I think I've damaged my marriage so badly that my wife wants a divorce. I'm controlling and I'm hard on the kids. I need to act better to them and be less overbearing, especially to my eldest. But I do love my kids dearly. My wife thinks I've cheated on her, yet I never have. I called a chat line and got to chatting with people and this really has worried her. I honestly have not met anyone else. I do not want to. I want her: heart, body and soul. It`s just that we have gotten to the point where we do not speak anymore. Mostly it is my fault, I'm certain (and that isn`t self-pity talking, it`s true). I`ve got her somewhat convinced to let me stay and try and show her I can change. I desperately want things to work, I NEED your advice.
Let's start with the positive points. You have a solid goal: you want to stay with your wife and children. You have motivation because you love both your wife and children. What appears to be lacking is the action.
In talking about how God's word can help a person, James tells us, "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:21-25). It is one thing to know in theory what you are doing wrong and what you ought to do, but it is an entirely different matter to put that knowledge into action.
You believe you are too controlling and hard on your kids, and yet at the same time you say that you love them dearly. Could you give me an example of what you recently have done that you believe shows you as controlling and overly hard? Can you explain how it is that you see this now, but you did it then?
You state that you and your wife are speaking much these days. Often on a woman's part it is because she lacks trust in her husband. She no longer feels you have her best interest at heart. On a man's side, lack of talking usually comes from a lack of confidence. He feels that he is unable to say anything right because every time he opens his mouth he gets shot down. Therefore, the man takes the pragmatic route -- no talk, no shootings. Unfortunately, it rapidly becomes a vicious cycle. The lack of talk is perceived by the wife as the husband distancing himself in preparation to leave her. Her coldness to him makes him cringe and back off further.
Let's start with one simple thing: drop the chat line stuff immediately. You need companionship; that is how males are built. "And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone'" (Genesis 2:18). Look at the situation honestly. The chat line is a crutch to replace some of the companionship you lost from your wife. As long as you continue to turn to it, you have less drive to repair the breach between you and your wife.
Second simple task: Each night, when you sit down for dinner with your family, I want you to tell you wife about your day. Not to whine about your boss or how impossible your co-workers are, but to tell her the highlights of what happened. Even if the others are not drawn into a conversation and it becomes a short monologue, do this for a week or two and tell me what you observe.
Third simple task: Pick one pleasant thing that you remember from the past for each member of your family. It can be as recent as last week or as far back as when you were dating your wife. Then bring up just one or two of those memories each evening. The more indirect the better. You might notice that your wife is wearing the earrings you gave her on your first anniversary. You could say, "I remember you wore the most gorgeous blue dress the night I gave you those earrings." For your children it is simply remembering what is currently important in their lives. Ask one if he did well on that project he work so hard on last week. Ask if the drawing she was making of the family came out well. Find out when the next big game is at because you want to see it (and then be there!).
Fourth simple task: Whenever anyone in your family approaches you, put everything down, turn away from the TV or even better, turn it off, and focus your entire attention on them. It doesn't matter if it is a big deal or a little deal, give them eye contact and something to know that you are listening -- that at this moment in time they are the most important thing in the universe. Don't scold them for interrupting. If it is something that you can't leave (you're on the phone with the boss), tell them to wait a moment, tell them why this has to be finished first, and that you will get to them once you are done. Then don't forget! Track them down as ask what they wanted to tell you. Half the time they will probably have forgotten, but that is all right -- you showed them that you remembered and thought it important.
"So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).