She jokes, he sulks

Kids! Cut the posturing and hostility!

By Salon Staff

Published November 29, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Well, yes, he did marry her because she was beautiful and lively and he
hoped she would perk him up and soothe his deep conviction that life sucks
and people are, at best, out to cheat you and, at worst, to humiliate you. He
did not marry her to have her be the person that she is, nor, I suspect, did
he ever feel that he had a lot of joy and strength to contribute to her.

She may be a bit of bitch, a little cruel in her humor (which is how she
expresses her dissatisfaction with who he is -- what did she think? That his
anxiety was a pose?) but she is not responsible for his personality and his

If he doesn't choose to get help with it, the marriage is doomed and
so is he. If he does, they might be able to go to couples therapy and
appreciate their differences (once his personality is more cautious, which is
OK, and less paranoid, which is not). She, on the other hand, can probably
learn that most people don't feel uplifted by practical jokes and go on to
make a successful second marriage.

-- A.B.

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I can't pretend to have any solutions, but I can just give my two cents.

I was raised in a conservative yet egalitarian household. We would have family meetings regularly to discuss major issues and events that had an impact on the family. (I remember these starting when I was a small child.)

However, there was always an understated sense that my father was the leader of the family. This was a role that he was proud to perform and he nurtured that responsibility by making sure that the rest of us felt comfortable with it.

I think that modern women don't realize how important it is for men to feel that their wives look up to them, that their wives are proud to be with them and chose their husbands to be leaders and co-equals.

It sounds as if David felt early on as though his wife had not chosen him to
lead but had chosen him to be the lifelong butt of her jokes. Perhaps he even fears that she has little respect for him and who he is.

It might help if Lucy spent some time praising him for the things that he does and the person he is, both in private and in public. For example, it sounds like David is an intelligent man who enjoys discussions of current affairs. If she teased him lightly about his good qualities, he will feel better
about himself and about their relationship. Like "Oh David is so smart,
sometimes I think I married the Internet." Or whatever.

It also sounds like David has a too-fragile sense of self if it can be dented so
deeply and easily. He needs to know that his pride and strength must come from within and not entirely from what his wife thinks of him. When she sees that he is strong enough to see his own strengths and weaknesses and to have a sense of humor about them, she will love and appreciate him even more.

People need to spend more time being good and kind to each other. Mutual respect and kindness are the pillars of any marriage, I think. By the way, I am 28, not 82.

-- Cheryl Contee

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A politically correct fact of life is that sexism can only be practiced by
men against women. If the "honeymoon practical joke" had been perpetrated by the husband and it was the bride who "suffered in silence," would we have gotten the same article?

Suppose the husband videotaped his bride's attempts to lure him into the
consummation of the marriage -- the stripping of her wedding dress, the
removal of her garters -- and then had it playing on the TV in front of a
"barful of drunken farmers"? If she had recoiled and questioned her choice of spouse, would that be the "paranoia associated with lack of a Y chromosome"? Or would that be just another good-natured "attempt to shake her up, to free her from her insecurity"? Sauce for the goose is sexism for the gander?

He was an easy mark and her sadistic comedy was meant to humiliate, not
amuse. If this poor fool was suffering from a mental illness, it wasn't the
"paranoia associated with the Y chromosome," it was poor self-esteem. If he'd had better self-esteem he would have dumped her and walked out of the bar that night.

Oops. Sorry. I forgot. Poor self-esteem is an exclusively female province. Something about the Y chromosome I guess.

-- Charles, a survivor of 21 years of marriage

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Well. Where to begin?

I'm one of those people who believes that practical jokes are always hostile. And that stunt Lucy pulled on her honeymoon was extremely hostile. Was David likely too serious and paranoid before he met Lucy? Sure. But the truth is, they both sound dull and difficult. Those charming, jovial types
like Lucy can be so damn exhausting.

Then again, most people are, day to day. This couple needs to understand that loving is about little kindnesses. I've been married many years, and believe me, neither one of us is a picnic to live with. But my husband loves
the fact that I iron his shirts, just because I want him to look nice at
work. He loves to snuggle up to me when I'm wearing flannel nightgowns. I
love the fact that he sometimes brings me home little gifts for no reason and
that he always has time to help our teenage daughter with geometry no matter how tired he is.

We're a pair. And we help each other. We don't scare each other through
hectic jokes and sullen glowering. David and Lucy need to look to become a couple. One entity. If they want to stay together, they'll find a way to fit together.

-- Kate W.

Salon Staff

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