Regarding my FOO...my mother was a narcissist. So was my brother to some degree, but also a sadist. At school, I was bullied, teased and beat up. The son of my mother's friend started to sexually molest me.
The reason I'm mentioning all these little things is that I realized over time (and through MUCH therapy) that I had, pretty much since birth, been taught that my own life had little to no value whatsoever, and that my only redeeming value was in how much and how well I could please others. When I made others happy, I got praise and validation. When I didn't, I got beat up, punished, teased and demeaned in many ways.
All of this taught me a life lesson and became the basis for my personality. I avoided anything that made me look bad in others eyes, because if I did, then all my value was lost and I suffered as a result. This become a problem over time, and I learned to not take criticism well at all. Not that I got criticized very often, I made sure of that. So I became... wonderful. Because that's what the world wanted me to be. I tried to be as smart and funny and interesting and helpful as possible so that everyone that met me would think I was just "the bees knees" and love me - love me - love me. That's how I got my own self-worth, and it is how I kept others happy constantly so that my supply of compliments and adoration would remain also remain constant.
This became a real issue for me however. I did not, and still do not sometimes, take criticism well. Even minor, simple things send me flying emotionally. If I pick up a plate of food and someone says to me, "Hey, you forgot your napkin" it makes me feel like a complete fool and a total failure. I'll feel stupid and useless, and worse, depending on who it is and where it is, I might also insulted, defensive, angry. I don't see it or feel it like other "normal" people do, who would just say, "Oh silly me, thanks for letting me know". Instead, I crumble. I rage. I die. I fight. I either implode or explode or some fucked up combination of both. It's really very hard-coded in me, because it was my reality growing up, and that's when our brains set those kinds of expectations and define our realities.
I had to get past this in order to R. Hell, I had to get past it just to survive as a human. I can't keep living a false life, constantly hustling for my own worth and trying to please others, it's impossible to keep that up, and it leaves me empty and needy, all the time. It's a constant battle. I still, to this day, will flash to anger or hurt very quickly, and other people rarely realize that it's happening, or happening so severely. So every time that happens, I have to "course correct" in my head. I have to actually stop, and analyze it. "This is what just happened. This is how I feel about it. Do I think it meant to hurt me? If not, why am I so hurt? How do I want to feel?"
But part of it too was therapy. There was more. There was shame. OMG there was so much fucking shame, and that shame runs right to my core. I've never been enough, since birth. How the fuck do you overcome that?
Well, for me, I had to go back and really dig into that shame. For me, that meant I had to try to remember the things in my life that made me feel shame. My therapist had me keep going back, to the earliest possible memory of shame I had. My "Original Shame" if you will. Turns out, with some deep thought and determination, I found it. I remember being a little boy in preschool. I was a pretty smart kid, gifted actually. And as I mentioned, I was the most well behaved kid you can imagine. I always felt more capable than the other kids of my own age. I took some pride in that. So you can imagine how I felt one day when I had an accident and peed my pants, in front of all the other kids in pre-school. I was just so ashamed of myself. I felt like a complete fool and a failure and a loser. The school called my mother to bring some dry clothes for me, and when she got there... well, she made it worse. A normal, loving mother would have consoled their child, told them that it's okay, that it happens to everyone, that it's no big deal, and remind their child how much they are loved and how great they are. Not my mom. She laughed. She AND the teacher laughed. They didn't even let me go the bathroom to change, and my mother just redressed me in front of everyone while making me feel like even more of a fool and loser. The shame was cemented into me that day, and I learned that shame was both my identity and my burden. No one was going to protect me or help me or love me. And I being made to feel like a fool and publically demeaned. And so... well, things just progressed from there.
Realizing that as an adult... helped some. I was able to go back and see the story for what it was. I didn't fail that day, SHE did. I wasn't the loser, SHE was. My mother should have protected me and chose instead to make herself feel big. I went through exercises where I tried to put my adult self into the memory, and I went back, and told little Dom all the things that should have been said. I was my own parent in a way, and I had to make up my own love and support because I still needed it. As an adult, I still needed it. I needed to start "the reprogramming" at the beginning, and that was it.
I think this is the part you may be missing. As I've said, I don't think it's about your marriage, at all. It's about you. It's not your wife that sends you into a rage, it's your chosen response. You just don't yet know how to choose differently. It still hurts too much. You get overwhelmed and insulted and it sends you into a rage... and that makes total sense. I'm not saying it's okay, but I AM saying it makes total, 100% sense to feel that way. Now, you need to make the changes to feel differently, to react differently. That doesn't happen by "white knuckling it", it happens by making one small change at a time, reprogramming the things in you that you don't want, and growing the things you do. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes a thousand failures for one small advancement sometimes. But it IS possible, and once you get the ball rolling, it gets easier.
Hang in there. I've said this, and so have others... we're proud of you for sticking with it, for choosing to be vulnerable here, for not running away and hiding. And while I can't speak for everyone, I really do believe in you. I don't know if you can save your marriage... that a whole other topic. But I believe you can save yourself. And I think maybe your wife believes it too, otherwise she would have bailed a long time ago. But don't worry about that for now... you can't control others, so don't. Control what you can. Fix yourself first. Do so with compassion and forgiveness to yourself. Don't be angry when you fail, instead, be motivated to fix it already.
One of my mentors on SI when I started here swore to me that one day, I get sick of my own shit, and decide to stop being that person. He was right. So I say the same thing to you. When you really get sick of being angry and hurt and empty, you get sick of responding like a child instead of a man, you'll change, on purpose, and with direction and goals. Talk with your therapist and see if you both can come up with some ways to approach this. Find your sources of shame, of anger, or anything that needs to be brought to light and addressed. That's where to start.
Good luck my friend. It's shit-show, but hey... we've got front row seats.