Q.We are married 3 years. We have a 2-year-old and I am unhappy. I am unhappy because our marriage has become one big yawn. I can’t get my husband to help me with the baby. He won’t pick up his dirty socks or underwear. He won’t even empty the dishwasher, because “my father never emptied a dishwasher so why should I?” We both work and time is always a precious factor in our everyday life. He thinks Saint Valentine’s Day is phony and was created by Madison Avenue Taste Makers. Therefore, it is silly to bring me flowers. He talks to his mother every day and rations the amount of conversation reserved for me. Sex is infrequent and when it does happen, it would have been better not to have happened in the first place. Our marriage is heading in a direction that scares me. When I suggest marriage counseling, he shouts: “I don’t need it there is nothing wrong with me..maybe you need it!!” What do I do now?
A.I recently read a wonderful review of Eli Frankel’s book “The all or Nothing Marriage “ by Laura Vanderkam. This book is a reminder that Marriage is no reform school. You cannot transform your partner into the image you have a perfect mate. If you think your husband is a jerk. that’s what he will become. If he comes home late and you have a dinner appointment this confirms in your mind that he is careless, clueless and self-centered. The minute he walks in you shows your displeasure in very dramatic fashion. I need not elaborate on the huge arsenal of accusations you can hurl at him. You will probably throw in that he is a “Mamma’s Boy “ for good measure. Your angry response will only serve to confirm in his mind that he probably is exactly what you consider him to be,( although he will never admit it openly). Now it is a psychological fact that we mirror one another’s facial expressions, emotions, and angry words. You look at me with a look of hate and disdain written all over your face the chances are that I will do the same. Such confrontations is a marriage going downhill. You cannot change the person you once loved through criticism, angry words, and ultimatums. You can only change the way you react to the person you once loved and in the process, the field is changed and the possibility exists that his behavior will change for the better. You need to develop a game plan with the help of a marriage counselor (and NOT A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND). What I am saying is that you need to conduct an Operation Salvage. How do you get him to believe that he is your “Knight in Shining Armor”? How do you get him to feel that your emotional health depends greatly upon his ability to please you both inside and outside the bedroom? You can accomplish such a change in behavior with the right kind of help. Your marriage can be “The All Marriage” and not the: “Nothing Marriage” if you will it. It requires determination and a willingness to let go of your own ego. Too many marriages die because we give up too quickly on our own ability to accomplish the impossible. The desire for a quick path to bliss is the greatest danger we face in today’s modern world. Laura Vanderkam asks: “ Is it possible for two people in the midst of whiny children to support each other as equals. Is it possible for 2 people to help each other to develop into the best people they can be?” My answer is: Yes if you will it.