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. 1
    Karmic Equation

    There may be two books that could help you figure out what to do next:
    1) The Passion Trap: Where Is Your Relationship Going?   by Dean C Delis
    2) Act like a lady, think like a man, by Steve Harvey.
    Your situation sounds very similar to one of the three stories in the Delis book. And it’s also very likely that your husband is operating on the “Provider” principle as explained by Steve Harvey’s book, which may give you a different feeling about his workaholism…
    I think you might want to explore couples counseling before calling it quits. You’ll feel better if you’ve exhausted all possibilities before ending a relationship with someone you love.

  2. 2

    This is good. Women just want to get married. We fantasize about having someone, a ring and being able to say “my husband”. Thats what happened here.  
    He is taking you for granted.
    He married you. Your being a wife. And he is not around.
    Separiting may shake him a little bit. Men often want you when your gone for some reason.

    I would also suggest “Why men MARRY Bitches” And “Why men LOVE Bitches.”

    When things are getting out of hand, you have to start back at the basics.

    You also have to trust yourself. Dont worry about what other people think or say.   

  3. 3

    Ugh. Sounds familiar! Sorry, I don’t like what I’m reading about this guy. I don’t like it at all! I really do not think it can work. I mean, offering him to go to counseling together won’t hurt, but I bet a hundred bucks that he’ll say no. Because, a)counseling costs money; b)it takes time away from his work, and c)oh by the way, who’s going to watch the six-year-old when you’re both in a counselor’s office? But, most importantly, d)he has no reason to change anything. He has a very nice life right now as it is. He’s out all day doing what he wants, things get done at home, bills get paid (half of them with his wife’s money), he gets to save the rest. He’s exactly where he wants to be.
    And another thing. I’d really, really like to hear more about this weekend shoe- and clothing-selling business. In this economy, I have a hard time believing that someone can make money just going out all day Saturday and Sunday to “sell anything” – where does he get this anything from? who is he selling this anything to? The question I’m really trying to ask here is, is he even really working when he’s out of the house on Saturdays and Sundays?  
    As someone who’s been sort of there (though not nearly as bad), read books, went to counseling — and, before that, both of us tried to start over and rekindle the old flame — it worked for maybe a year and then it was back to square one — my advice is to leave. I have a really hard time believing that this situation can ever change in a significant way, except maybe for worse. Sorry you have to go through this.

    1. 3.1

      OP here. Can’t believe this was 5-6 years ago. I left him in 2013, came back, left him again in 2015, GOT PREGNANT, came back because I got pregnant, then left for good when my baby was 4 mos old because no way would I want my daughter to see her mom putting up with this shit. I’m now happily dating a guy who is a great boyfriend.

      Oh, and you’re right. I found out after I left that he wasn’t only selling shoes, clothes, etc. He was selling drugs, using another house as a warehouse. I got a call in the middle of the night asking to pick my daughter up because he was in jail. And he was also cheating. Not kidding. I guess it’s true: you see what you want to see. I was so blindly in love back then and had very little self-esteem. Can’t even understand how I missed all the signs and bought all the explanations.

      Anyway, good riddance. I regret all those years I wasted on him. But hey, I have a beautiful baby girl, and she’s worth it. Looking forward to a happy love/family life.

      1. 3.1.1

        Wow. Thanks for update! I’m unhappy with my good man also. He’s also a single dad. Your story helped me to see that maybe we should trust our unhappiness. May be for good reasons.

    2. 3.2

      I was wondering the same thing, is he a work-a-holic… or a double life con man? She is his ‘respectable cover up’ and takes care of things at home, while he does shady business? Or, meets other women? Some thing is OFF. Maybe hire a private investigator it might reveal more than counseling.

  4. 4

    Situations like the OP are not uncommon.   I was with a good man for over 2 years who wanted to marry.   The sex was terrible, conversations with him bore me and overall, I just felt kinda “dead” inside.
    However, I didn’t want to be single and in my 30’s anymore, so I tried to make it work. In hindsight, it was an utter waste of time. Essentially, the main benefit I got from being with him was the avoidance of having to face family and friends as a “spinster”.  
    He was tall, in shape, made six figure and was a year younger than me. Ironically, I didn’t have to compromise on a lot of the “checklist” requirements that Evan advocates letting go. But those things essentially can’t make up for lack of connection or not having your emotional needs met.    
    Being with a “good man” who isn’t a true partner to you is almost the same as being with a “bay boy” who is going to screw you over.   Time is wasted in both situations.
    I, too read Lori Gottlieb’s book prior to dating this guy and thought I should give him a shot.   It surely was not her intention to make women panic about their declining marital value, or that they should settle on a lackluster relationship, but the tone of her book did imply that they should.

  5. 5

    I’m somewhat sympathetic to the poster, Ann. When you get to a certain age, there are unspoken expectations from family, culture and society, that put pressure on some women to marry for the wrong reasons. if she was already feeling ambivalent, and then read Marry Him, I can see why that could tip her over into the wrong decision. Of course she is ultimately at fault, and yes she did settle, but it sounds like she was searching for answers as to what to do, and she misinterpreted Lori Gottlieb’s advice. That book is so controversial, I doubt she is the first woman to use Gottlieb’s wisdom to ill-effect. (I married before that book was written, and I married a good guy who was a very bad husband). I think Ann married due to a lack of confidence in her own feelings, certainly not a crime, but something that has huge repercussions. i wish you well Ann, in sorting things out. (My personal advice? Gracefully move on. You are very young and have plenty of time to reinvent yourself… you get a do-over!) The most important thing is not to spend too much more ruminating about what if, or what to do. Your letter sounds like you know exactly what to do.

  6. 6
    Jackie Holness

    Deep…really deep…not sure how to call it…but if you have been miserable this whole time, maybe it really is time to move on…hate to say that but…

  7. 7

    Not wanting to contradict Evan, I would think separation is the last resort. Ann, have you told your husband point blank how you feel ? have you communicated to your husband what your needs are and how he nas not met them ?   have you given him a chance to change things about the way you live ? have you asked him to consider going to marriage counselling ? If you were just in a dating situation, I would say yeah go ahead and separate. But you are married ! And it appears his child may have formed an attachment to you and may look to you as a surrogate mother.  
    To other readers here, if the poster here was a man, would you all suggest that he walked away from his single mother wife and her kid who has developed an attachment to him ? Because his needs are not being met by his hard working single mother wife ? I think you would all be up in arms. Yet it is perfectly OK for this woman to do the same ? Because she is a woman and is not having her needs met ?

    1. 7.1

      The difference here is that a man may have had greater reservations BEFORE making such a heavy committment to a single mother.   Generally speaking, women are more nurturers than men are, which may be a big reason why the new husband was so attracted to the OP while they dated: you’d make a good mom.

      The bigger issue that I’ve not read yet may be more basic, and those issues may just be cultural.   I am a POC and I date interracially, but I also realize that there are big differences between cultural and ethnic groups that have to be recognized while you date and even in a marriage. (Please note, this is NOT a comment about RACE – just cultural values).

      The OP knew what she was getting into when she married, she may want to consider a marriage counselor who has experience working with cross-culture couples and figure out what you can and can’t live with before throwing the marriage away.

      Just an idea.

  8. 8

    You’ve known him five years, only married for two ? And during the first three years of dating/ courting you did not get out of town for a vacation at all ? That means the letter writer knew what she was getting into. Working *all* the time ? This does not sound good- although it’s not for the usual reasons marriages sound bad (cheating, abuse).
    A serious talk is in order, right away.

  9. 9

    @ KarmicEquation- why not recommend any of Evan’s books or tapes? Steve Harvey is a comedian (being nice with that title)   who’s been in the news for cheating on his wife. He’s certainly not anyone who’s book I’d be reading!  

  10. 10

    I think this may be fixable because you say you love him and are attracted experience
    does he know just how strongly you feel? Maybe if you did separate briefly it might jolt him out of his complacency. Go home to your mother for a week?
    people can and do change. But they have to be motivated and it takes a lot of work, and encouragement. It,s up to you two to decide if you want to. You can’t fix it on your own and neither can he.   
    If you marry someone for fifty years some of those years are going to be better than others. Maybe better years await.
    just don’t have a child yet!  

  11. 11

    @ Androgynous #7, look, I cannot speak for other commenters, but the reason why *I* suggested that the OP walk away is because I, in a similar situation, *did* walk away, and have not regretted it since. It was a tough decision, as we’d been together pretty much all our adult lives and had two children together. Financially, my situation is now a lot worse than it used to be. In all other respects, I am a lot better off. My ex is a nice guy, (just like the OP’s husband), but honestly right now, looking back, I cannot understand what had taken me so long.
    I did not want to bring up the child, because the OP sounds vulnerable enough that by mentioning the child we can guilt-trip her into staying in the situation she’s currently in. It is a tough situation but seriously, the man is right now acting like he’s a non-custodial parent to his son already!! he hardly ever sees him and the OP supports this kid financially as much as his father does. That’s ridiculous, and for everyone’s benefit, this cannot be allowed to continue in my opinion. They can make custody arrangements if they want to, but it does not do anyone any good (including the child, who no longer gets to see his father!) for them to go on living like this.
    In my case, I asked myself, one, do I want to live with this man, just the two of us in the house, after the children have moved out? (it was getting close to that point for us.) And two, do I trust this man to have my back when I’m old, sick, disabled, no longer able to work etc etc. If and when I need support, will his presence make my life easier or harder? better or worse? See, this is Ann’s problem as I see it. While her husband gets a ton of support from her, I do not see him showing her any support in any way whatsoever. Sure, he calls her to ask how she’s doing, but if the only answer he would accept from her is “I’m doing okay”, and he throws a fit any time she answers him differently, what kind of support is this? Sorry, I have very little patience with this kind of men.

  12. 12

    I agree, try marriage counseling, if he won’t change a bit then you must move on because it won’t get any better most likely and your only in your 30’s one time.

  13. 13

    Ann, sorry that you are unhappy. However you decide to resolve this, I hope that things get better for you.

  14. 14

    I know how she feels, and I know what she’s doing. She’s looking for someone to support her decision.   She’s looking for someone to give her permission.
    I get it. I did it….until no one would, and I had to make the decision on my own.
    I left a good man. He’s still a good man.   He was not a good husband or partner.   It took me 17 years to finally leave, and I was miserable (with the marriage) nearly the entire time.
    It’s hard for a woman to leave a “good” life and a “good” man.   People will not understand, people will call you selfish, they will say you are stupid and question why you did it.
    You have to do it…you only have ONE life.   If you are not satisfied, if you are miserable with this union, you need to get out. You need to own it, and do it without anyone else’s permission.

    1. 14.1

      Thank you for this.

  15. 15

    I think it is important that both members of a relationship prioritize the needs of “us” as much as they prioritize their own needs.   I think Evan nailed it on the head by saying that your husband is a good guy, but a bad husband.
    I personally think the most important factors in coupledom are:
    1. Prioritizing the needs of the relationship as equal with one’s own interests.
    2. Sexual compatibility. (Although, with this, does come being able to express one’s own needs and not just blaming the other person).
    3. Life goal compatibility.
    4. Friendship / Liking and respecting the other person for who they are.
    5. Commitment to being committed.
    OP, it seems like your husband doesn’t have his priorities straight, and it seems like you’re just asking Evan permission to bail?   The posters that are suggesting counseling may be onto a good track, if you are ambivalent that leaving is the right answer either.
    You may also want to make note that John Gottman labeled “defensiveness” ( a word you’ve used to describe your husband multiple times) as one of the “Four Horsemen” of the relationship appocalypse.
    Here is something I found on google: http://foundationrestoration.org/2011/06/the-four-horsemen-defensiveness/
    The best thing you can probably do is speak in “I” statements. “I” need more quality time together, etc.   This may not work, though, if he automatically just flips back on you that “you don’t understand what it’s like to have a child”.   It requires a lot of maturity and forgiveness, because if he says this, it isn’t fair.   It’s really just one-upping you with something irrefutable: his child’s well-being.   I don’t know.   I’d almost take that to mean his priorities are his child (ok, fair enough) but your most basic desires will never be on par with that.   Is that true, OP, because I know you painted a one sided picture, which is fair enough as well.
    But, you also seem trained.   If you took vacations, then in the past year he did a switch and refused to do anything, he’s in the right.   But maybe you just got into this relationship without a good sense of your own needs.   I think it’s silly that as Amy, #5, pointed out, people would rather compromise who they are to fit into some societal ideal.  
    I read Gottlieb’s book as well, but I think she failed to talk about “dealbreakers”.   If your dealbreaker is “needs to spend time with me” then THAT is fair.   If it’s “our relationship needs to be a priority” that is fair.   If your dealbreaker is “He needs to not be defensive and fight fair” that is fair.   I think what you did right is that you did not dismiss him for being of a different race or for being a single dad, but Gottlieb doesn’t say “Give up your needs”.   The message I got from “Marry Him” was “Compromise your ‘list’, date outside your ‘type’, and don’t write someone off for petty reasons outside of their control”.

  16. 16

    I did the much same thing as the poster, when I was 24.   I naively thought that the most important thing in a marriage was to have a husband who was at least as intelligent as I am (top 1% of IQ range, so not easy to find). I knew when I married him that I wasn’t sexually attracted to him (he was a virgin at 28 when I met him) but figured that “I’d surely grow to love him” and could maybe teach him how to be compatible in bed. What I ended up with was a totally sweet, loyal, well-intentioned husband who was always physically there in the house with me, but was never THERE for me, because he lived 100% inside his brain. He had no idea how to connect emotionally with me or anyone else. He was a wonderful provider, super-respected at work, and we had a great time watching the Chicago Bulls rise to greatness and going on vacations to national parks; we also loved to read together and were nerds in general, shared the same politics and tastes in music, but that is where the commonalities ended. He worked normal hours in the same industry as I, but his hobbies!   He played endless hours of postal chess (international master); was in three fantasy baseball leagues (two National and one American league), which meant that he spent hours and hours watching baseball on TV; and ran marathons, so was always training and doing 18-mile runs on Sundays.   What do these three hobbies have in common? They are mostly solitary.   So unlike the poster here, I had a husband who was ALWAYS home, had no problem spending money or going places, had no expectations as far as kids or housework went, got along great with me, and was a terrific husband on paper… except for the lack of sexual or emotional connection (oh, yeah, those).   We were the best roommates ever, for over ten years.   Then I started having dreams about “starting over” (buying a new house alone, going back to new student week at college alone).   I ate myself into 220 pounds on a 5’4″ frame before I realized I had never been so profoundly lonely in my life. So I can totally relate to the poster here, but just want to point out it’s not a man’s physical presence that makes or breaks a marriage. We were divorced after 12+ years together, and then I went on to a man who was his total opposite in so many ways… some good and some not-so-good… so if you do separate, careful with those rebounds, they can be real killers. And my ex? He remarried quickly and we email about politics all the time.   So at least the friendship and cerebral connection survived, which is about all there was between us in the first place.   As Evan says, “Caveat emptor.”

  17. 17

    There’s nothing like separation to make someone ponder their choices thus far. You could certainly live apart and see a counselor if he is willing to make changes. Frankly, Ann, you’re too young to sign up for a life of this. Your needs are never going to stop being your needs. I wish there was a school that taught husbandry. My own experiences are similar: I always seem to date good men, but ones who don’t know quite how to be good partners. Good luck to you!

  18. 18

    @Jen #9, totally agree about Steve Harvey.   I tried slogging through his books, they are silly and unreadable.   I recommend “The Passion Trap,” which addresses one-sided relationships, which this certainly sounds to be.

  19. 19

    I must say I agree with Evan. Essentially it is Ann’s fault she is in her predicament. I doubt her husband was any different than when they dated. He’s getting his needs met so he doesn’t feel there is a problem.   I once dated a guy that was Mr. Wonderful when he was chasing me. Once he knew he had me, he rarely called, stood me up on dates, and would never fully commit. Whenever he saw me trying to move on, he would try to swoop back in and become Mr. Wonderful again. The cycle continued until I finally ended it. At the end of the day I realized it was my fault for being in that “situation” for so long. I can’t tell someone to separate, but if you aren’t happy then what’s it all worth? Good luck to Ann in her decision.  

  20. 20
    Karmic Equation

    @Jen 9
    @ KarmicEquation- why not recommend any of Evan’s books or tapes? Steve Harvey is a comedian (being nice with that title)   who’s been in the news for cheating on his wife. He’s certainly not anyone who’s book I’d be reading!  
    Evan’s books and tapes, awesome as they are, don’t have specific application to this particular problem…at least I don’t recall that off the top of my head.
    I found the Steve Harvey book useful in two ways…One was his first chapter defining the 3P’s of which, “Provider” was one. And other parts of the book, I said to myself, he’s off his rocker (e.g., wait 90 days for sex?!) — and yet other parts, I was neutral about.
    I don’t agree 100% with 100% of the books I read. What I do is internalize and apply the parts that make sense to my life and forget the rest.

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