Welcome to the part of the show where I share wisdom I’ve gleaned from my vast wealth of experience as I wing my way towards the long dirt nap.
Today’s question comes from a loyal reader from North Dakota. She asks:
I’ve been married for almost 23 years and I feel like my marriage is falling apart. Our last child left for college this year, and, since she’s been gone, I’m finding myself increasingly unhappy.
When I try to talk to my husband about my dissatisfaction he says that my expectations are too high. He says this is how marriage is after so many years, and that the problem is my hormones.
I want us to go to counseling, but he refuses. He says counseling is a rip-off, and, since he’s fine with the way things are, he doesn’t see the point.
We barely have sex anymore, and when we do it’s like ants crawling all over me. I’m almost starting to feel like I hate him.
We need help. How can I get him to agree to go to counseling with me? I’m about to give up. Can you help me, Chloe?
I Don’t Know How Much More of This Shit I Can Take
Dear I Don’t Know,
Throughout my long life I have heard many women say that their husbands refuse to go to marriage counseling. Since I have found that men only want to talk to me about their marriage problems as a prelude to trying to get me into bed, I avoid these convos with men if at all possible, so I don’t know if men are having this problem with their wives. That said, I can only give my wisdom from the feminine POV.
So here it is.
Your husband is full of shit and it is your job to administer the high and hot enema he so desperately needs.
One partner doesn’t tell the other to “get over it” or “live with it” without dire consequences to the relationship. When one partner refuses to acknowledge the emotional suffering of the other partner the end is near.
But here’s the thing; only you can allow your husband to treat you and your needs with such disrespect. In other words: Quit acting like such a wuss and stand up for yourself. Fight for your marriage, Woman!
Your marriage isn’t up to him; it is up to the both of you. He doesn’t get to make unilateral decisions about your marriage without paying a steep cost.
Hand him the bill.
Make an appointment and tell your husband that you are going to marriage counseling. Tell him that he can either go with you, or risk losing you forever–that’s his choice—but you are going. And then go.
I recently went to see the movie Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. It’s sad that this movie is being marketed as a dirty joke about old people having sex because this movie is deadly serious.
Streep is a woman who realizes that her marriage is in severe decline, and Jones is the husband who refuses to address their serious marital problems because he’s grown comfortable in their misery.
Yes, the characters are a bit stereotypical, but stereotypes exist for a reason.
After some silliness with a banana in the bathroom and book about how to give blow-jobs, Streep’s character finally reaches her breaking point and lets Jones know that she can’t live a life of quiet desperation any longer. She tells him that she’d rather live alone by herself than live alone with him.
In real life I’ve seen so many women reach their own breaking point; only it’s as they are walking out the door. That’s too late.
Don’t wait until you hate him, or, even worse, until you don’t feel anything at all.
I can’t count how many women I’ve known who have suffered for YEARS in broken marriages hoping that their husbands will just magically change one day. They buy marital advice books by the case (that the husbands never read) hoping to find the secret way to manipulate their husbands into becoming the man of their dreams.
I’ve seen women try submitting more, praying more, cooking more, cleaning more, giving more sex, and playing to his ego by pretending that every word dripping from his mouth is like honey from the gods. Egads!
These things might work for a time, but in the end—oh, about the time the kids all leave home if you want to be exact–these manipulative methods fail because you can’t play a role that isn’t you, 24/7, for the rest of your life. Eventually you will have to step out of the character of Perfect Wife, and when you do it won’t be pretty.
I couldn’t help but notice from your letter that you are reaching your midlife years. Your husband is not far off when he blames your hormones.
Women are willing to put up with a lot during their fertile years. Maybe the desperate need to propagate the species has naturally selected women who are willing to put up with big piles of stinky husband shit for the sake of their young. But as the estrogen fades, so with it does our willingness to tolerate poor treatment from our men.
What you are experiencing is part of the “empty next syndrome” and it isn’t a bad thing that needs a pill. It can be a very good thing if you both let it. The answer lies in the couple coming together and facing and changing the unsatisfying dynamics of the dysfunctional relationship that have likely been there for years and years just waiting to be addressed.
Your changing hormones aren’t the problem. They can be the catalyst for creating the situation that could lead to greater intimacy and satisfaction for both of you.
Your husband is worried about the cost. This is common. Many husbands cite the expense of counseling as an excuse not to go. He needs a reality check:
DIVORCE IS VERY, VERY EXPENSIVE!
I’m going to level with you, Don’t Know. You have nothing to lose by insisting, even demanding, that your husband go to counseling with you. Nothing. Because if the issues in your marriage are not addressed—not just brushed under the carpet—your marriage is doomed.
If, after you truly communicate how important your marriage is to you, and how desperately you want marriage counseling, and your husband still won’t go, then go yourself. You’ll need counseling to help you prepare for the life you’re going to live without your husband because that’s what you are going to have.
Divorced or not, you are both on the sure path to two separate lives.