I am 42 yrs. old. I have been married for 11 years. My husband has 3 children from a previous marriage, and I have 1 son. Together we have a 10 year old. Our relationship was strained in the beginning over our children, but we seemed to be able to let go of a lot. Lately though my husband has become, for lack of a better word, paranoid. I can't even go see a concert with my nineteen yr. old son, who bought me the ticket, without my husband getting upset. I didn't even agree to go, and he was all bent out of shape, making me look at him with disgust. He gets foul mouthed and treats me like I have been unfaithful.
Last May, I tried to get him to go with my son, his daughter and myself to a concert for HIS daughter's birthday. He refused to go because he thought I was sexually attracted to the leader of the group. He put me through so much torment over that. I went anyway, without him, and had a really good time. I envied a couple there. She was having the time of her life, and her husband was having the time of his life watching his wife have fun. I thought, "Why can't my husband be like that?" I feel like I cannot be myself. It is almost like, he loves me, but he doesn't like me. He has a criticism for almost everything. I said I wanted to buy some tank tops for my summer job, these tops have a built in bra. His reply was, "Oh, I bet the guys at work will like that." I have never given him a reason to not trust me, but he is always making me stop and think "What will Bob do?" or "I can't do that because my husband will make me miserable."
I am a good wife, and a good mother, but I am finding myself uninterested in pleasing him, and I lack motivation to even do simple things around the house. I don't want to see my marriage end, but how can I go on like this? I am loyal and loving, and all I want is for my husband to respect me, and trust me, and love me for who I am. Not for this image of a wife he wants me to be. What should I do?
I understand from your letter that your marriage was better in the beginning than it is presently. You write that your relationship was strained in the beginning over your children, but you seemed to be able to "let go of a lot".
So why did it change?
Maybe because the problems you have to deal with today are marital issues more than parenting issues. Your children are older, you have less work to do with them, at least in the every day care; they are more independent and need you less. Because you have more time and more room for yourself as a couple, the difficulties may become more apparent.
From your letter, I understand that your husband is jealous and treats you as if you have been unfaithful - in other words, he doesn't trust you. More than that, he is very suspicious, even paranoid. I agree with you that you can't go on like this because it is hell. To be cautious in your every step and in every thing you say because you may be accused of infidelity is unbearable.
A marital problem such as yours can be the expression of many unsolved issues:
- Your husband may be projecting his own hidden, unconscious fantasies about being unfaithful. These unconscious, yet very strong, fantasies may be displaced and projected onto you so that your husband does not have to deal with his personal feelings of guilt. These feelings disturb his self-image, a self-image of a good, faithful and devoted husband.
- This can be the repetition of a family pattern from the childhood of one or both partners.
- This can be the expression of a difficulty in the couple's sexual life. Is your sexual life satisfying? To what extent are you open to each other in your sexual feelings and behavior?
- Do you have an open line of communication?
- What kind of marital model do you remember from your parents?
- This is the second marriage for both of you: why didn't your first marriages succeed?
All these questions should be examined carefully in order to open a new channel of understanding in your life.
My suggestions to you are:
- Initiate a serious, in-depth, conversation with your husband and try to explore the issues according to my questions.
- Tell your husband that you are not the fantasy wife that he wants, and to accept you as you are. Tell him that you love him and ask him what exactly is bothering him. His own anxieties and difficulties probably trouble him; the discussion will offer him a chance to open up.
- Put your mutual expectations on the table in order to understand each other better.
- Maybe you need a time-out together: go out and have fun, just the two of you, without the children.
- Perhaps you need to learn how to be lovers. You certainly didn't have the time or room for that with all the children around.
- If all that doesn't help, it means that you are in serious trouble and you need professional help.
I wish you good luck,
Arlette Simon, MSW