The honeymoon's over

We've been married only two weeks and my husband already thinks we're doomed to failure.


Cary Tennis
May 13, 2004 11:10PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I am a 32-year-old professional woman. My boyfriend of four and a half years and I got married a little over two weeks ago. We had a beautiful, intimate wedding and a perfect honeymoon.

Since we returned, we've been fighting pretty much nonstop. Last night, my husband told me that he doesn't think we're going to make it two more weeks.

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I was devastated to hear this. We have been having problems adjusting to married life but I was shocked to hear that he doesn't think these problems can be worked out and that he's already so willing to consider divorce. What are the problems? First, I've had trouble sleeping with him for the past several months since he bought a new mattress. He went shopping for it without me and spent $2,000 on it. It does not provide enough support for me. It's so soft that it's causing him to snore more because his head is slumped in a weird way and he can't get enough oxygen. And he likes to sleep with the television on. I made the mistake of asking him to turn it down a little a couple of times. He's still really mad at me about that and says I'm trying to change him. I just want to go to sleep. After several sleepless nights in a row, I started leaving our bed a couple of hours into the night and going to our guest room, where I immediately fall to sleep. He's mad about this too. I don't want to sleep in a different room from my husband, but I have to get good sleep or I can't function. He says we can't buy a new mattress until we pay off our wedding bills, so for the time being, it seems I'm stuck.

We've also been arguing because I made the mistake of asking him to make the bed one morning when I was running late (he tells me he likes it made, but doesn't want to do it himself). And, once in a while, I comment on the fact that he throws his clothes on the floor and is generally a slob. Most of the time I don't mind cleaning up, especially since it makes me crazy to live in a mess, but is it too much to expect that he'll at least try to clean up a little, since he knows I'm neat?

My husband says I don't support him and I'm trying to change him. His view is that I should love him exactly the way he is. This really bothers me because my husband would be hard-pressed to find a woman more supportive than me. He's divorced and has two teenage daughters that live primarily with us. I have dealt with and handled all of the fallout from his divorce, and all of the issues that come with dating a man who already has children, for years. I've been there steadily as he put himself back together emotionally and I've accepted his children into my life 100 percent. When we decided to get married, I sold my house and moved across town, because (understandably) his kids are rooted. I gave up living alone in favor of living with three people; they only have one new person to get used to. I'm not asking for major personality changes. I just want him to be willing to compromise. I know that it's a mistake to think you can change anyone, because people don't. But is change so bad? And whether we like it or not, don't all people who get married have to change to some extent in order to make the marriage work?

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These problems probably sound petty. I have just been chalking them up to the newlywed-adjustment phase. But my husband thinks they are insurmountable. I've tried to talk to him, but he's not exactly into good communication. I've thought of suggesting counseling, but he doesn't believe in it. What should I do? Can I do anything?

Sad and Embarrassed

Dear Sad and Embarrassed,

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First of all do this: Nothing. Not for six months at least. Suggest to him that you stay married, keep at it, and after six months if he still thinks it's unworkable, then maybe it's time to consider divorce. But not yet. You just got married!

But while I have you here may I ask: What kind of brain does your new husband have? Did he not know that wives, once installed in a house, tend to think of it as their principal place of residence and adjust it accordingly? Did he consider you a child, or a captive, silently grateful to sleep indoors? Where did he keep his first wife -- in the cellar? Did he not know that eventually you would ask him to turn the TV down? Did he not know that in America it is the wife who chooses the mattress?

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I'll bet that prior to your marriage, you've been taking care of him emotionally. I'll bet that in your dating and courtship you've slid along as though in a kind of fairyland, feeding his masculine narcissism and enjoying the erotic combination of needy boy and imperious master. Perhaps in the dating world it's fine, even a turn-on, that he is demanding and self-centered. But apparently neither one of you looked ahead to see how marriage would change that.

Why does marriage change that? Marriage changes that because marriage forces you to confront behaviors you previously could ignore. Marriage consecrates, or concretizes, the fantasy. Dating is a war game. Marriage is the war. You can't just go home if someone breaks the rules. You're stuck with each other for the time being.

You probably saw each other's flaws, but believed that they would work themselves out. Perhaps you were afraid that confronting them would destroy the romance. Perhaps it would have.

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But now you have to learn to live with each other as you really are. It's not going to be easy. You need a set of ground rules based in reality. You're sharing a house and each of you has the right to make your wishes known; when you're in common areas you have to respect each other's wishes. Common areas include the bed and the television.

I think he's wrong when he accuses you of trying to change him. What you're trying to change is the volume of the television set, and the softness of the bed. He is not the bed or the television. He is your husband. There's something wrong with his brain if he can't tell the difference between himself and an appliance, or a mattress.

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Cary Tennis

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