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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  1. 61

    this is more serious than I thought and the red flag to me isn’t what you think it is. It’s the “charming” part. This  is a bugbear of mine, having dated the consummate charmer.
    as lurking says, it,s about manipulating you.
    by all means enjoy a man or woman,s charm at a social function for an hour or two.  But don’t get it confused with good intentions, the ability to follow through, reliability. It,s a snow job. Sometimes these charmers just say things to shut you (or your therapists up).
    my boyfriend is kind and reliable. i see him often. When he comes over he insists on doing housework. He didn’t contribute to the mess as he never stays over (yes in the 21st century some of us are still waiting for marriage to have sex ). He has never charmed me or seduced me. At first i found it weird and wondered if he even fancied me but I realise now he will not say or promise anything that he can’t back up with action. he does compliment me now though but it,s not to get anything from me. 
    It,s not your husband,s working hard which is your real problem. You can’t believe what he says so you can’t trust him. Without trust you have nothing.

  2. 62

    Not that it’s excusing his behaviour, but it sounds like the husband has some major issues about growing up poor, and his overwork is trying to compensate, to ‘never be poor again’. Maybe if the OP addresses the problem through this issue there might be a chance to work on it and fix it (if he’s willing to look deep within himself).

  3. 63

    You really hit the nail on the head! Thank you! I had a good man that was a terrible partner and so-so father of the only child we have. I wouldn’t have another based on how aloof he was during the pregnancy and first 6 months of the kid’s life. He didn’t want another kid because my libido went down during pregnancy and multiple complications prevented it. He admitted that and I am still disgusted! Counseling and him knowing I was thinking of leaving did not change him. He cried and screamed, but didn’t show long lasting change. I diagnosed him with untreated add-inattentive, but he is still unmedicated after getting a positive diagnosis a year ago. We are separated now, but are staying friendly because of our son. He helps out with my bills and I keep his finances on track. He would take me back in a heartbeat, but I am done with that rollercoaster. 

  4. 64
    A husband

    Good enough is not good enough. What’s wrong with women? and men!??? 
    Jesus fucking christ always wanting the moon and stars, while the ocean is right there.
    Se ahogan en un charquito. Al chile. 
    “omg, my husband works, doesn’t beat me, is a great provider, has a kid, but i am not happy, wahhhh.” Suck it up woman! FFS a marriage is not so you can test and try until you find the one. 
    Sucks to be you, but you have no choice, your fault by saying yes.
    Personal anecdote: 
    My wife married me because she got pregnant, i had asked her to marry me before we found out she was pregnant. She said no, i am not ready etc. Two weeks later when she found out, she all of a sudden was ready. Well guess what? I wasn’t and i didn’t accept her proposal for months, while still living together. And with that “payback” (gesture)  i made sure to make a point BEFORE we got married. The point was this: I am not doing anything in this marriage just because of my son, you will not hold me hostage to your will just because you hold the cards. You could have done something to make him understand that “work all day no party all night” was not going to be okay with you.
    Having known that, I was prepared to take anything she threw this way. i knew she didn’t love me the way i did, which i didn’t mind. I am a logical reasonable thinker. Love comes and goes, and i was willing to deal with a woman that didn’t wanna marry, bipolar, alcoholic, and a total bitch when drunk (she has great qualities as well, those are her “bad” ones, nothing else really) that became my wife. And deal i did. For 5 years so far. Dealt with abuse, verbal abuse, a lot of it. Physical abuse? not so much, i am a man and can somewhat protect myself. But mental abuse? Man there was a lot, i mean a lot. Unimaginable words. It hurts more when it comes from a person that you love. But guess what? Not once did i consider leaving a real option. Why? Because i knew what the fuck i was jumping in, and momma raised no punk ass bitch to run away when shit hits the fan.
    I chose her, i wanted that responsibility, i wanted that challenge. And now my wife is not an alcoholic, not a bitch cause she is not drunk, she controls her feelings, and understands reason. Now i have what i knew she could be, a good person. And as a wife!  
    Guess what? I am happy. Because deep down inside i know i am doing good.
    Sorry to say it, but you are spoiled.
    Ps. My wife spends maybe 20 hours in a week at home, working, working, working, every single day. I don’t get love, i don’t get miss you, i don’t get that on a daily basis. And i am sure many have it that way, and they are still married.
    This whole “if there is no love there is no marriage” is bullshit. Feelings get in the way of rational thinking. Which has kept at least one marriage going, mine. 
    If good enough is not good enough for you, then go find that “perfect relationship/man”

  5. 65

    ‘m really becoming disappointed  with love, relationships, and humanity in general. As people, we have all come to exhibit selfish, entitled, confrontational, cruel, un-empathetic, hurt, tired and numerous other traits we can’t seem to find a way to harmony. Whether its Ann, her husband, posters. What is wrong with this society? 

  6. 66

    Sure, there are times when it’s best for both to end things, but talk to him. He loves you and is working hard to make a better life than the one he grew up with. Read the 5 love languages. It explains a lot.

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