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What Are You Not Getting from Your Husband?

Do you have a list of things you are not getting from your husband? I did, right before my first marriage came to a crashing halt. I had a long list.

It was the list of a married woman. Single women have a different sort of list. They pay their bills, clean their bathrooms, shop for clothes, even raise children without a husband. What's on their list? Love. Someone to know them. Someone to accept them. Someone to care what becomes of them. Someone to touch them gently and lovingly. Someone to excite their passion.

It is only after they get these that they put the rest on the list. Someone to shovel snow. Someone to make more money when their own budget gets uncomfortably tight. Someone who does as much as they do to be sure the toilet bowl is clean and the seat is down and the paper rolls the classy way. Someone who cooks or cleans up after the cook. Someone with ambition or style or courage to enhance their own.

And now, the person who brought love into their life, the person who married them and promised for better or worse, feels perpetually not good enough. They know that unless they do all these things that feel unnatural or unimportant to them, all the things they want to do for the woman they love will never amount to good enough, either.

Now they feel unknown, unaccepted, uncared for, unable to reassure or fire up passion. Worse, they feel no respect from their list-maker, and they know respect is the very foundation of any relationship.

Even in my second marriage, I am sometimes secure enough in the things I sought when I married to start adding other things to the list. Now, though, I quickly notice what the new items on the list are doing to the love and respect in our marriage. I acknowledge what I need, but I remove it from what I expect my husband to provide. I might ask for them, once, maybe twice, but I accept the answer may well be no.

It's not no, I don't love you. It's no, I don't like doing this and I do not feel loving when I do it. Or it is no, I don't ever notice when this needs doing, and I do not enjoy being seen as not good enough when I fail to do what I don't even notice needs doing.

In my first marriage, I read each no as no, I don't love you enough to do this. This made everything on the list feel bigger, more urgent. It made me notice more things I needed. And then I woke up a widow, and I was stuck with my own list, and even I thought some of them really were not important enough to bother with during the first year or two as a single mom. Within a year, my biggest unmet need was again to be loved.

We all need a lot of people in our lives. We need friends who like to talk or listen if our mate does not. We need friends who help us screw up our courage to pursue our ambition or change our style. We need Dutch uncle friends who remind us how very little time it really takes to make the bathroom as we like it. We need friends who applaud us when we choose paper plates or a better dishwasher in place of replacing the worn sofa or even a second job to afford to eat out more, so after-cooking cleanup never drives a wedge between us and the man or woman who adores us.

If you find yourself expecting a lot more than love from your spouse, take some time to make new friends. It's a terrible thing to walk away from a happy marriage that became an unhappy one only because you drowned it in expectations. Expect Love and you just might enjoy being married.

Comments

(The following message is long. Once I got going, I couldn't stop. If it is too long to post on Assume Love, or if it is off topic, I understand. I would appreciate your response by email, if at all possible.)

Thank you for this post, Patty. It makes me see that beginning early in our marriage, I read each no as "No, I don't love you." I feel a bit guilty looking back on it, though I didn't realize at the time that I was doing it.

However, I was very frustrated by my husband spending most of his precious spare time watching TV after working long hours at his job. He did this almost every day even though I told him I wanted to do more things together. We lived far away from family and had small children needing care. I think if he had spent more time with me or the children, I would have been more easygoing about his answering no to many things. It bothered me that it seemed like he enjoyed spending time in his fantasy TV world with beautiful celebrities more than spending time with me.

We rarely argued and I'm sure our marriage appeared good to others. I would describe it as superficial. I tried to discuss my feelings with my husband, but he is the type who prefers to sweep problems under the rug and pretend that everything is fine. I swallowed my disappointment and carried on, however my resentments grew. I realize now that it was a mistake to do so because we missed out on so much of what a loving marriage offers.

Our children are now grown and successful. It has been just the two of us for the past five years. Sadly, our same old habits continued. Plus, computer use was added to his long hours of TV time. I felt empty inside and began to feel that I no longer loved my husband.

Then, one day about a year ago, I stumbled across a few porn sites in his computer internet history. I was shocked and upset, it bothered me on so many levels. My fragile self esteem plummeted and it disgusted me that most of the actresses were younger than our daughters. I wondered if it was a one time occurrence, so began to check the history each night after he went to bed. I did so for six weeks and discovered the porn was visited several days per week. It ranged from softcore to hardcore.

Long story short: I told him I discovered the porn, we talked, I shared my feelings, he said he still loved me and the porn was just a fantasy and not real. I told him it was real to me. When asked, he told me he had been viewing porn for five years. He vowed he will never do it again and I believe him. He does not want to talk about it anymore.

For the past year, I have been working hard to resolve my many conflicted feelings on my own. First, I researched porn, why men view it, and how it affects their wives. (In fact, I discovered your Assume Love blog on a Barbara Sher forum where someone posted a question about her husband's porn use and you answered it.) I wish I could have seen your answer before he & I talked. I would have known to ask the questions you suggested. Now it is too late to ask them.

I have also been reading marriage help books you suggest. I have learned much useful information. We are beginning to spend more time together and there are little signs of him being more loving. Some days I feel hopeful that we will get through this and our marriage will be stronger. Other days, too many bad memories interfere and I feel depressed.

Try as I might, I cannot think of a reasonable scenario (if he loves me completely) that would have caused him to seek out and view porn when he knew it would bother me. (He knew because we had talked in the past about how his viewing Playboy & sexy movies affected me.) I get tripped up everytime I think of how he disregarded my feelings and gave himself permission to view porn for five years.

I have so many questions I'd like to ask him, but I don't ask them because I have learned that many men cannot discuss their feelings or handle knowing they have made their wives unhappy. I keep plodding along, hoping one day I can truly and completely come to terms with everything and have a wonderful, loving marriage. Assume Love has been a big help to me. Thank you.

Lilian, you might want to check out some of the work of Mark Laaser, PhD -- or invite your husband to do so. Porn is designed to be addicting, to lead from the very normal physical response of the male body to any visually sexy image that hardly competes with a real, live wife, into harder and harder forms that do.

But there is more to this, and I think I will make it today's blog post. Thanks for the inspiration!

What happens when you are married and your list is the same as for a single woman?

" Love. Someone to know them. Someone to accept them. Someone to care what becomes of them. Someone to touch them gently and lovingly. Someone to excite their passion."

My husband is exceptionally distant. During a marriage course we went on briefly (I have no idea why he agreed to come - I guess I should be grateful for that) he said he did not know why his needs seem to get met and mine don't. I told him it was not easy to meet his needs - that it involved sacrifice. He said he would try to find some time to spend with me - he said he couldn't spend any time with me on Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday or Friday - he would give me an hour every second Saturday. And that would somehow fulfill my primary need of quality time - most of the time he is upstairs in his own locked room on his computer, or tablet, or cellphone, or TV.

I wait to see whether he will even give me that hour.

What is the use of being married to someone who is so absent - and it is not even because he is working hard, mostly he is just playing games. He does go to work in the day at least (there was a time when he was without a job for 20 months - maybe I should be grateful for that too) but I have the exact same needs and desires as a single woman and yet I am married. So what then is marriage - just a piece of paper?

Tammy, an hour every second Saturday does seem like way too little time together, if this is really all you get. But that piece of paper governs your relationship with the outside world, not with him. You two need to find a Third Alternative that gives him whatever benefits he is getting behind closed doors and you some more together time and loving touch.

Assume he really loves you, and see if you can come up with any explanations for why he would avoid his wife 26 days out of every 28 but take a marriage course with her to try to learn to meet her needs. I come up with a few: Aspergers, a sense of futility that he could ever give her enough time to satisfy her, addiction to porn or video games, she smells funny, he runs a low-grade fever making it annoying to be touched. You know him. Before you conclude he doesn't love you, see if you can generate a few more and find one that feels like it might be the truth.

You mention meeting his needs involves sacrifice. I urge you to stop sacrificing. It will fill your heart with resentment, not love. It's great to do things for your husband, but only when they are done in celebration of your love for him, not when they are done to put him in your debt or to claim the higher ground.

Sometimes, all it takes to change a marriage is to start doing what you would do if you were single (anything short of breaking your vows, that is). Make plans with friends for weeknights when he's not available. Get a massage once a month (for single gals, this can be enough to prevent doing something really foolish for need of being touched). Get out and dance. Take up a hobby at home. Or change your work hours to be out when he's in and inaccessible.

Do whatever makes your life look fascinating and fulfilling, and I suspect you will find him wanting to be part of it more often.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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