One of the saddest and most destructive things that I repeatedly witness in my work as a marriage counselor is the "RELATIONAL PHONEY." This person presents him/herself to the outside world as a tzadik; sweet and generous.
Recently, I was on the phone with a person who was seeing me for marriage counseling, whose behavior with me was pleasant, lovely and mature. A family member said something innocent in the background and the person I was speaking to started shouting wildly at that person. Couples come for sessions. At the beginning of the counseling relationship, they might speak dispassionately and politely. After some time, some couples start tearing at eachother; accusing; disclosing a history in their marriage of nasty, callous and abusive behavior.
Couples who come in for marriage counseling often present themselves as angelic and flawless - until demands are put upon them to face their faults and misdeeds in "real life" and change. There can be a variety of responses, but typically they might include defensively putting blame and criticism on the other, abandoning the spouse and family, "closing up," justifying improper things which they do, claiming a conspiracy (your whole family hates me/is out to get me), anger, verbal attacking, breaking down and/or getting emotional.
What is remarkable is how such people live by acting. They are living in two separate, disconnected worlds: the phoney "nice guy show" that they put on in the street (for their shul, customers, marriage counselor, etc.); while, in their homes, their behavior is far less than nice. They can talk beautifully about what a marriage should be, growing, about high standards, about behaving responsibly. It is all empty "lip service" and meaningless abstraction. When pushed to act maturely in their home and marriage, there are a million and one reasons why the good concepts don't apply in this case, why the other does not deserve "normal" treatment or any number of evasions of duty and critical value judgements of the other. They "talk the talk but can't walk the walk!"
When we see the disparity between their worthless talk and their real-life action, we see that such a person is living two seperate lives and is a PHONEY - often with considerable flaws and weakness in personality, character, behavior and emotional maturity. When the reality outside of the false, self-serving "mental reality" (constructed in the person's mind) confronts the person, (s)he is not equipped to deal with it and is pushed to "fight or flight." In personal relationships, (s)he is rude, vindictive, a manipulater, a user, a "spoiled child," a lier, selfish, irresponsible, begrudging, nasty, cruel, explosive, negligent, offensive, impatient, escapist and/or lacking self-control. When both partners have such shortcomings (generally each in different manifestations), the results can get quite hysterical.
Mathematically, two incomplete halves cannot add up to a complete whole and a phoney spouse cannot be half of one true marriage. For problem marriages to be authentically worked on and resolved, each partner has to face the issues within him/herself that must be dealt with in practical, trustworthy, courageous and persevering ways. Placing all blame on another, bullying, evading responsibility within oneself, running from what resolution requires of each partner - all guarantee that no significant or lasting change will occur. It is simple logic: if you keep doing the things that bring result A, you will get result A. Only if you change and do the things which get result B will you get result B. If you do things which bring A, you will NOT get B. The counselor does not live the marriage for the couple. It is the couple who must change their marriage; with the guidance, insight, advice and encouragement of the counselor. Marriages don't get fixed by phoning a counselor, or visiting a counselor - and CONTINUING TO BEHAVE IN THOSE WAYS WHICH MAKE THE MARRIAGE A MISERABLE CATASTROPHE! That is just living a contradiction, delusion and lie!
If one or both members of the couple fail to act so as to produce a happy and harmonious marriage, they will not have one. And, ONE OF THE MOST SUPERB WAYS TO MAKE SURE THE MARRIAGE STAYS PATHETIC IS TO PRETEND TO BE A FLAWLESS ANGEL, GIVE BRILLIANT LIP SERVICE TO MARRIAGE REPAIR, AND RIGIDLY REMAIN AS NEGLECTFUL AND MALEVOLENT AS EVER, being the phoney who presents a righteous, pleasant person in the street, while sadistic and unresponsive in "real life."
If you want a happy, functional and stable marriage; each partner is going to have to be very brave and honest, take responsbility for each one's own work, stop focusing on what is bad and wrong with the other, look inside (do cheshbon hanefesh - introspection) and evaluate what each has to do to contribute adequately to the marriage as a whole and to do for the good and happiness of the other partner, grow emotionally and spiritually, and make all practical changes necessary on a reliable, good-natured and steady basis.
It is only when marriage partners stop passively neglecting what they must do and stop actively doing what each must not do that their marriages will become successful. Talking one way and acting another - regardless of the exquisite sound of the words - will only keep the failure and misery constant.