Q. I’m a serial monogamist writing in to get some perspective. (I know, glutton for punishment, looking for perspective from an online forum. But the LL community is weirdly insightful now and then.)
I’m in my 40s with no kids. My first marriage lasted five years and I’m glad I ended it. It was definitely a starter marriage with a lot of verbal abuse to boot, and when I finally grew up a bit, I left. I was single for a few years and dated around, had a couple of short-term boyfriends, then fell head over heels for husband number two. He is a good guy — responsible, active in the community, generous, super cute, nice family. We got married really fast and have just passed our five-year mark. And I’m going crazy.
It’s all the usual stuff. We don’t talk about anything but schedules — his kids, the dog, grocery shopping. I get stuck with the dishes and all the housework. He doesn’t think I’m grateful enough that he goes to his job every day (even though I go to a job too). I don’t think he appreciates my domestic efforts. Bedroom stuff is happening regularly but without a lot of zing. He doesn’t like it when I talk about emotions. I don’t like it when he forgets to tell me where he is and what time he’s coming home. I want to express myself. He wants to know where to put the WD-40 and whether I fed the dog. And yes, I have tried talking to him, many times. His eyes just glaze over. I’m sure my voice sounds like the adults in a Charlie Brown special.
Does this sound about right for the five-year mark? Is this just normal in all long relationships? Does it get better? Does couples therapy actually help stuff like this? And if all this is normal, how do people tolerate boredom and missed communication for so long?
Can your readers share any stories of happy marriages or long-term committed relationships? Or if not “happy,” then content? In which both partners feel mostly supported, connected, and fulfilled most of the time?
Existential Marriage Crisis, RI
A. Some of this is normal. Married couples develop routines, and life is often about feeding the dog and picking up the kids.
But . . . you’re lonely and bored. You feel ignored. It sounds like you guys have stopped spending real time together and that you’re working as partners but not as a couple. How often is it just the two of you? What happy routines existed in the beginning of the relationship and when did they disappear?
Couples therapy can help with these issues (sometimes). It’s a place where people have to talk and listen, and they can’t just march away to the garage to deal with WD-40. Please consider making an appointment. Also, fun alone time in a marriage can balance out the bad stuff. It can be something as simple as watching the same TV show together every week. If you’re not continuing to bond as a twosome, it’s difficult to preserve what brought you together in the first place.
And that’s another thing to consider: Why did you get together in the first place? What are you trying to preserve? And what kind of life did he expect to have with you? That’s something to ask — whether this is what he wanted. When you talk to him, ask these big questions. It’s easy to tune out the Charlie Brown voice when someone is talking at you, but when you’re asked open-ended question, you sort of have to participate.
Couples counseling is often not the answer, but in this case, I think it is. A good marriage therapist can help the two of you develop better ways of communicating with each other, and I don’t think it would even take very many sessions to get the tools you need.
Calling yourself a “serial monogamist” is an odd way to define yourself. You are not a serial monogamist. You are a married woman. Stop pretending to be something else to justify changing the narrative. Remember what your role is and what his role is. You cannot change him, only yourself, your own outlook and perspective and attitude.
I imagine life with Nice Guy Husband #2 isn’t as drama-filled as life with Verbally Abusive Husband #1. That’s feature, not a bug.
You need the zing. Life gets pretty boring without the zing.
The first thing you bring up in your letter isn’t the guy you’re married to, it’s the abuser you divorced. When you left him, you packed up emotional baggage along with your possessions. Seems to me you you never unpacked it.
These are called the good old days. You’ll miss them when they’re over and the kids are long since moved out. I secretly sometimes hope my husband will fall over with gratitude when he opens the dresser drawer and sees every pair of socks he owns laundered and neatly folded. He doesn’t. However I also don’t after he mows the lawn and weeds the gardens. To be appreciated, you have to show appreciation.
You didn’t take the time to get to know him after the honeymoon phase. So you either can give up, or you can change your behavior. If you want some romance, create some; you want appreciation, show some; you want conversation, start some. Stop blaming him for everything when its pretty clear you aren’t doing anything to fix it either. Take some accountability and be the person you want in your relationship.
It sounds like your communication stinks. He decides what the marriage is like, and that’s that? I don’t think so. It takes two to communicate effectively. What’s your style like? If you’re nagging, that will just shut him down. I would recommend couples counseling, because it sounds like you’re already seriously behind the 8-ball on the communicating thing.
I know this might sound weirdly insightful and all, but being with the person you love should never get this boring.
Column and comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.