Q.My husband and I were together for several years before we got married. We were always strong on friendship and connected in every way. I love his family, we laugh at everything together, and we’re there for each other in really bad times.
However, even in his 30s, he still plays video games for hours a night, drinks to excess at social gatherings, and most of his friends are not married. I can roll with the punches when it comes to some of his immature behavior, but the real problems come when he has to face a milestone.
After promising to live with me, he freaked out and almost bailed after I’d given notice on my apartment. We’d been really happy, and I was shocked when he announced he wasn’t sure after looking at apartments. He eventually caved, but then picked fights with me for the next couple of months until, magically, things went back to normal.
The same thing happened when we got married. Right before we got married, he freaked out again and we almost called off the wedding. After we went through with it, we fought for the first few months. After therapy, we were OK again — until it was time to look at houses.
Now I’m approaching my late 30s, and we’re talking about kids. We’d always said we’d have kids, and he claimed to understand the science behind not waiting too long, but based on his fears, I’m beginning to think that this cycle will never stop. He’ll be happy until decision time, then we’ll fight and he’ll blame me, then he’ll tell everyone we can’t do the thing because we’re fighting — and then the whole cycle will repeat. I’m sure I don’t want this with children.
I love him and he’s a great guy, but even with the strong family support, he just can’t commit to life decisions. My life is ticking away year by year, and he can’t see his own pattern. I am feeling like neither of us deserve this anymore, and that it might just be time to admit together that it’s not working.
I’m out of ideas, and I’m running out of time. The truth is, I don’t ever see him arriving at the future without a fight. I just want to love him, but my resentment about broken promises has put me in a place where I just don’t trust him anymore. Where do we go from here?
A.I know someone who does this. Right before every big step, she panics and feels the need to throw on the brakes. Her last-minute doubts consume her. Friends and family have to push her into making any real moves.
The thing about this person, though, is that she makes up for it on the other side. She’s grateful to have been pushed, and she’s pretty much thrilled about her choices. Also, she’s self-aware enough to know what happened. She’s able to look back and say, “Whoops, I panicked again. Sorry.”
That’s what you need in your relationship — more self-awareness (from him) and positivity after the tension. You should know, after time, that your husband is psyched he took the big step, whatever it is. You should feel confident that he sticks around because he loves the marriage or the house (or, eventually, the kids), and that he’s there by choice.
If he can’t give you that — if it still feels like you’re using all of your strength to push him through the next steps of his life — you do need to think about walking away.
Ask him what he wants life to look like in a few years. That might be telling.
FYI, panicking and getting sudden cold feet right before big life decisions is called being normal. Everyone does it. Change is scary.
I’m still stuck on the drinking and video games — seems like we are still 12 ...
One suggestion would be for him to get his own therapist or lean on his friends more. He can panic with them and come home more grounded with you. He can talk through the adjustment with someone else, so that all the negative feeling isn’t taken out on you.
I want to be sympathetic. My husband also dragged his feet on the kids and the house, and it was really tough. But my husband had valid concerns that I could appreciate and understand. I’m reading your letter and I’m not seeing any understanding on your part. You dismissed his valid concerns as immaturity and reluctance to grow up, but he was picking up on something: you two are just not good together. In order for you to overcome this, you need to be able to hear your husband and treat him as an equal. Right now, you’re treating him like a child.
Your husband reminds me a lot of my brother. He was a ski bum in his twenties. He met his wife in his early thirties. The next think you know he has a good job, he’s married, owns a house, and he has two children. You would think that he’s now a mature 53-year-old. Think again!
I had a close friend who married a guy, thinking he was going to change. Now she’s raising her two children while her husband is on golf outings and enjoying his carefree lifestyle. Didn’t work out so well for her.
I honestly don’t know what advice to give you. I think it says something about you, too, that you know this pattern, you have gone through it a few times, and you’ve chosen to stay. Maybe you should start by examining your reactions to his actions.
Sounds like you’ve made a decision, but you realize it will be difficult, and you wish someone will talk you out of it. I doubt anyone will.