Over functioning wives tend to stay in their mobilized, empowered "modes" as they approach their husbands, and they often present themselves as critical, directive, controlling. For the under functioning husband who had a dominating mother and/or a weak father, his wife looks formidable.
It is very tempting for such a man to take an accommodating wife-leasing stance: "Yes, dear, I will do it." he says. Anything to get his wife to be quiet. Then, in secret, he fights back passively--forgetting to pick up the laundry, or letting the burned out light bulbs in the upstairs hall that only he can reach, go unchanged.
The woman who finds herself in this burdened position needs to be able to acknowledge the needy, unnurtured part of herself, and to reveal this part of herself to others, but especially to her husband. Instead of helping, she needs to learn to ask for support, this "asking" can feel like an immense undertaking. While she is tempted to complain angrily to her mate, "You never change the light bulbs." she needs to be able to say, "I am very tired, and I get so discouraged that I cannot do it all. I really need your help with our house." And, she needs to stop doing more than her share of the household work.
Most over functioning women find that they need help in breaking their addiction to helpfulness, and to being in control in their relationships. The wives of male alcoholics are almost all in this category, and the organization Al-Anon is devoted to helping such women learn to nurture and care for themselves, and to give up this lifestyle of helpfulness and self-denial.
In addition to being willing to surrender a certain amount of control, the over functioning wife must also be willing to hurt the person she normally protects. It took us a long time to get one wife to say to her husband, "I am not attracted to you sexually because you are overweight; and I do not respect you when you always bring your work problem to me. I wish you would be stronger, and more assertive." Whens she began to share her own needs, and to assume that her husband was adult enough to deal with her feelings, the pattern began to change.
For the woman who wants change in her marriage turn to support from individual therapists. If her husband does not want to attend, her request to the therapist should be, "Help me work out a strategy for getting us (husband and herself) into therapy; and also help me look at my resistance in changing myself."
The Fragile Bond - Napier