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.