I Married a Great Guy. Why Am I So Unhappy?

I Married a Great Guy. Why Am I So Unhappy?
Hi Evan,

My husband and I come from two different cultures (I’m Asian, he’s African-American) and were raised very differently. Not that these differences are necessarily bad, but we can’t agree on anything. We also don’t have common interests so we spend a lot of time apart. I married him because he’s a good guy, I love him, and he convinced me that we could make it work.

Now we’re not even two years into our marriage (after three years of dating, during which time we didn’t live together), and I can’t stop fantasizing about leaving (while alternately crying at the thought of it). I’ve taken on a major responsibility: taking care of his six-year-old son who’s with us 75% of the time. And I think I’m more attached to his son than I am to him because he’s barely around.

He’s very, um, hardworking. On weekends, he’s gone by 6 a.m. and doesn’t come home until dinner – sometimes after. That’s EVERY weekend. He doesn’t have a high-powered job that requires him to be there. He CHOOSES to be there. He has a decent-paying day job, but on weekends, he keeps looking for ways to make money—selling clothes, shoes, selling anything. When he’s home, he’s on the phone talking about work. But he never spends any money!

We never go anywhere (this is not just a superlative – we literally haven’t been out of town in the five years we’ve been together – I take vacations by myself). He doesn’t care for the beach, the mountains, trying out new restaurants, dancing, or checking out new places. He also doesn’t want to spend any money, even if I always offer to cover half. We did go somewhere nice on our honeymoon, but only because our wedding guests paid for it. Plus he doesn’t want to miss work.

He’s a great guy. He loves me and he’s very affectionate around me. Always treats me right… when he’s around. He calls me a lot to check on me, but then checks off once he realizes I’m okay. When I’m not okay he pesters me to tell him what’s wrong, but when I do (I’ve discussed all this with him) he gets defensive. He talks about how I don’t understand how hard he has to work because I don’t have a kid or that I grew up wealthy, or that “you do what you need to do before you do what you want to do.” The thing is, there’s always something that needs to be done, right?

The way I see it, I’ve taken on a lot of responsibility by marrying a single dad–who’s never around! I feel like a roommate, a nanny, and someone he has sex with. So I’m thinking about leaving him. I figure he’s a great guy, I love him, I’m super attracted to him, but our life together sucks. I work hard and I save my money. I clean up after myself and pay my bills just like he does, (we split all our expenses), but I need to enjoy myself too. I’m only 32.

What do you think? I married him after reading Lori Gottlieb’s book, Marry Him. Am I asking for too much??

Thanks! –Ann

Dear Ann,

It hurts to get letters like yours.

There’s a huge difference between a good man and a good husband.

You feel like you made a smart, adult decision by marrying a responsible, ethical man who loves you. Sure, you knew there’d be compromises. But you didn’t think it would turn out like this.

So brace yourself for some tough love.

It’s your fault.

And if you’re reading that and wincing, because it seems like I’m placing the blame squarely on our innocent original poster, guess what? I am.

Unless your husband did a 180 after marrying you and became a radically different person following three years of courtship, you knew exactly who he was, and you either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

The fact that you said, “he convinced you that you could make things work,” makes it sound like you didn’t have any choice in the matter.

So to anybody who is still confused about what it means to compromise – the point is to compromise your way into HAPPINESS.

Like you just threw up your hands and said, “You’re never around, we can’t agree on anything, we don’t have common interests, and you have a six-year-old son I’d have to take care of 75% of the time given your work habits, but what the hell? Let’s tie the knot and give it a whirl!”

This illustrates two important dating coaching principles of mine.

1) There’s a huge difference between a good man and a good husband.

There are good men who work all the time. There are good men who travel for a living. There are good men who live cross-country. There are good men who don’t ever want to get married. There are good men who aren’t good communicators. There are good men who suffer from depression. There are good men who struggle financially.

If you’re dating a guy who is good, but you’re not actually getting your basic needs met on a daily basis – whether it’s sex, stability, attention or his mere presence, you do not have a good husband.

2) There’s a distinction in wanting to get married vs. wanting to BE married.

I wrote a newsletter about this recently, inspired by my intern, April. Sometimes, you’ve put in your time, you’ve dated around, and you just want to make something LAST. So you end up marrying the man who is your boyfriend for two years, and it turns out that the problems you had with him when you were single have not disappeared now that you’re married. In fact, they’re exacerbated, because you’re living under the same roof and have a higher set of expectations.

People just don’t change.

If you propose to a drama queen, she’ll be a drama queen when she’s your wife.

If you accept a ring from a workaholic, he’ll be a workaholic when he’s your husband.

I’m no marriage counselor but given his preference for work over domestic life, your lack of common interests, and your inability to communicate about money, I would suggest you consider separating.

He’s getting HIS needs met – he has a sweet wife who watches his boy and he gets to see her whenever he chooses to come home.

But marriage isn’t only about HIS needs; it’s about yours, too.

And if they’re not getting met, then you’ve gotta get out.

Finally, as one of the main inspirations for Lori Gottlieb’s “Marry Him”, I have to tell you point-blank: you DIDN’T follow her advice.

Yes, you “settled”, but you settled on the WRONG things.

Lori stated quite clearly that you should compromise on things that don’t matter much, like height or fashion sense or reading for pleasure. She did not at all say you should marry a ghost who’d rather work than be a good husband. So to anybody who is still confused about what it means to compromise – the point is to compromise your way into HAPPINESS. If you haven’t done so, then yeah, you settled – and no one in the world would advocate that you do so.

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Comments:

  1. 31
    Mickey

    Question: if the situation had been reversed, how many people would have been sympathetic to the husband? Or would the more likely knee jerk response be to automatically blame the husband as the villain of the piece?

  2. 32
    Ruby

    Does this man work during the week, and then on weekends as well? It seems odd to me that he leaves at 6am every Saturday and Sunday, and is not back until dinner or later. I too, would be suspicious of Mr. Workaholic’s whereabouts on these weekend jaunts. Doesn’t he want to spend any quality time with his wife and child? Five years together, and they’ve never been on vacation except for the honeymoon? He “works” constantly and is cheap to boot? She can try marriage counseling, but this relationship DOES suck. And if the genders were reversed, I would be suspicious of the wife, and still think the marriage wasn’t good.
     
    As far as Lori Gottlieb’s book is concerned, I haven’t read it, but the subtitle always bugged me: “The Case For Settling For Mr. Good Enough.” It’s one thing to compromise, it’s another thing to settle. It’s one thing to want to be married, it’s another thing to ignore all the red flags because you are single at – horrors – the advanced age of 30. Perhaps I’m wrong, and Ann misinterpreted the book’s message, but you don’t base a life-changing decision on the advice of one fear-mongering book.

    (Ed. note – The publisher came up with the subtitle to generate controversy. The author wasn’t pleased. But the book made the NYT Bestseller list. The lesson, as always: Don’t judge a book by its cover.)

  3. 33
    Great Girl

    @Morris in answer to your question, if it was a husband complaining about an absent wife – first of all, a lot of people would be up in arms over an absent mother who has her husband (a non-parent) doing most of the child-minding.

    The tone of your question would imply that if it was a man thinking about leaving an absent wife, then people would not be so sympathetic.  As an advocate of trying everything before ending a marriage,  an absent spouse is an absent spouse – the OP stated that she feels like a room mate that has sex with her husband.  Either way, if man or woman, if one person is dissatisfied and speaks up and not getting any cooperation, acknowledgement or in any way work towards an amicable solution, then it’s time to re-think the compatibility of this partnership.

    She can’t work on this marriage herself, marriage is a 2-way street.

  4. 34
    Helen

    Great Girl #30, you ARE great. In the face of betrayal, you’re forgiving and acknowledging the role you may (or may not) have played in your ex-husband’s actions, and seeing the positive in the negative.  Best wishes to you.

    I do agree with Morris #29 that we don’t have enough evidence that the husband in this story is cheating. Even so, this is a terrible marriage! The point is that he is never there, and does not make his wife a priority in his life.  To be honest, it sounds as though he married her so that he could offload his parental responsibilities onto her.  It’s rather crass that he offloaded pretty much 100% of childcare.  Crass both to the wife and the poor son.  No, he is not a great guy.

    The OP should leave the relationship, and not feel guilty about splitting or completely relinquishing custody.  This “marriage” is nonsensical.

  5. 35
    Joe

    @ Ruby: yeah…sounds a bit like this guy has a second woman or family somewhere.

  6. 36
    Goldie

    @ Morris #29 — I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s cheating, he could be out fishing with his buddies for all we know, but there’s definitely something suspicious going on. The man disappears for 12 hrs/day every Saturday and Sunday, says that he’s working, cannot describe his weekend work (“trying to sell anything” is not work), and has no money to show for it as far as I can tell (their accounts are separate so Ann cannot see how much he has, and he’s keeping his expenses to a minimum, so there may not even be any extra money to begin with).
     
    @ Mickey #31 – I honestly cannot imagine a situation where the roles are reversed, i.e, a single mother with a preschool-aged son marries a man with no children, hands the care of her child, plus all housework, over to her new husband, and disappears, coming home only to sleep, eat whatever her husband has cooked for her, have sex, and tell her husband to stop complaining because he doesn’t understand how difficult it is to have a kid, and that she has to work and make money for the family — all this while giving her husband no access to her money and telling him they cannot spend any time or money on vacations, going out, and such? On what planet would a mother actually do this? In the unlikely case that she did, yes I would be outraged.
     
    Anyway, like I said, it won’t hurt for Ann to suggest counseling. I did suggest it to my ex. Something tells me she’ll get the same answer I did… “no way”.
     
    @ Great Girl #33: “She can’t work on this marriage herself, marriage is a 2-way street.”  & Helen #34: “This “marriage” is nonsensical.” — This *1000.

  7. 37
    Michelle

    I think the book she needs to read is, ” Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change” by Robin Norwood. It’s nice to be positive and hope for the best. But men do not change without them wanting to. And as Evan has advocated for a long time, you either accept him as he is or you don’t. You see a lot of women who date men who are either workaholics, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc, think that with their love and affection, they will stop being the way they are. So when things get bad, we end up doing more. And it just back fires. Loving these trype of men almost becomes an addiction in itself, when in reality it’s not a healthy relationship at all. I highly recommend the book.

  8. 38
    Ann

    I’ve always felt guilty for wanting to leave, so it’s a relief to read Evan’s response. Dawn’s right — lots of people will think I’m selfish. They might not be surprised — everyone in his family knows about his insane work habits — but they’ll probably think I’m not in touch with the “real world,” where people simply need to work their ass off to survive. It will also break my mother’s heart, who’s a devout Catholic and doesn’t believe in divorce.

    I agree it’s my fault. I did know what I was getting into. I had hoped it would change. I loved him, he  was saying the right things/promising to change after I attempted to break off the engagement four months before the wedding because of all the red flags, and I felt I had already “invested” years of my life with him.

    I remember Lori saying something about listing the top three things you want in a man, and if he had it, go for it. Mine were: 1) good morals/ethics (I figured a man like this won’t be abusive); 2) hard-working and financially independent; 3) not controlling. He met all three, was tall, dark, and handsome, I loved him, he was sweet, and so I went for it.

    Ours was definitely great chemistry with very little compatibility — I wish I had read Evan’s advice on chemistry vs. compatibility before we tied the knot. 

    To offer up some sort of explanation, my husband is deathly scared of going back to where he used to be. He grew up in the projects, clawed his way up. Abusive parents who were never around, grew up around gangs, drugs, etc. He managed not to die, go to prison, get involved in drugs (he doesn’t even drink), finish college on scholarship, and get a job where he’s been at for more than 10 years. But I think that fear never left him. As for stuff he sells, he buys them wholesale from New York (where he grew up) and sells them at a weekend flea market. He just puts his money up for emergencies (in case he loses his job or something).

    He does spend time with his son. He’s a great father, albeit too serious (he talks to his son about how he can die anytime and he–the son–has to “man up” because he won’t always be there for him). He’s very involved with his schoolwork, tries to spend every spare moment with him, worries about him and how he’s going to turn out all the time. They’re crazy about each other. We share parenting duties and expenses equally — homework, dropping him off/picking him up at school, going to PTCs, although I care for him on weekends and I cook all his meals. And since I’m self employed, I’m the one who’s often “on call.” He gives him baths and gets him ready for bed. 

    I’m actually falling out of love with my husband. He’s starting to speak again of changing things, of how now that there’s “structure” in our family life — meaning there’s routine with regard to chores, his son, the predictable way we handle bills (which is really me managing/paying for them and then him giving me half within the week), he has more time to focus on me. Gosh when I really think about it, it sounds like such a pathetic/dysfunctional arrangement =p

    I’ve heard this plan to change several times before — it was the same thing he told me when I tried to break off our engagement (at that time, he said that after three years of me adjusting to his schedule and helping him out, it was his turn to focus on my needs — never happened), and I think he’s saying it again because I told him quite honestly that I’m starting to fall out of love because he’s never around and when he is, he has no energy to bond with me. 

    If people don’t really change much, then I guess I don’t have much reason to hope? Plus I’m really tired of hoping.

    We’ve been to two counseling sessions — two different therapists, and for some reason he charmed them and then charmed me. He says all the right things — knows exactly what he’s supposed to do, admits to his mistakes, but doesn’t really change. And he only went to counseling because I paid and I scheduled it around what was convenient for him.

    I don’t really love him that much anymore. My therapist says he’s not surprised. He says it’s like saying you’re starving after not eating for a week.
     

  9. 39
    Kathleen

    Ann 

    I can’t imagine how miserable this arrangement has been for you and how you’ve been able to tolerate this.

    Perhaps therapy is most valuable for YOU alone so that you can build your esteem and not sacrifice your life again for someone who leaves you abandoned in a “pseudo relationship”.  Im glad you are relieved with Evans powerful answer   You are young enough to start again and start taking active charge of your own life where you make decisions based on whats best for you, and not what others think .

    My ex husband came from a very similar background but being with me was always important to him.    

  10. 40
    Morris

    @Great Girl #33 – I didn’t ask that question.
    I don’t disagree with the premise that she leave if things don’t change.  What irks me is the sympathy people have towards the woman that willingly put herself in this position and the accusations placed at the apparently ‘great’ man.(Just a lousy husband.)
    Here is how I read it.  By paragraph.
    We were raised differently and don’t see things eye to eye.  We don’t spend time together, even when we are together, because we have no common interests.  He’s a good man and I love him.  He reassured me we can make things work.(My added thoughts: He’s a good man.  Neither of them want to do what the other person is interested in.  They acknowledge issues, maybe mostly his issues, and need to work on it.)
    We’ve dated 3 years and married for 2.  I want to leave him.  I take care of his 6 year old son.  I’m attached to his son.(My added thoughts: She’s been dating him since the son was a year old baby.  If she’s attached to him image what his son feels for her.  Clearly there is an unfit mother somewhere in the picture.  But that also confirms what she says.  He’s a good man.  A man who wants to take care of his child.  Otherwise why not let the mother take him?)
    He’s hard working.  Works weekends.  Chooses to be at WORK on weekends.  When not at work he still tries to make extra money.  When not doing either he is at home on the phone trying to come up with ways to make MONEY.  He never spends any of the money.(My added thoughts: He’s been doing this since his son was a baby.  Since they’ve been dating.  So UNLESS he’s been cheating on her or he’s been hiding another family from her since the beginning can we PLEASE not accuse the man of cheating?  Seriously!)
    We never go out.  He doesn’t want to spend money even when I’m willing to pay half.
    He’s a GREAT guy.  He LOVES me and is VERY AFFECTIONATE.  ALWAYS treats me right.  But when we talk about the issues he get’s defensive.  His argument is that he has a son to worry about.  He didn’t grow up RICH.  He places his and his sons NEEDS before my WANTS.(My added thoughts: We don’t know what the issue is here.  But now we know SHE is from a wealthy family.  She places WANTS before NEEDS.  Instead of accusing the man of cheating I would argue that maybe he’s trying to create a better life for his son.  Maybe he’s trying to pay off debt.  Maybe he’s saving for a down payment for a house.  Maybe the public school system sucks and he’s saving to send his son to a private school.  If she’s wealthy why isn’t she chipping in more?  Why just offer to pay half when going out?  Clearly if paid for he is willing to go out as shown with the honeymoon.  I want to know what the MONEY issue is.  Something clearly doesn’t add up.  A man who work hard to earn some extra cash married to a woman from a wealth family…)
    He’s a great guy and I’m attracted to him but life sucks.  I feel like a roommate/nanny/sex partner.(My added thoughts: The baby was a year old when she started dating him.  Nothings changed so she was a nanny and sex partner before they decided to get married.)
    I married him after ready a book.(My added thoughts: Really?  And that’s what you took from that book?)
    So from my point of view we need more answers.  The only thing I can see based on this is that HE is a good man.  SHE is a good woman.  But they don’t make a good couple.  They probably shouldn’t have married but they did.  And a child she’s been practically raising since one is involved.  Can we be a bit more thoughtful before throwing out cheating and leaving ASAP?
    Try to work it out by counseling.  Unfortunately, if nothing changes it’s probably best to leave the situation.  But it was your fault for getting into the situation.  It’s not like the man change AFTER getting married.  The issues existed BEFORE getting married.  You lived with the issues for 3 YEARS before marring him.  I feel really sad for the child involved.

  11. 41
    Morris

    Sorry for my last post.  I wish there was a preview button.  There should have been spaces between paragraphs to make it easier to read.  Not sure why they disappeared.

  12. 42
    Fusee

    Ann, I’m really sorry you’re in this predicament. Regardless of your level of responsability, it’s still really unfortunate.
     
    You, Evan, and the other commenters are really educating me with this thread. I’m thankful of all of you for sharing your experiences.
     
    On one hand, I find relatively easy to compromise on small things, such as “external” factors like physical features, education level, income, etc. On the other hand, no one being perfect in character and in relationship skills, I’m wondering what makes it “good enough” to allow a successful relationship, and what minor weaknesses or shortcomings might lead to the kind of marriages Ann and other commenters describe.
     
    I find helpful that Ann gave an update and more information. It would be helpful if you guys could also give more details about the dating/courtship period that led to the disappointing marriage. Were you in Ann’s situation, hoping for a change after the wedding? Did some minor shortcomings become serious defects down the line? Did your spouse suddenly evolve for the worse?
     
    Any information and insight on these questions would help me a lot as I’m close to face the biggest decision of my life, and obviously scared of making the wrong choice.
     
    Regarding Ann’s situation. I believe that the vow of marriage is special. Divorce is certainly an option, but I think it should truly be a last-resort option (when there is no abuse), after everything has been tried multiple times. It’s not dating, when you can leave the relationship whenever you can’t take it any more. Sometimes people need more than gentle requests or even more than serious requests. It’s very tempting to stick to our personality patterns and avoid the suffering of confronting them. Vague promises and sweet talk buy time and if it looks like one can get away with it, why doing the real work of change?
     
    I’d suggest a much more in-depth discussion on how their marriage has reached a life or death turning point. Talking about the very real possibility of divorce and how it would look like if the marriage does not go through a complete remodeling might trigger more serious soul-searching. If it does not, even after multiple serious conversations and some more time, then I would conclude that there is no true love. When protecting one’s pride and sticking to one’s fears are more important than the legitimate needs of your spouse, it’s no true love. And it’s not a true marriage.
     
    Ann, I really wish you good luck. I hope your husband is going to wake up and give a real chance to your marriage.

  13. 43
    Ann

    I don’t think my husband is cheating. He just really works all the time. But he can’t commit to anything. Morris, I am not wealthy. I GREW UP wealthy. I grew up in a place with maids, drivers, never had to do chores. My dad paid for everything. But I set aside what I was used to for him. Even before him actually, when I decided to strike out on my own. I cook and clean for him. I give his son baths, I do laundry, fold clothes, I learned how to fix the meals HE likes because he and his son can’t stand to eat the cuisine I’m used to. I made every effort to give him what he needs even though it’s very difficult for me.

    My needs? That we have a date night every week when he doesn’t answer the phone. Too much? That he takes me out for a date every COUPLE OF MONTHS. Has not happened. Our second anniversary just passed — no present, no date. When he does give me something, he buys it at the last minute from the Dollar Store. I don’t even really care about the cost — I care about the lack of thought and preparation that went into it. When we first started dating, I would take him out of town for his birthday and yes I would pay for it. He never did that for me. Never. On our first anniversary, we went to the beach, split the cost, just an overnight trip, and we had a huge fight because he wanted to spend half the day shopping at the outlet for his son. I love his son, but c’mon!

    I love this man. He obviously wants to give his son what his father never gave him. I know that. I understand that. But I’m a person too. I have needs as his wife. Understanding doesn’t cancel out those needs. They’re not wants. Wants would be wanting a big house and a new car and jewelry. Needs would be having him around, taking me out every now and then, and setting aside time dedicated to me w/o cancelling out at the last minute because someone called who wants to buy something.

  14. 44
    Ann

    My biggest regret/fear if this doesn’t work out is the real possibility that I’ll never see my stepson again, and that he’ll be devastated. I love that kid to bits. He’s very attached to me. My husband admits it, that I’m the one who creates structure for his life. His mom is very irresponsible and doesnt’ pay much attention to him (he has two other younger kids, from two different guys) when he stays with her.

  15. 45
    Kathleen

    P S  I think the only thing that might wake this husband up is immediately separating and based on the results of that in a specific timeframe filing for divorce.  iTs up to him to show how he’s changed based on actions if he wants to save this and perhaps its time for Ann to show by her actions she’s serious and has a backbone.

    I agree Ann enabled this situation completely. It seems she has always folded to his claims of change so he must know he can get away with the minimum effort to keep her in her housekeeping/ child care taker position. This husband also must know it is going to be next to impossible to find any other woman that would tolerate this type of arrangement.

     

  16. 46
    Michelle

    I think you will also be devastated because you also sound very attached to your stepson. I think you focusing on your stepson has been a platform for you not to focus on yourself and your happiness, until now. I hope you find your own happiness in time. I think the best thing to do is take some time apart from your stepson and husband for now.

  17. 47
    Ann

    I realize I just contradicted myself about never being out of town in the five years we’ve been together :) We have been a few times:

    1) I took him to a bed and breakfast for his birthday – I paid
    2) I took him to a city we’ve never been to and paid for the hotel for his birthday – I paid
    3) We went to Disneyworld for my stepson’s birthday – we split the cost
    4) We went to the beach for my birthday – paid out of credit card points out of my credit card (god, I’m so pathetic, ugh?)
    5) We went to the beach on our first anniversary, overnight – split the cost
    6) We went to Hawaii for our honeymoon — paid for by guests, but when he learned that the gift was cash, he tried to talk me into just cashing it out and splitting the money. Um, I said no.

    Looking back, I don’t know why I put up with all this. Insecurity? Denial? Love? All of the above? Still trying to figure that out…

    My husband is very charming. He’s very handsome. He can talk. He can tell you what you want to hear. That’s probably why I ignored the red flags at the beginning. Plus he just seems so earnest all the time, and I understand that he’s been through so much growing up.
     

  18. 48
    Morris

    Ann.  I wish everything works out for you, your husband and step-child.  I hope you realize I was only commenting on your original post.  It bothered me that people jumped to ridiculous conclusions that wasn’t supported by your original post.  I felt we simply needed more information.

    Sorry I don’t sugar coat things for you.  I don’t find it helpful when people do.  You’ve since posted more and it seems your husband would have to do a lot of changing to make things work.  I wish he would for the sake of your marriage and his child.

  19. 49
    Robyn

    When push comes to shove, what some one SAYS is meaningless.
    What they DO – their ACTIONS – is the true meaning / their true intent & what they really are.
    And this guy’s actions are saying (somewhat selfishly IMHO) “I don’t want to change my behavior so that my wife can be happy. So long as I am happy, that is all that matters”.
    Yes, he’s charming – he snowed Ann into agreeing to moving forward to marriage despite her reservations, and snowed 2 therapists into believing that he really would change his behavior.
    But he has not been able to make a genuinely consistent and permanent change. Which is really what is needed here.
    Ann – I was in a similar situation (luckily without the complication of a step-child) with my ex-fiance. He said he would do X, Y & Z – but could not consistently follow through. Yet I was expected to do a heck of a lot more than X, Y & Z so that he could be happy….
    After “postponing” the wedding (but he wouldn’t name a new date), breaking up & reconciling, trying counseling, yada yada yada, the situation still did not improve (actually it got worse), I had no choice but to leave. Had I married this man, I would have been intensely miserable and a divorce statistic waiting to happen.
    The only reason I’m not recommending that you “bail now & don’t look back” is that you do have your step-son to consider. But at the end of the day, you need to put your needs above his.
    YOU need to be happy, and truly supported, valued and appreciated by the man in your life. Which is not the case in your marriage right now.
     

  20. 50
    Kathleen

    Im so sorry Ann 

    Im at a loss for why you feel he loves you

    Wish you the best  

  21. 51
    Angie

    @Ann
     
    I just realized you were the OP.  I think the problem is that Gottlieb’s book is really a memoir on someone who was a dating failure trying to find a happy lovelife, and it is possible to extract advice from her journey, but she isn’t even close to a dating expert.  You shouldn’t have to cap off your “needs’ at three, just prioritize them, and realize which of them are needs vs wants and which you could compromise or live without, and also what flaws you can’t do without.
     
    Moving forward, I wouldn’t do anything out of guilt, and don’t feel shame for buying into promises.  Objectively, if your stepson’s mother is a mess, I can see why your husband may want to overcompensate as a parent, but at the end of the day, this doesn’t have anything to do with your marriage.
     
    If you decide that you want to separate/divorce, etc, you need to come up with a list of what you want (a role in your stepson’s life, etc), and approach it like an adult.  You husband sounds like he has figured out how to get everything he wants so I doubt he will ever shift the status quo.  Perhaps, he even noticed you’re naivety and eagerness to be “Miss Right” at the start of your relationship, and molded you into what he needs and wants, but a good partner would be concerned that he is Mr. Right to you.

  22. 52
    Goldie

    To commenters saying Ann knew what she was getting into: She says they did not live together prior to marriage, so it was a different dynamics then. My former husband and I, too, didn’t move in together until three months before we got married. By the time we got married, I already knew that it was going to be bad, but thought it was too late to back out.
     
    After reading Ann’s followup posts, I honestly think the two of them have done all they could and it’s just not working. And if you think this marriage is bad now, imagine it in 12 years, when Ann’s stepson leaves home and she finds herself trapped alone in the house, technically married to someone who’s never around, at 44. She deserves better than this. She only has one life and I honestly fail to see a reason why she should sacrifice it on the altar of this guy. I believe I’m qualified to say this, as someone who’s been in a similar marriage for 18 years, tried everything, tried to stick it out — sticking it out just enables the other side. It just sends them a message that whatever they’re doing, works, wife isn’t complaining, husband should continue doing what he does.
     
    Ann, you don’t know how your family will react. They may be more supportive than you think. Family friends is the difficult part, but since you don’t do anything together as a couple, I’m not sure if you as a couple have any family friends? In our case we had a lot. I have to say, most of them reacted the opposite of what I’d expected. People that I thought would turn on me, or be indifferent and stop communicating, were incredibly supportive. People that I thought would support me, let me down. It is a major test of who your real friends are.
     
    Since everyone is recommending books, here’s the one that worked for me: Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum. It is laid out like a questionnaire where you analyze your marital issues and determine whether they are deal-breakers or not, whether they can be worked out or not, whether the two of you will be happier together or separate. Maybe Ann’s husband will benefit from the divorce too in the long run. Right now in his mind, he’s working his ass off to provide for his family and his wife only nags him in return — he’s probably puzzled and frustrated. I understand that his previous relationship has not worked out, either. Some people are just better off on their own than in a marriage. Maybe he’s one of them. Nothing wrong with it; I don’t plan on remarrying, either.
     
    I do not know whether it is possible for Ann to get partial custody of her stepson, but it is definitely worth checking into if she’d like that. By the way, Ann and her husband wouldn’t be doing the poor kid any favors by sticking it out for his sake. Not only would he be unhappy growing up in a dysfunctional environment, he will also have a negative family pattern in front of his eyes that he will likely repeat when he has a family of his own.
     
    This is a very sad situation. Divorce is incredibly stressful for all involved. But I honestly fail to see another way out, especially since they seem to have already tried and failed. Hope that I’m wrong. Good luck.

  23. 53
    Alexandra

    I absolutely agree with Evan that this is Ann’s fault. She admits being aware of many red flags a few months short of the wedding and even breaking off the engagement, but going back to it because of the “sunk costs”. Like many women, she believed (maybe unconsciously) that marriage was going to change the relationship for the better. It does not. A workaholic boyfriend will become workaholic husband. An emotionally distant boyfriend will become an emotionally distant husband. A rocky courtship will become a rocky marriage.
    Presumably, three years of dating should be sufficient to gauge whether two people have compatible personalities and shared values. Ann clearly ignored some major flaws in their relationship and some warning signs, starting with his childhood. I’m no psychologist, but I would think that someone who grew up in the projects around drugs and gangs, with abusive parents and with no positive role model, will have a more difficult time forming a stable, lasting and healthy long-term relationship. This is not to say that it cannot be done, but rather, that it will be a long and tough road for him.
    Contrary to most commenters, I believe people CAN change. However, an effective change can take place only if they feel they NEED to change. Also, changing/evolving is often a very gradual process that results from years of life experiences and circumstances. What I’m saying is that Ann’s husband is not going to change overnight because she wants him to, or because she expresses a dislike with his actions. That may get him to change for a very short period of time, but he will quickly revert back to his normal behavior.

    And finally, not to question Lori’s advice, but to “go for it” if a man meets a three-item checklist? Hum. Even if we accept this concept, Ann’s list had two negatives (“not abusive. not controlling”). And then the holy grail for women: tall, dark, handsome… Shouldn’t there be something more to a husband than someone who’s not abusive and not controlling? Someone who’s tall and dark? And on item #2, Ann says she wanted a husband who was hard-working and financially independent. She got him, didn’t she? Like Evan says, positive traits have their flips sides. You can’t expect your financially independent and hard working husband to come home at 5:30 and to spend every weekend with you. There is a price to pay with a driven, ambitious and wealthy partner. 
    I do not mean to criticize Ann for her reasoning and choice in partner. What I’m saying is that many women, myself included, have made (or are making) the same mistake, the mistake of picking a man for the wrong reasons, or investing in the wrong qualities. Unfortunately, we do not learn these important lessons in school.
    This sad situation should be a warning bell for readers who hear their inner voice say “noooooo!” when they think of marrying their partner. Personally, I dated a man who was wrong for me on so many levels, for ten long months, because I ignored that inner voice. The best decision I have ever made in my life, and I hope Ann hears me, is that I broke up with him, went back on Match, and five weeks later met the love of my life. Like Dr. Phil said, the worst thing about being in a bad relationship for six months is being in a bad relationship for six months and one day.

    There is a difference between being unsure because the spark is missing, and being unsure because deep down, something about the relationship just feels wrong. I’m sorry Ann has to go through this. If she chooses to leave, the goods news is that she is still young so she has good chances of later finding a suitable partner who meets her needs.

  24. 54
    Leesa

    Ann, how you describe him reminds me so much of that guy i was involved with. he was charming – i called him the “golden boy” because my parents did more for him than me. he knew what was right, how to make our relationship better etc etc etc (because he would say it all), and that’s how i guess i stayed for a year. because every time i was thinking how shit the situation was (with me all give and him all take), he said everything to make me feel that i was selfish for needing more from him – and that i wasn’t being understanding of his situation. but often he wasn’t getting paid for hte hours he worked – then he said: it’s just part of this job and he has to do it.  and he knew exactly what to say – he had the right answer for everything. but i didn’t realise that it was all manipulation until after he hooked up with this other women … then he was still saying that he loved me and that they were just friends and that she was just somebody to talk to bla bla bla. it was horrible. it was only then that i saw what he had been doing all along…. saying what he needed to to get me to do what he wanted me to do.
    your husband has a vested interest in keeping  you as his house maid/nanny/sex object.  
    with the guy i was involved with: i remember one of my friends asking me if i thought he might be chasing other women and i said …” no way, he’s not like that”. i honestly thought that i had the most honest, loyal, devoted guy.  that’s why i cried for 8.5 months after it ended, i was so confused about what had happened … i couldn’t make sense of all his actions. until i found evan’s website. then i read all evan’s blog posts (every single one he ever wrote on his blog) and slowly, i started to understand why that guy had said and done all the things he did.  he knew what was right, he just didn’t do what was right. he used what he knew was right to manipulate everybody around him into doing what he wanted them to do.  and he said he’d had a difficult childhood and had made good of himself. if guys like him did have a difficult childhood, they tend to learn mal-adaptive interpersonal skills – like manipulating others. at least now i’ve come to believe that from my experience with that guy.
    your husband will try hard to keep you until he finds somebody else. i’d bet you good money that if you do leave, you’ll find out through your step-son very quickly that he has hooked up with another women.  he is charming, handsome, seems to have high moral values … knows exactly what to say. there will be women lining up to walk into your shoes, and so you should let them. all that glitters is not gold. then i imagine you’ll wonder, as i did, why you stayed for so long, how could have you believed that he really loved you, how you wasted 5 years of your life serving a user, who is now sleeping with somebody else and putting all his “love” and energy into another women. i thank god every day that i only wasted one year of my life with that guy. and i also realised this: just because i’m smart, pretty, fun, easy going, good with money, and what i consider to be “lovable”, it doesn’t mean that every guy is going to love me.  and i’ve learnt from evan that guys don’t think like i do. some think and feel more like women, but they are in the minority.  now, more than anything, i watch what men do and not what they say. and since that guy, i’ve met guys who are totally into me, who make good money etc etc etc, but one in particular has a history of womanising. so i’ve also learnt that even if they are totally into you, it doesn’t mean they’ll be a great long term partner (i didn’t go for him thank god). anyways, that’s my 50 cents worth.

  25. 55
    Robyn

    @Goldie –
     “Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay” by Mira Kirshenbaum is a superb book. It was one of the books I found when I was going thru the epic “should I stay or should I go” with my ex-fiance.
    I also had a bit of the “sunk costs” syndrome because we’d known each other for 10 years (had been colleagues & platonic friends for 5 years before we’d progressed to a “romantic” relationship). And I hate to “lose a friend” – but I had to do it in order to save myself from a life-time of misery.
    And yes, even though we’d known each other for that long before we got involved, it was only when we were engaged & heading towards marriage that the “dirt” / difficult issues surfaced. Which is why I don’t believe in short engagements / rushing into marriage. It’s a lot easier to end an engagement / call off the wedding than going thru a divorce. Not to say that ending an engagement / calling off the wedding is “easy” or “painless” – because it’s still an emotional divorce.

  26. 56
    Henriette

    Ann – I’m sorry and send you big hugs.  This sounds like a terribly difficult situation.
     
    I believe your husband does love you and is a good man.  I don’t think it’s bad that you paid for the out-of-town trips; if you’re the one who wanted to travel, why NOT take full financial responsibility?  I even think that he will be an excellent husband to someone who feels love in the way that he’s able to show it (putting financial stability ahead of romance, being a responsible dad, etc).  However, that “someone” is not you.  
     
    You have tried talking, pleading and counselling.   I think this is more about essentially incompatible personalities than about changing little behaviours. 
     
    I don’t like the implication several posters here have made, that “it’s Ann’s fault so she should lie in the bed she made.”  I don’t care whose “fault” this is; the fact of the matter is that it’s an unhappy marriage that probably cannot be much improved.   Even if it were 100% your “fault” (and I do not believe this), that would be no reason to stay in a miserable situation.
     
    As for your step-son: the divorce will be very hard for both of you.  However, he will eventually understand that even good people should not marry if incompatible and that’s a pretty valuable lesson for anyone to learn at any age.

  27. 57
    David T

    @Ann 
    Stop beating yourself up.  You will become angrier at yourself and at him and that will not serve anyone well.  Don’t go there for your stepson’s sake. The situation is what it is and it does not matter how you three got there. What matters is what happens from today onward.

    It sounds like he is a good man, and that he does not value your feelings and needs; at least is not willing or maybe able to do things just for the sake of making you happy. Good man but bad partner, if you want someone besides a business partner.Something has to change or the marriage will fail.  You might already be past that point.
     
    If you do continue counseling (you have only been twice, so it might be worth continuing for a while) ask the counselor to help the two of you to set up an change plan and that he promise to abide by it. Sounds like he over-values money (he does not sound rational about it, frankly)  and will not likely ever spend a bunch on you, but there are creative low cost ways he can express his love. It sounds like time and devotion and focus on you would go a long way for you.

    Make it clear in counseling that the marriage will end if you don’t begin feeling loved instead of just appreciated by him. His making that promise to the change plan and following through is part of that. One no-phone-night a week and one date night a month is a good start. Maybe throw in one weekend all day outing for the three of you once a month too. Whether your smiles and happiness become important to him, so that he wants to plan ahead, and takes delight in thinking about how pleased you will be as he does, is another thing, but that might come if you two start doing some of things happy couples do and he takes joy in your pleasure.

    Your stepson surely loves you and his Dad a great deal.  If you need to end the marriage, make it clear, maybe starting in the counseling sessions now, that you intend to stay in the boy’s life for his sake.  As long your stepchild knows you love him and you have the opportunity to demonstrate maternal love, that will go a long way to him not being devastated.  His Dad will still need someone to look after him on weekends.  Maybe he would let you have him a couple of weekends a month. I hope he does not try to use your devotion to his child as leverage to keep you around, because I predict he will greatly fear losing you and that might drive him to extremes.  If he goes there, make it clear that that will only hurt his son, but it won’t stop you from making the changes you need to make in your life. 
     
    Blessings and peace.

  28. 58
    Ann

    Thank you so much Evan and everyone else who’s weighed in on my situation. I really appreciate your perspective and advice. I am in no way offended by many of you saying that I got myself into this situation. I did. I knew what I was getting myself into. I just believed that it will change, and soon. I believed because I wanted to believe, because he’s always been really earnest in his “plans” to change, and because I was already “there” and had “invested much” in the relationship.

    Like I said my husband is a really good man. I will never tell anybody otherwise. But yes, he’s not a good husband. I think part of it is because he grew up around men who cheated on their wives, beat their wives up and yet came home to a clean house and hot meal. So for him, the fact that he doesn’t hurt me, doesn’t cheat on me, and holds a steady job that allows him to cover half the expenses is something I should be immensely grateful for. And I am. I am grateful that he is that kind of person. But I need more than that. I need more than structure. I need someone I can bond with, share my life with.

    I think it’s really about how incompatible we are. And how he takes me for granted, consciously or subconsciously. He tells me all the time — I keep forgetting you’re not from here (I’m an immigrant) and that it’s difficult for you to adjust to all this and not have your family anywhere nearby, or anything else you’re used to. He tells me I’m a  good wife, and that he’s lucky to have me. He expresses his appreciation for me. And I’m grateful for that. But they’re just words, and over time, broken promises (there are so many) and actions that contradict the words just make the words seem meaningless.

    Goldie, I did read Mira Kirshenbaum’s Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay. I passed all the diagnostic questions until I got here, and this is what really struck me as simple truth when it comes to him:

    “If you think negotiation from hell is a problem–and it is–watch out for the negotiation that’s ‘like butter.’ Few things make it feel harder to get your needs met than the partner who agrees to what you want but then just doesn’t keel agreements. This is where the issue of trust comes up in relationships. You trust people who do what they say they’re going to do. When they don’t, the relationship is not only a place of fighting and deprivation, it’s a place of betrayal. Not only are not safely at home there, but it’s a scary alien world… if all we’re talking about is taking out the garbage, it’s no big deal, but a pattern of easily overlooked broken trust is just as deadly to your sense that you can get your needs met as a huge betrayal that slaps you in the face.”

    It’s been almost a year when I just take it for granted that when he says he’s going to be with me at 7pm, that he won’t get there until 8pm, or that if we make plans to spend the day together, that we’ll take several detours because he got calls from people who want to buy something, and I’ll be waiting in the car while he talks to them and shows off merchandise in the trunk of the car. I don’t get mad anymore because I’m so tired of fighting. It’s just a numbness. I’ve fought and fought, cajoled, compromised, accepted.

    Anyway, you’re right that what’s done is done, and I can only move forward. Thank you again to everyone for sharing your thoughts and perspectives. I’m learning a lot from them.

     

  29. 59
    Liz

    @Angie, Thank you for taking the time to write a response to me–I really appreciate it!  Grazie mille!

  30. 60
    Lurking

    Ann; Let me re-cap He is getting ALL his needs met (all day every day) and you get NONE of yours met (for years on end). His actions (passive aggressive, abusive, absent in the important relationships) do not match his words “I’m a great guy”. He came to you with a sob story about a tough background, did you verify it? He is charming (manipulative?) and was attracted to you because you are sweet and empathetic, and Catholic, which means he knew  you will put up with A LOT.   It is REALLY STRANGE to be gone all weekend every weekend, with no plausible explanation, have you hired an investigator or had a friend follow him? Serious red flags. Lots of questions.  You might find an answer here;http://www.lovefraud.com/blog/2010/04/12/10-signs-that-youre-dating-a-sociopath/

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