DEAR AMY: I am a healthy and vibrant 40-year-old woman in a same-sex marriage. After only six months of marriage, I feel like an old maid. My wife and I have suffered a lot of turmoil in a short time, with a death in the family, job loss, illness, financial problems and exes trying to come between us. I understand that these things could cause a rift. However, the rift comes in the form of my wife constantly arguing with me, putting me down, always yelling at me and having a terrible attitude toward me. I can’t ask a simple question without being verbally attacked. I’ve talked to my wife about this, and she doesn’t see it. She makes fun of me when I say she has an “attitude in her voice,” telling me that I’m taking things the wrong way. She was on the phone with her sister the other night and I started crying uncontrollably because of the way she spoke to her sister. She was loving and affectionate, softly encouraging and full of love. Amy, she hasn’t spoken to me like that in months! I feel like as soon as I said, “I do,” all of her promises went out the window. I’m working twice as hard, she doesn’t help with any household chores and I feel like her unappreciated servant. When I bring this up, she accuses me of being mentally ill. She says that I need to be medicated and that we need counseling. I agree with the counseling, but I do not have bipolar disorder, or any of the other mental illnesses she accuses me of having. How can I make her change something she refuses to see?
Married Old Maid
DEAR MARRIED: You cannot force someone toward change if they refuse to recognize the need for change. However, one great thing about competent couples counseling is that a skilled counselor can coax a person toward recognizing the need for change, and can then coach a couple on ways to make these necessary changes.
Definitely try counseling. You need an outlet for expressing your feelings, and your wife needs a neutral party to reflect back to her how her words and behavior dents and damages the relationship — and hurts you.
The behavior you report (put-downs, verbal attacks) is abusive and needs to stop. If she continues in this vein, you should consider leaving the marriage.
DEAR AMY: I’m a woman in my late 20s. I’ve only recently realized that I’m an introverted person. This is what it feels like to be me: We all have a certain amount of battery in reserve for our social interactions and my battery happens to drain faster than other people. Long chats or outings with friends leave me feeling exhausted and sometimes irritable. I’ve discussed this with close friends and loved ones, but I haven’t figured out how to make this clear to acquaintances. For example, my office mate is a person who can speak for very long periods of time, often with no natural gaps where I can jump in and comfortably excuse myself. Do you have any tips for politely exiting a conversation when you’ve simply run out of the energy to participate?
A Burgeoning Introvert
DEAR INTROVERT: You seem to feel that being trapped with your motormouth office mate wouldn’t bother and deplete you so much if only you weren’t an introvert.
I think it’s possible that it’s not just you. Her behavior might bother anyone.
If you are trapped with someone who doesn’t leave natural conversational gaps, you’ll have to say, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’ve got to get back to this task. Maybe we can catch up after work today.”
I hope your office mate adjusts. Earbuds (if they are permissible) might help you to block out some distractions, as well as giving your office mate a visual cue that you are not currently available.
Also read the groundbreaking book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain (2013, Broadway Books). The insight and recognition will help you to further understand and assert your own needs.
DEAR AMY: “The Old Guy” was a musician nursing a long-ago rejection. I am shocked by your advice that he should start a “geezer band.” The word “geezer” is offensive, and you shouldn’t use it!
DEAR OFFENDED: Well, my age puts me in geezer territory, and I happen to play music with other geezers, and so I feel comfortable using this term.