Marital Questions and Answers
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I am 42 yrs. old. I have been married for 11 years. My husband has 3 children from a previous marriage, and I have 1 son. Together we have a 10 year old. Our relationship was strained in the beginning over our children, but we seemed to be able to let go of a lot. Lately though my husband has become, for lack of a better word, paranoid. I can't even go see a concert with my nineteen yr. old son, who bought me the ticket, without my husband getting upset.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, My husband and I can't seem to get along. For a while he went through a period of months of staying away from home and when he was home we either fought or he was asleep. He has sleep apnea and it seems chronic. He has a doctor that he sees for it and uses a cap machine but he won't wear it. You can tell when he doesn't as his sleep is affected. We have five children and this is also hurting them.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I have a simple question for you. Am I a "control freak" for getting angry that my wife is alone with a single man in his apartment at 1 am? To me, this seems inappropriate and creates a dangerous environment. I feel very jealous and disrespected. Thank you, "Wondering If I Am a Control Freak" Dear "Wondering If I Am a Control Freak," The question you ask is clearly not as simple as you make it out to be.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I am a 50-year-old woman, been married for 13 years. There are so many problems in my marriage; I don't know where to start. My husband is very emotionally abusive. He says mean and cruel things like "You are so ugly, no wonder I can't stand you." He has belittled me so bad I have no self-esteem. We can't talk about much of anything especially my feelings. As long as I let him think he is always right, everything is fine.
Dear WholeFamily, I've been with my spouse for almost fifteen years. Lately, we haven't been getting along at all!!! He'll tell me something for instance and a little while later tell me he never said it. Also, whenever I tell my opinion he tells me I'm wrong and only his opinion is the right one.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I am obviously writing due to marriage problems. My question is what type of therapist is the type we need to work things out. A psychologist, a therapist, etc.? I am not sure what each specializes in, and what would be the best for us. My husband and I love each other, but have some issues in our marriage that need to be worked out. My husband feels that if we continue to stay together our marriage won't last.
Dear WholeFamily, My wife and I have been married for 3 years and our first child is due in 3 months. My wife has told me that she is not happy in our relationship and doesn't have the same love for me she had when we were engaged. We met with a marriage counselor to discuss this. I want to work things out and stay together. She wants a separation and then a divorce. The main issue has been that I have taken her for granted and put my other interests ahead of her.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, On January 12th this year, I met my fiance. The first moment I saw her I knew that she was "The One". She was the new bartender in a lounge I frequent and I began talking with her after closing time. After a few nights of this it came out that she lives with a boyfriend who is also the father of her 3-year-old child. I was crushed but shamefully continued to pursue her.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I want to save my marriage! But I feel lost. My husband and I have been married for 11 years and we hardly say anything other than: "What's for supper?" "Where is my underwear?" and basic everyday life stuff. We NEVER sit down and just talk, laugh, or joke together anymore. I feel as if I am losing my marriage (that I have worked very hard to keep together). If I leave, my children will be hurt and if I stay I'm the laughing stock of town because I think he's having an affair. How do you work on a relationship when you work days and he works nights (his choice) and on the nights that he is off he stays out till all hours of the night running around? Thanks Dear Feeling Lost, You write that you want to save your marriage and that you feel lost.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I want to save my marriage! But I feel lost. My husband and I have been married for 11 years and we hardly say anything other than: "What's for supper?" "Where is my underwear?" and basic everyday life stuff. We NEVER sit down and just talk, laugh, or joke together anymore. I feel as if I am losing my marriage (that I have worked very hard to keep together). If I leave, my children will be hurt and if I stay I'm the laughing stock of town because I think he's having an affair.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, My marriage of fifteen years is in serious jeopardy and I feel helpless. My wife recently went back to work after 12 years of motherhood. There she met a man and started a flirtatious exchange. At first it didn't bother me and I felt so confident in our relationship I let it go on. Then started the touching and kissing. I felt she was going through a phase and allowed it to go on and didn't discourage it. Well, of course it went a lot farther. After this episode she told me it was over,(she got it out of her system) and our life and family was too important to jeopardize. She promised me that was that. One week later she was very late from work and I found out things went over the top.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, My wife and I have been going to marriage therapy since October. The problem is that she says that she loves me only like a best friend and not as a husband. The problem in our marriage has been communication. We were both raised in families where communication was a problem. Therapy has helped me communicate but my wife still has difficulty doing the same. In addition to my wife and I seeing therapist separately, we are seeing one together. This whole situation is extremely difficult for me. We have two daughters, a three-year-old and a ten-month-old. I have recently got on medication due to the anxiety this has caused. I have changed in so many positive ways since the beginning of therapy but my wife's feelings are still the same.
Dear Dr. Tobin,
I have been married nine years and we have four children three boys and one girl. I feel that my husband is very self-centered. He is a full-time public defender who puts no effort into child care or maintaining the home. He also puts no time into our marriage.
The unfortunate thing is that even though he works 60 plus hours a week nearly half of the money we live on comes from my job as an occupational therapist. When I ask him for help in maintaining the home, he says he can’t because he needs time to prepare for his cases. His argument to me is that we agreed from the beginning that he would be devoting a significant amount of his time to his career and that I would be responsible for everything else. It’s true that I agreed at the time but I had no idea that I would be a slave to his career. I assumed that our marriage would be a priority and that we would have some fun time together and that he would share in some of the responsibilities. I don’t even get appreciation. In his mind we are partners working toward a successful future. He believes that he is building his reputation now and that in the near future he will open a successful private practice. He tells me that I should be patient and trust him and that all our efforts will bear fruit. I don’t know if I believe him and I don’t know how long I can continue in this marriage. I often have fantasies of just escaping. If I didn’t have children, then I would. Please advise me about what I can do. I’m desperate for an answer.
I wonder if your husband knows how lonely you are. Does he understand how much you miss him? Would he be surprised about how unhappy you are?
You have made it very clear in your letter how you feel victimized by his focus on work, his “unwillingness” to help, his lack of commitment to the marriage, his absence as a father, and the lack of parity in your financial contribution. You feel overworked and underappreciated, filled with resentment and disconnected. In short, you’re describing a relationship devoid of love and intimacy.
What you write is painful; what you don’t write is revealing. Over the years, I’ve answered many questions from visitors to my website and almost invariably they tell me about how much effort they’ve invested in getting their spouses to respond, to change - to do something different. They often write of a failed therapy experience, a consultation with their rabbi or minister, which led nowhere, or an attempt to unilaterally act differently in order to improve the situation.
Susan, I may be wrong about this but what I sense from you is that you’ve been building up resentments but you have not taken the “risk” to change a situation that causes you so much pain. You have described a marriage that sounds untenable and is dangerously close to divorce yet I have no idea if you’ve communicated any of what you feel to your husband.
I’m going to assume that you haven’t, and if I’m wrong and you have, then I want to help you find a new and more effective way of communicating how you feel and what you want to change. Here is a list of suggestions:
· Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of the page. On the left side write Resentments; on the right writeWants.
· First write your list of resentments that you feel toward your husband. For example, “I resent you for not helping with the children.” Or, “I resent you for not spending time with me.” Or, “I resent you for taking me for granted.”
· Now on the right side under Wants change your statements of resentments into statements of want. For example, “I resent you for not spending time with me,” becomes “I want us to spend time together,” or “I miss you and I would like us to spend time together.”
· Once you’ve completed your list of resentments and wants, I would like you to notice the difference in how you feel when you express resentments and then wants. To be very frank, it’s easy to express resentments and to feel like a victim. It’s quite another thing to speak proactively in the language of someone who wants to create positive change. It’s the difference between acting out of fear or finding the courage to do what must be done in order to change a difficult situation.
· Once you feel you are ready to approach your husband in the spirit of wanting to create change, you can either set a time to speak to him or write him a letter if you feel that may be less threatening. You need to be careful not to lead with your negative feelings. If so, he’ll most likely react defensively. Lead with what you desire; not with what you don’t want or like.
· Even if you take the correct action, there’s no guarantee that he will respond positively. He may feel so overwhelmed by his work and feel misunderstood and unappreciated by you that he will hear all of your requests as demands and criticisms. If so, try not to react negatively. It’s a strong indication that you will need marital therapy to help you through this difficult period.
The main point that I would like you to take from my response is this: Take responsibility to change a negative situation into something positive. Feeling and acting like a victim is an absolute guarantee for unhappiness and failure. Finding the courage to be proactive and taking control over your life is one of the main pathways to happiness and fulfillment.
Dr. Michael Tobin
Marital and family psychologist
Dear Dr. Tobin, When we have conflicts, my partner does not want to involve his friends or family, rather he feels free to contact my employer. In one case he contacted a prospective employer and I lost that opportunity. In another case, he informed a prospective employer that I was no longer available for work, which was not true. What are the guidelines regarding the relationship between a family and a partner's employer? He's Ruining My Name Dear He's Ruining My Name, You know the answer to your question.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I really need your help and advice. My husband and I have been married for just over five years. We do not have any children together, but we each have one from previous marriages. The kids are not the issue. When we met I fell "head over heels" in love with him, and he felt the same way. We married only one year after we had met (and only dated for four months). We worked together, were best friends, and did nothing without the other.
My husband and I are and have been having a power struggle for nearly 10 years. He is stronger in the struggle than I am and it has now reached a physical level. Photo: he’s on the computer
My husband and I have been having the same problems for years. But just recently, within the last year, we came very close to divorce. It feels like no matter what I do things just are never all that calm. When working part-time and going to school, or when we had kids and I stayed home, he was still not satisfied. Now that I'm working full-time it's still the same. He seems to expect me to take care of the home front no matter what the situation.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, My husband and I just had our second wedding anniversary. We've been together since 1992. We have a beautiful one-year-old baby boy. Although our son is only an infant, I felt I was reading our future story when I read the psychologist's comments about triangulation in the on-line drama "The Unemployed Son." Like in the drama, I feel as though I am the single parent who shares accommodations with my husband. I find I compensate for our failing marriage by dissolving my unhappiness in time spent with my baby boy. From the time I get home from my full-time office job until I go to sleep at night, he is my only priority. The result is a hollow realization that if I did not have my son in my life, I would be drawn to tears every evening out of loneliness and frustration with my marriage.
Dear WholeFamily, I have been married for almost three years. I had a difficult time planning the wedding because I have a bad relationship with my parents. My parents were physically abusive to me while I was growing up and even up to the time I moved out at 19, and I struggled with planning the wedding without my family. My husband and I did not have much money to pay for the wedding, and although his family is wealthy and expected a lavish affair, they refused to contribute because they felt my parents should pay.
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