Wedding Bell Blues
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner of two years and I got married in Massachusetts after being together for about a year. I thought everything was perfect—but things have changed. He criticizes everything I do. I buy him flowers, and he berates me because they aren’t perfect. When things are going well, it’s all about “us.” When things go sour, it’s all about “him.” I’m on eggshells wondering what his mood will be from day to day. I feel stuck. How do you know if a relationship is worth saving?
Dr. Hurd replies,
Sometimes we have to be careful what we ask for! You wanted gay marriage? You got it (well, partly, at least). Of course same-sex marriage is a right, but some gay couples are now learning what at least 50% of straight couples learn the hard way: Once the ring is on the finger, things can change.
The pomp and circumstance of getting married can provide an easy excuse for putting off compatibility problems that might lurk beneath the surface. “We’re getting married. All is bliss.” But the ritual shouldn’t be the primary point; it should be the icing on the cake. And it should happen only after several years of loving commitment—through good times and bad. In short, marriage should be earned.
You and your new spouse got it backwards. You married, and then expected to earn it later. Or worse, you assumed that compatibility would somehow “happen” via the magic of flowers and a caterer. Did you really know him that well after only a year? Apparently you didn’t, though you “…thought everything was perfect.” Oops—given that perfection is impossible, that should have been your first clue to delay the marriage or rethink your assumptions.
You said you’re “on eggshells.” If I’ve learned anything from over two decades of counseling people, it’s this: Walking on eggshells is a big mistake. First of all, it’s inauthentic and phony—the exact opposite of loving intimacy. Second, it forces you to tolerate things you shouldn’t tolerate, especially from somebody who professes to love you. This lowers your self-respect as well as the respect your spouse once had towards you. Once respect is gone, love isn’t far behind.
Man-up and tell him, “You’re not what I paid for. You’re not who I thought I was marrying.” Be blunt (obviously he has no problem being that way with you). Calmly tell him you can’t live like this. Provide reasonable examples. Stay composed and respectful. Give him a chance to reverse course, and remember you helped create this mess through your errors in thinking.
If he truly cares for you, none of this will be the end of the world. Errors are correctable, and no matter what happens, life will go on.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
As two lesbians who have been together over 19 years, we enjoy our evenings, weekend dinners, and travel with our “boyfriends.” We have very few lesbian couples that we “hang” with on a regular basis. We just don’t seem to “click” with them as well as we do with the male couples we like so much. Are we weird?
Dr. Hurd replies,
Think about your question, “Are we weird?” Half the world (perhaps more, if they’re honest) thinks you’re weird for being attracted to your own gender. That didn’t stop you from being your own true self. If you didn’t worry about being “weird” when it came to being a lesbian couple, then why on earth be worried about the gender of your friends?
Here’s a little free social psychology for you: People in minority groups often care too much about what members of their own group think. They’ve been marginalized by the wider segment of society (for being gay, lesbian, or whatever). This often generates a need for the esteem and regard of their peers. If this feeling could talk, it might say, “The world questions me for being a lesbian. Now some lesbians disapprove of our male friends. How awful!”
It’s not awful. You are entitled (indeed, obliged) to be your own person no matter what the context. All that matters is that you exercise your best judgment about what makes sense and is right for you. And anybody who won’t honor that is no friend—lesbian or otherwise.
Your failure to “click” with your female friends doesn’t necessarily indicate any unfair bias on your part. Here’s the key: Think about what specific qualities and traits you look for in a friend. If you enjoy your relationship with your partner, the friends you have in common should add to that enjoyment. What personal qualities do your male friends bring to the table? Sense of humor? Outlook on life? Social skills? Some of these traits, whatever they might be, will be highly personal to you and your spouse. Apply this test to your favorite boyfriends in order to figure out what you’re missing from your female friends. Whatever it might be, I’ll bet it’s not very “weird” at all.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist, life coach and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email your questions or comments to DrHurd@DrHurd.com.