is part of being human, but getting locked into a pattern of negativity can cause problems for men and the families that love them. Turned inward, we often suffer from depression. Turned outward we suffer from IMS.

What Is Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS)?

IMS was first described by research biologist Dr. Gerald Lincoln when he was trying to develop a male contraceptive.  He tried lowering the testosterone levels of Soay rams and other mammals to see if he could stop their partner sheep from getting pregnant.  It didn’t work well and the rams got a bit testy as a result.  He coined the term “irritable male syndrome” which he described as “a behavioral state of nervousness, irritability, lethargy and depression that occurs in adult male mammals following withdrawal of testosterone.”

Dr. Lincoln had no evidence that it occurred in human male mammals, but he suspected it did.  I had been doing research on men going through Andropause or male menopause and found that they became irritable and angry.  I visited Dr. Lincoln in Edinburgh, Scotland and shared my research with him.  He agreed that it would be valuable to have a book written on the subject, which I began writing when I returned to the U.S. The book, Irritable Male Syndrome:  Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression describes the following four causes. [Read more…]

Sports, Domestic Violence, and the State of the World: What Can We Learn?

domestic violenceThe media is full of stories about sports and domestic violence. We were sickened by video showing Baltimore Ravens superstar Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée and dragging her out of a Las Vegas elevator. But he’s not the only sports figure who has been associated with domestic violence. Ray McDonald was arrested for domestic violence on August 31, yet he suited up and played for the 49ers on the opening weekend and will continue to play for San Francisco until his case comes to trial. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. The team reported he will continue to play despite the voices of many who feel he should be suspended.

The entire sports world is talking about spousal abuse, child abuse, and violence. Why now? What does it mean? What does it say about the state of our world?

I’ve been working in the area of men’s health for more than forty years. I specialize in treating men who are stressed, depressed, aggressive, and high on testosterone. Although I spend time working with individual men and their families, I’m also concerned about the larger issues in society and how they impact us.

Certainly football players have some unique issues that relate to violence, but what is going on in sports is a reflection of what is going on in the larger society. In order to deal effectively with these issues, we have to look beyond Ray Rice, Ray McDonald, Adrian Peterson and our other sports stars. We have to ask uncomfortable questions like the following:  [Read more…]

How to Love an Angry Man Part 4: Understanding Male Shame, Depression, and Dependency

For most of my life I haven’t understood my anger or why it was so often directed at the women in my life. I’ve been married three times. My first marriage lasted 10 years and ended in an acrimonious divorce. My second marriage began with extreme attraction and passion and luckily ended before one of us killed the other. I’m not talking metaphorically here. We often were down and depressed or manic and agitated and our rage was such that I worried that one of us was in danger of killing the other or killing ourselves. Luckily we separated before our anger, fear, and need turned deadly.

My third wife, Carlin, and I have been married for 34 years. We’ve had to deal with my anger, but have learned to better understand the causes and cures, which I’d like to share with you. In order to do that we have to learn about the new science of love.

Two of experts in this emerging field are John Gottman and Sue Johnson. Dr. Gottman is world renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction and has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. Dr. Johnson is the author of Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships and is the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) which has demonstrated its effectiveness in over 25 years of peer-reviewed clinical research.

The Four Pillars of the New Science of Love

I’ve learned a lot about the new science of love and share many of my insights in my new book, Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well. One of the key tools is what I call “attachment love.” We used to think that the best relationships were based on two people “standing on their own two feet” and taking responsibility for their individual needs. Now we know that we are deeply connected and true love recognizes how much we are dependent on each other. [Read more…]

How to Love an Angry Man: Part 3 – Help Him by Helping Yourself

I’ve been writing about angry men for some time now. That’s because I recognized how destructive anger can be in our relationships, but also how common it is. In my book, Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well I describe the experiences that many people have living with an angry and abusive male:

“For about a year now (it could be even longer, it’s hard to know exactly), I have gradually felt my husband of twenty-two years pulling away for me and our family,” Martha told me in an anguished phone call. “He has gradually become more sullen, angry, and moody. His general life energy is down and his sex drive has really dropped off. I’m sure he’s depressed, but he takes his pain out on me.

“He blames me for everything these days. If his socks or underwear are missing, I must have put them somewhere or done something with them to piss him off. I’m not kidding, that’s what he tells me. The thing that bothers me the most is how unaffectionate he has become. I don’t even get the hugs and kisses I used to get, and when he does touch me, I feel grabbed rather than caressed. My husband used to be the most positive, upbeat, funny person I knew. Now it’s like living with an angry brick!” [Read more…]

How to Love an Angry Man: Part 2 – Dealing with Anger vs. Rage

Dear Dr. Jed,

I’m worried about my husband. He’s angry all the time and blames me for everything that is wrong.  He calls me names, yells at me, looks at me with such hatred, I want to disappear.  He’s never hit me, but I’m afraid of him.  He totally denies that there are any problems with him.  When he gets mad he calls me a bitch and a lot worse and tells me I’m crazy and should be hospitalized. 

His beliefs get reinforced by his family who also denies that there is anything wrong with him, though they’ve seen how angry and abusive he can be.  They tell me that he wasn’t depressed before he married me so it must be me that is the problem.

I love my husband with all my heart and I want to get him the help he needs.  I know that he must be suffering.  If he would just acknowledge the problem I’m sure we could work things out.  Can you help me get through to him?  SL.

I get calls and e-mails regularly from women who are concerned about the man in their lives. They don’t understand his anger and rage and often feel blamed, demeaned, and abused.  They often tell me that he’s been verbally or physically abusive.  Most go on to tell me that they love their husband and want to do everything they can to help him so that they can return to the kind of good relationship they remember having before his anger became a constant plague in their relationship. [Read more…]

How to Love an Angry Man: Understanding and Helping Your Partner

We all get angry at times. When we feel we’re threatened we react with anger. But we know people who get overly angry or their anger causes problems with their relationships at home or at work. I was one of those people. I wrote two books about how it impacted me and how I learned to help myself and my clients:  The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression and Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from The Irritable Male Syndrome.

When I did research for The Irritable Male Syndrome I developed a quiz to help people better understand their anger and whether it was causing a problem in their lives. Thus far more than 30,000 people have taken the quiz. Men take it to learn about themselves. Women take it to better understand and help the man in their lives.

One of the things I learned in grappling with my own anger and those of my clients was how anger in men was often a sign of depression or bipolar disorder.  My father suffered from both of these disorders. I also have suffered from both depression and bipolar disorder. When I was irritable and manic or frustrated and depressed, I wasn’t easy to live with. The thing we want and need the most is love and understanding, but our emotions often illicit sympathy and our partner often withdraws in fear or reacts back with anger. [Read more…]

Remembering the Newtown Killings: We Can Choose Love

Today is December 14th.  As I reflect on life as we approach the darkest day of the year I think about the killings in Newtown, Connecticut a year ago today. 20 year-old Adam Lanza first killed his mother, Nancy.  He then took guns from the house and stormed into the Sandy Hook Elementary School.  He killed 6 adult women, including the school principal, and 12 little girls and 8 little boys ages 6 and 7, before killing himself.  This all occurred in a mere 11 minutes.

There continues to be huge debates over gun control and the accessibility of weapons and ammunition, the need for more mental health funding, and whether we need more or less government action.  However, there are two important issues that have gotten much less attention:

  1.  The need to address the anger growing in the hearts and minds of young males.
  2.  The need to address the fear in the general population.

Anger and Violence in Our Young Men

I still remember Patrick Edward Purdy, a 24-year-old drifter, who walked into a Stockton, California schoolyard in 1989 and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle, killing five children and wounding one teacher and 29 other children. He then killed himself. The case drew national attention and led to a ban on assault weapons in California. [Read more…]