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  1. 21

    To Evan,
    I feel like I’ve known a few people who have had confusion with Gottlieb’s message, and while your website tends to stay positive and emphasize getting your needs met, I have met a good number of people (maybe 20% or so) who just don’t understand that if you AREN’T having your needs met, it’s a lose-lose.
    This is obviously a great example.
    Also, really enjoyed your email from this morning. 🙂

  2. 22
    Karmic Equation

    I think androgynous brings up a good point. Did OP and hubby do all the things she’s complaining about them NOT doing NOW while they were dating?
    I mean, did they go dancing then? Was he more present? Did he spend weekends with her while dating?
    If the answer is no, he’s the same now as before, then the OP is being unfair. If he DID change, then OP should discuss this with him and hopefully they can work it out. Asking someone to change certain behaviors is easier than finding someone good to love. He’s a good man, but I believe he should be capable of becoming a good husband, if he loves her, he will try hard to modify his behavior to make her happier.
    There’s a saying, “Women marry a man expecting him to change after marriage and men marry women expecting that they won’t.” — The opposite is almost always happens. This is a case on point.

  3. 23

    Lori said to compromise on the things that don’t matter much.   What are the things that do matter much?   The emotional connection?   The real compatibility?   Do any of these matter much or is it just for me to figure out:   Allergy to cats, wanting to raise the child with a religion vs. no religion?   Not wanting to have your own kids?   I need to read her book.

    People don’t change.   While we were dating, I nagged my then fiancee about taking classes to finish his degree.   Then one day it just seemed to click, he seemed to change…fast forward after 3 years of marriage and him telling me that he finished his degree and was working, right before we were going to buy a condo, I found out that it was all lies.

    Ann is looking for someone to validate her gut feeling that it isn’t working. Ann, listen to your gut, validate yourself.   The most important relationship you have in life is with yourself.   Do you.   Don’t be hard on yourself; life is a journey figuring out who you are, what’s important to you.   Let him do him.   You’ve realized that what you’re looking for isn’t what he wants.   And that’s okay.

    Also, honestly, no one can work that much.   Have you verified this other work?   Seen his pay stubs?    Gone to his work?   Trust, but verify.   I also kept separate accounts with my ex.   That was one thing my priest was critical on.   When you get married, you become one therefore, you should merge accounts.

    Good luck and God bless.  

  4. 24

    @Liz 23
    Lori and some of the women in the book were excessive and shallow about reasons they did not want to date a man.   Lori was around 38-39 and a single mom, and there was a part of the book which featured Evan where he was guiding her through online dating.
    She was attracted to a younger guy’s profile, 35-36ish, who was an executive and a snowboarder, very good-looking and interested in women even younger than him (maybe 27-33?).   Evan bargained with her and said “You write to your guy and you write to a guy I pick for you (someone a few years older than Lori, who wore bowties) and whoever asks you out you have to go out with”.   Lori made fun of him for wearing the bowties.   Only Evan’s guy replied, and then Lori felt like a jerk when she realized that the bowties were left to him by his deceased grandfather, and he wore them more as a tribute than as a fashion statement.
    Also, Evan has said on his blog before he works with two kinds of clientele:
    Way-Too-Picky Women and Women who aren’t overly picky, but have a hard time picking “good partners.   He has also said the second category of women is much easier to work with.
    Lori’s book is also a play on Barry Schwarz’s “The Paradox of Choice”, also a good read. (Google “Maximizer vs. Satisficer”).   Lori’s book is more geared to Maximizers, the people who need the perfect everything, have a ridiculous “list” (Evan’s height or hair color examples), but are stressed out and never satisfied.   Satisficers have a list, but once they meet their needs they are happy, even if it wasn’t *exactly* what they were looking for.
    I’ve noticed some people have difficulty really knowing themselves, and only by knowing yourself can you distinguish between your needs, your wants, and your dealbreakers (and I even think, your flaws/incompatibilities).   I can’t really relate to Lori, but I have been in a reversal of this relationship, where I dated a guy like her.   I was objectively much better looking than he was and much more friendly and social, as well as considered talented at my work, which he admired.   But, overall, he kept wanting me to do silly things like display photos of him everywhere (Facebook, my desk at work) to “show him off”, he was embarrassed by my attempts at speaking French on a Paris vacation we took telling me that “French people think you’re an idiot”, etc, and I just felt that he didn’t want me.   If he NEEDED a French-speaking, photo-displaying lady, he could find her but she wasn’t me.   Even after we broke up, he tried to get back together with me, and being on the receiving end of that relationship, I was like “You don’t even like me. I’m not what you want”.   I can imagine men would feel very similarly if you implied they weren’t “good enough”.
    Lori, Evan or anyone else can steer you in the right direction, but you are going to match yourself.   I couldn’t relate to Lori.   There are many men and women out there like her, though.

  5. 25

    She’s already married and a child is involved.(Few years dating and a couple years married.   Most of that childs life.)   She owes it to her husband and step-child to try  counseling  first.   Give the guy a chance to change.(I don’t see much difference between learning to  compromise to find happiness and learning to compromise to keep happiness.   SHE should have done the first better but hopefully HE can do the latter to keep this relationship from falling apart.)   If things don’t work or he doesn’t want to go to  counseling she needs to leave him.   But yeah, it’s her fault for getting herself into this situation.

  6. 26

    It’s flawed to think people don’t change. We do. Sometimes greatly over the course of a lifetime. The problem in situations like the OPs is that the kind of change she needs isn’t going to come fast, if it ever comes. Overworking and patterns of defensiveness are tough to shake. And overall, the guy is going to have to let go of some of the cushy situation that Ann has allowed to develop. Like several others, I’m not optimistic. I probably wouldn’t have gotten married under those conditions. If you do choose couples therapy or something like it, and he actually goes for it, don’t expect overnight miracles. You have to decide if it’s worth the effort, and if you’re ok with gradual change or big changes with some setbacks.

  7. 27

    Oh boy. This story is exactly the illustration to the axiomatic “suffer IS the choice”.  

  8. 28

    i was in this situation and thank god it was only for one year before he ran off with somebody else.   he was never home, blaming work and the need to make money for hte sake of his children. i was there when he came home to have sex with and get his needs met of having somebody there for him. he would call me daily – sometimes several times per day, tell me how much he loved me and missed me etc etc.   it was horribly painful.   he would get defensive when i tried to talk to him about spending more time together – there were always what seemed to be valid excuses.   but what i realise now is that the excuses and defensiveness were a means of trying to put me in my place – where he wanted me. he wanted a conforming doormat. and he would say what he needed to to get it – while getting what he wanted as well – which i found out – was going to the pub and chasing other women behind my back.   from this experience, i’ve learnt that you really don’t know who the person really is – especially when they are never around.   some guys will say whatever they have to to get THEIR needs met. they really don’t care what they are doing to the women. and the women hold on because they think they need to be understanding and supportive and feel selfish for demanding more time from a guy who just can’t give it because of their excuse to work for money to support their kids etc.   and his stingyness is just another red flag in my opinion. the guy i was with was stingy.   nightmare – i tell you.

    i would not be surprised at all if he was cheating on her.   the horrendous experience that i had has taught me so much. it was the worst and the best experience of my life. i did wonder after it finished why the hell i didn’t walk away earlier. at the time, i thought i was being too selfish if i wasn’t supportive of his need to work all the time.   before him, i was confused about what i should and shouldn’t accept in a relationship. but now, i am not confused at all. i really would rather be alone for the rest of my life, than be with a guy who “appears” to be a good catch, but whom is never there.   like i’ve said in other posts, i found out 6 months after he was gone that he was also cheating on his wife. so this guy was skilled in manipulating women to get his needs met. and i have to say, judging by ann’s story, i would not be surprised at all if this was the same type of guy … after all … i can’t see him doing a good job of caring for his child alone.

    anyways, i’d get out and not look back, and not waste another day of my precious life on a guy like this. he obviously doesn’t care about what she has to go through every day.

    now that i am out of that sitation (it’s been a year and a half since it ended), i literally wake up every day and thank god that i am no longer in that situation and   swear that i  will never do that to myself again.

  9. 29

    What’s up with the people telling her leave ASAP and implicating cheating?   What article did they read?   It’s no wonder  divorce  is rampant in this society.   No amount of dating advice is going to fix issues with people that jump to conclusions like that or advise people to leave without hearing the other side of the story.(Even though she even says he is nice guy.)

  10. 30
    Great Girl

    Thankyou Evan for printing this question and your response.   Your answer has helped shed my light in my previous marriage and address the unmet needs of women like myself.

    What was most enlightening was your first point – Good men don’t necessarily make good husbands, nor great dads as a matter of fact.   I had conflated the two.

    I would like to share my stories with your readers. It’s just one woman’s story and doesn’t reflect everyone’s situation.

    While my ex-husband was a good man, he didn’t make a good husband. While I was able to be available to him when he wanted at his convenience and also look after the household and care for our children, he didn’t meet my needs for an emotional connection and more and more he concentrated on his work and was physically absent as well.    Emotional absence plus physical absence makes a wife feel very lonely and unloved.   When I delivered this message of feeling like not a priority in his life, he heard ‘ You are not good enough the way you are. I am dissatisfied.’   Instead of tackling the issue at hand, he stonewalled because he took it personally.   It’s a slippery slope when husband and wife can’t discuss things openly with love and care.
    That’s when he decided to find someone else who would admire him (in the workplace for his prowess at work).   They had an affair, he left.   They are now married.  

    All his needs are being met, he found someone else to admire him. Our children are taken care of by me (he keeps visitation to minimum).   He works to his heart’s content and is admired by his work community.   His new wife is supportive of his schedule and his attention level.   He is a good provider and provides for our children.

    I was devastated by the betrayal but now can see that I am now free to look for someone who will meet my needs. It took some time to travel on this journey and come to a point of peaceful understanding. But now I know I will not choose a workaholic as a partner. I know it will not satisfying for me.

    You are right, Evan. As a general rule, people don’t change. Some might do so if they have an epiphany but let’s face it, it’s rare and can’t be counted upon.   I am no longer the woman who tries to change her man’s values (from work-oriented to family-oriented). I will go to find a family-oriented man who balances work, family, fun.   I tell my dates, money doesn’t impress me.   

    One recent date sent me a video of him playing his guitar for me, it brought tears to my eyes because it was EXACTLY what I asked for.   I told him, “I have been given dinners, overseas trips and diamonds but your gift is the most special I have ever received.”

  11. 31

    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?

  12. 32

    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.)

  13. 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.

  14. 34

    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.

  15. 35

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

  16. 36

    @ 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.

  17. 37

    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.

  18. 38

    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.

    1. 38.1

      Ann as great as Evan’s advice is, it wasn’t your fault. It’s his fault, he failed you. You didn’t fail him. You both learned a lesson. You gave him the ultimate best chance and he failed to deliver on his words. It’s not your fault at all.

  19. 39


    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.      

  20. 40

    @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.

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