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My Loved One In Danger, Protective Instincts Failed Me


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I didn't know whether to put this under Relationship or Behavior. Since it's behavior I don't like about myself, I put it here, but it's wrecking our relationship.

I'm in my second year of marriage to a woman I love dearly, the love of my life. I've led a very sheltered life up to age 40 and I've been in relationships (long term, short term, and in between) before, but it's not really up until this relationship that my "stuff" in terms of a provider, protector, all the things that are expected of a husband, have really been put to the test.

My wife and I live in a fairly rural area, lots of farmland, houses are maybe a quarter mile away from each other on an acre+ of land. People tend to keep to themselves. Recently, some new people moved in a few houses down and for the last week/week and a half, these two strange dogs have been appearing in our yard, a pitbull and a chihuahua. They seem friendly enough but (a) they don't belong on our land, and (B) we have dogs of our own and we don't want them getting into fights or getting hurt. We'd talked about calling Animal Control but up to now them being in our yard hadn't presented an immediate problem and we'd both let it go.

This morning, my wife looked out the bedroom window, and sure enough, there they were in front of our house. Our yard is gated, and runs continually around the house making an acre of land. As you go from the part facing the street to the part in the back, it gets really rough---lots of pointed rocks, broken glass, stuff that can hurt you if you're barefoot. The dogs were out in the front area, which is relatively safe to walk around in barefoot. My wife got dressed and went out to take pictures of the dogs for Animal Control, and I got dressed myself to go out with her, but didn't think to put anything on my feet.

We have a metal security door besides our front door, which was left open when she went outside, and one of our dogs bolted out into the yard. I tried to go after him but by this time, my wife and the two dogs were out in the more dangerous part of the yard and I did my best to try and get him to come back. My wife called out my name over and over again but somehow, my protective instincts didn't kick in and I choked. I could have run back to the house to get shoes and/or something to get rid of the dogs but I didn't, instead I started worrying about stepping on broken glass and hurting my own feet.

The whole thing turned into a big, screaming argument, where I blamed her for leaving the door open for the dog to run out of, and for going out there without me, etc. etc. but the point is, my instincts failed me and I failed as a protector to people I love.

I don't want to beat myself up but I feel like the worst husband in the world right now. I feel like my wife deserves better, that a real man would have done something, anything, to step in and protect his wife and pet, his family. Luckily nobody was hurt but if there had been, I'd have to live with the fact that I did NOTHING really to stop it.

I don't need a shoulder to cry on, I don't need somebody to say "it's OK, these things happen...". I've been sheltered and mollycoddled my whole life up to now. What I need is to find out what's wrong with me and see if maybe someone else has had a similar experience and find some direction as to what to do about it. It scares me that maybe I'm not the man my wife, who I love dearly, who I feel like I spent my whole life up to now looking for, needs me to be. Am I doomed to be a f***up coward who worries about himself first for the rest of my life? Is there any way to change?

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Hi DoinMyBest,

Welcome to this community. So sorry about the disagreement with your wife. :(

I’ve been working on personality issues within myself for 20 years or so. It’s tough and therapy is difficult. In fact, in the 1990s some (or most) insurance companies wouldn’t pay for treatment for personality issues per se because they said that treatment wasn’t effective. They would pay for things like depression or anxiety associated with having a personality issue, but not the personality issue itself.

Things are better now and treatment strategies have improved but it is still a rough go. Not that it wouldn’t be worth it. But unfortunately, the fact is that there is no treatment available that can turn you into an ideal husband, because an ideal is just that – an ideal. It’s something to guide your behavior, maybe, but there is no way that any of us can live up to our ideals 100%.

Fortunately, neither your wife nor the dogs got hurt. And sadly, even with the best intentions and behavior in the world, accidents can still happen and you can’t protect your wife and your pets from everything. That’s just life. If you had run to her when she called and sliced an artery in your foot, how would that have helped anything?

It sounds to me more like a Relationship issue, because for the marriage to work you both will have to cope with your – if you’ll pardon the reference – human feet. Your wife’s, too. If hers haven’t show up yet, they will eventually. We all have them.

I was married for 24 years to a wonderful man who passed away 13 years ago. But we had a couple of occasions when he (and I) had to learn to deal with my imperfections and vice versa.

It might be helpful to see a counselor for yourself if you want to learn to more comfortably accept the fact that you – and, eventually, your wife – each have foibles. My late husband and I loved each other anyway, in spite of that.

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