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We have marital problems

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  February 9, 2012 08:33 AM

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Tomorrow night's Love Letters screening of "Cruel Intentions" is at 8 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre. You can get tickets for $8 here. Film critic Wesley Morris and I will be there to watch it with you.

In the meantime, I'm trying to come up with a "Cruel Intentions" drinking game for us to play. I'm taking suggestions on Twitter. It's going to be fun.

Now please give this letter writer some deep thoughts. She didn't tell me where she's from, but really, with this letter, she could be anywhere.


Q: Hi Meredith,

I've been married for almost a decade and have three kids with a man I adore. But over the years I have caught him in little lies. I haven't always confronted him for fear of an argument. My concern is if there are little lies, there must be big lies. Where there are little fish there are big fish not far behind. I can't help but feel he is keeping more from me.
He is never one to admit that he did anything wrong; any problems/issues that have arisen over the years are always someone else's fault. A good example is when I got pregnant with our third child; he acted as though he didn't sleep with me. He didn't accuse me of cheating but instead acted as though he thought I was on the pill. I haven't been on the pill in more than a decade.

We rushed into marriage because I was pregnant. I'm not 100% sure he would have chosen me for his wife if I wasn’t pregnant. I didn't give him an ultimatum but did give him the option to choose with me as to what we were going to do. I wanted marriage but did not in any way push it, since even back then I wasn't sure he truly loved me.
He almost never makes an effort for us to do things as a couple. The excuses over the years have included that he is tired or we can't afford a babysitter. However, the minute a friend calls to get together, he's there. Which doesn’t happen that often but it's frustrating that he can find energy, time, and money to go have drinks with his friends. We do take a trip as a couple usually once a year. But usually it's me who makes all of the arrangements.

I also work full-time but very close to our home, so I'm usually the one who shuttles the kids around. My office job is demanding but my employer flexible so I can spend more time with the kids. However, balancing a full-time office job and a job as a mom leaves me exhausted most of the time.

I don't expect a "mom of the year" or "wife of the year" award but would like some appreciation. I get absolutely none. I also never get compliments like, "you look nice." I do get I love yous. We are intimate -- that is the one thing that is great in our relationship. Not sure how that exists since I feel everything else is a problem.

Communication is null. He comes home and we basically say the same things to each other ("How was your day?"). It's difficult to make decisions with him, it seems he disagrees with any suggestions I have. As a result, I usually hold back feelings and don't want to talk to him. But I end up keeping everything inside, until it erupts.

Most recently, we had a huge argument where we both agreed we were emotionally drained from the marriage. When the dust settled from the argument, I tried to resolve things with him; he didn't want to talk about it. But he wanted to be intimate. We still haven't discussed how we are going to resolve our issues or save our marriage. It's business as usual. But it feels very different this time. He assures me he loves me but I'm not so sure.

Is he emotionally unable to communicate or just gliding by until the kids are older enough, at which time he will want a divorce? I really don't know how much longer I can glide by. A marriage is built on trust, communication, friendship, love, intimacy, etc. We only have one of those items. I would love to go to couples counseling but am almost convinced he will never go for it. My mother recently confided in me that she thinks he is depressed. I never really thought of that as being the issue, it could be but it's so hard to tell.

Thanks in advance for reading my letter. I really appreciate it. I really don't have anyone I can talk to.

– Where there are little fish, there are big fish


A: WTALFTABF, you have to ask for the therapy. You say that he won't go for it, but you might be surprised. Explain to him that you need it. He's not going to be shocked by the request and whether he admits it or not, he knows you both need help.

There's a lot to this letter, and I can't tell you exactly what to do to undo years of repressed feelings, confusion, and exhaustion (balanced by a surprisingly solid sex life). But I can tell you that you need to stop thinking about whether your husband would have married you had you not been pregnant. Many couples will tell you that their decision to get married was based on temporary circumstances and reasons that only made sense when they were young. It doesn't mean that their marriages aren't worth maintaining. It doesn't mean that they're marriages won't last for all the right reasons.

I do think that your mom might be right. Depression would explain a lot, including his inability to be accountable. But again, that's something to figure out in front of a professional. You and your husband are in an incredibly difficult phase of life, with three kids, a ridiculous schedule, and no energy for honesty. It sounds like you never learned to treat each other like friends. A third party might be able to show you how.

When you talk to him about therapy, focus on the positive. Explain what you want, not what's wrong. As in, "I want to laugh more with you. I want to go to bed in a good mood. I want our sex life to be even better. I want us to have a friendship, not just a marriage." Make the request, sooner than later.

And again, stop thinking about whether your husband would have chosen you in a parallel, child-less universe. It doesn't matter. You're living in this universe, he did choose you, and you're still married. He says he loves you and hasn't walked out the door.

Readers? I know this is a lot at once, but can you help her with baby steps to figure this out? Help.


– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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