Dear Miss Emily,

I have been married for four years and have 2 beautiful children. I do all I can for my family including cleaning, paying 90% of the bills, taking care of the kids and working 40+ hours at night. My wife has told me I am a loser and don't care about anyone but myself. We argue all of the time and on the few days I do get off of work I am usually doing laundry, cutting grass or grocery shopping and so on. She just won't help. Lately, she has been going out with friends a lot more and I stay at home with the kids and she says I don't spend any time with her. She always tells me she can do better. I don't know what to do. I have tried to talk to her and set goals in our marriage but it doesn't seem to work. She gets mad at me for things that are ridiculous. For example, my mother had to go to the emergency room(nothing too severe) and I took her there. I sent my wife a text that I was taking my mom to the ER and she told me to drop her off and come home. I told her I could not do that, and she cursed and yelled at me on the phone until I got home at 1AM. Then I got up in the morning with the kids. Am I overreacting or being selfish? I try so hard to support my family, but she won't help and criticizes me for working saying that I would rather be at work than at home. 

--------------Miss Emily's advice------------

The situation, as you have described it, is oppressive. You have painted a picture of doing everything, outside the home, and in, and your wife is less a partner and more a prison matron. It would be hard to locate the source of your problems without knowing the bigger picture.  But whether she's depressed, no longer interested in being married to you, or has an undiagnosed physical illness, you need help. Here are my thoughts: See a marriage and family counselor. You will probably have to go without her, because it seems unlikely she will go if asked.  There you can find a support system to aid you in figuring out what to do. If not that, you can try to instigate a behavioral modification program, designed by you, to avoid engaging in a power struggle with her. Be pleasant, refrain from getting defensive and stay away from assuming the role of a victim. Be firm when you tell her that you will not accept her continued character assassinations on you, but would be willing to talk about finding solutions to your marital problems if she can do it constructively and not assign blame. You will need to be quick to identify your saturation point, and decide to do something about it. The ideal situation for children would be to have both parents under the same roof, but they do not deserve two arguing parents, nor an environment that teaches lack of respect.  A marriage that turns sour is usually insidious -- it doesn't happen overnight, but little-by-little until the damage becomes irreparable. You may not be able to save this marriage, but maintaining your dignity and sense-of-self is key to finding a more stable future. For now, start by making small strides to regaining your self-respect and let her know you are on a road to finding the answers to what appears to be some troubling questions. You need to show her that you are an emotionally strong individual, or she will continue to berate you. Weakness is not an attractive personality trait, and it opens the door to more abuse.