DEAR AMY: I’ve been married for almost 20 years to a man who I think is a good person and a good provider. When it comes to his work life, or dealing with his family (who can be quite difficult) he is open-minded, patient and puts his best foot forward. I greatly respect these qualities. At home, and particularly with me, things are different. As long as I don’t say or do anything that he disagrees with, our life is happy. I fully admit, I have a lot of emotional baggage from childhood abuse, making me difficult at times, but after more than 20 years together my husband is still completely incapable (or unwilling) to disagree with me in a respectful way. He shows me none of the admirable traits he gives to other people in his life. Even when I attempt to be non-combative, he mocks me, raises his voice to me frequently and calls me names. When I apologize and try to talk, he often just walks away from me in mid-sentence. I’m forced to wait until he has decided that he will talk to me again. This silence can last for hours or even days. And then we pretend it never happened. When there is no disagreement, things are very good, and this is probably about 80 percent of the time. We have two successful children and run our household together. I have been trying to address my own issues and behavior toward him in therapy. I am distraught that I am unable to gain enough respect from him to be able to tell him things he may not like to hear. I love my husband, but I keep so much inside that I don’t feel like I am a truthful partner with him. Your thoughts?
Sad and Lonely
DEAR SAD: I don’t want to puncture your “our marriage is good 80 percent of the time” concept, but when your husband calls you out using demeaning and abusive language, never apologizes for his actions and then spends days giving you the silent treatment, your marriage isn’t 80 percent good. According to you, your marriage is good only as long as you don’t challenge him or become “difficult.”
You don’t say what your therapist’s take is, but mine is that you came from an abusive household and you have found a partner who treats you in a way your family of origin taught you is acceptable. Why do you take this?
If your husband is wonderful to others, then he should be more-than-wonderful to the woman who loves him and who is the mother of his children. All couples have problems, but successful couples communicate and work things out. Kind, good and successful men don’t treat their wives this way, and thoughtful fathers don’t expose their children to such demeaning and abusive behavior.
He can turn this around, but first he has to admit that you and he have something very important to work on. You should invite him to join you in therapy.
DEAR AMY: “Lonely” was a middle-aged woman wrestling with loneliness. In my mid-40s, I was divorced without children and pursued a match with Big Brother/Big Sisters. I was matched with a 10-year-old girl, and after 13 years, we are still close. It is hard to say whose life was more profoundly changed by this relationship. All I know is that it is the best decision we both made, it improved both our lives and helped change the direction of my life in very positive ways. There are many ways to get involved in this wonderful program, and I would highly recommend it to “Lonely” or anyone.
Big Sister For Life
DEAR BIG SISTER: What a wonderful suggestion. Thank you for giving me another opportunity to highlight the wonderful work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Contact them at bbbs.org to engage in this transformative relationship.
DEAR AMY: I’m responding to the letter from “Still Cringing,” who got drunk and embarrassed herself in front of her boss. When I was in the Navy, I was taught that a good guideline for alcohol use during social occasions was the “0-1-2 rule”: zero drinks if you plan to drive; one drink per hour; and no more than two drinks during any occasion. This is a concrete way to put into practice your advice to “be more circumspect” if drinking with co-workers.
DEAR SUSAN: Excellent advice. I’ll be following it.