camping_hotelDear Maria,

I just married a great guy. Sometimes, he just doesn’t get it, though. For example, his idea of a great honeymoon was two days camping and riding a bike trail. We had reservations at a lodge for a few nights, and when we got there he surprised me with tents and bikes. I was so tired after the wedding, I didn’t want to go. But, I did. By the time we got back, I was so tired and dirty and angry that I didn’t talk to him for a day. He eventually apologized. Now, football season has started, and he wants me to watch all the games with him. There’s lots of work to do in our new house, and I’d rather do that than sit around watching football. Any suggestions?

Signed,

Who Is This Guy?

Dear Who Is This Guy,

That’s a great question! Did you know he liked camping, biking, and football before you married him? Or did his evil twin show up at the wedding and fool you all? I’m teasing, but you may have fallen under the spell of thinking that marriage will magically change a person into your ideal spouse. Truth is, that person is pretty much the same person the day after the wedding as the day before. Was it easier to live with surprises and football when you were dating? Now that you share a home and are building a future together, you two may have different ideas about how to proceed.

A key sentence in your letter is, “By the time we got back, I was so tired and dirty and angry that I didn’t talk to him for a day.” In the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?” I’ve tried the silent treatment, and in my experience, it doesn’t work. The person on the receiving end is confused and alienated. And the one not speaking gets increasingly frustrated as the other person can’t guess what they did wrong, much less fix it. Expecting another person to just know what we need or want will lead to disappointment. He took a shot at surprising you on your honeymoon, you gave it the old team try to make the best of it, but came out angry. While he really missed the mark, punishing him with silence and waiting for him to apologize added unnecessary stress to your relationship.

Somewhere in the fairy tales, chick flicks, and love songs we got the idea that our mate should be able to anticipate our needs, and respond to them without being asked. The truth is, however, that even with relationships that easily click, there will be times when we need to ask for what we want. It’s easy to see how the honeymoon situation got away from you both. The football scenario gives you an opportunity to do things differently.

love-never-failsBegin with yourself. Think about the expectations and priorities you have now, as a wife. Talk with your husband about your hopes, and listen to his. For example, how did you spend football season before you got married? Did you watch the games with him? If so, then he probably expects that to continue. Since you know football is important to him, it’s not fair or realistic to expect him to give up the games in favor of house projects. Talk with him about the projects that are a priority for both of you, and make a plan. Maybe you put in a few hours before the game begins, then knock off for the rest of the day? If you can’t give the whole weekend to a project, can you extend the timeline on finishing, and live in the mess a little while longer? The key is talking about it! “If you’re sad/ Then it’s time you spoke up”:

My husband says, “If it’s important to you, it’s important to me…because it’s important to you.” His spirit of generosity inspires me. I learned to extend the same openness and support to him, and to ask for what I want. Now, that doesn’t mean we do everything together, either! We’ve learned to give each other space to pursue interests and spend time with friends who share those interests. For example: We watch Cardinal baseball games together, but I go to art journaling class with friends. He rides bikes with a buddy every year for charity, while we walk the Botanical Gardens together.

My hope is that you two will find a way to discuss the situation without getting clingy, defensive, or judgmental. You spent a lot of time together while you were dating. You can expect more of the same, unless you speak up. I trust you two genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Talk in detail about what married life looks like to both of you. And, if you’re thinking of having children, oh boy, that will create a “new normal” (more wisdom from my husband), too!

Romantic comedies often end with a wedding, and “happily ever after.” The plot traces a love which began in infatuation and the thrill of romance. While these make great date movies, real love comes in day-to-day living and the sometimes tough work of relationship. I’d love to see a movie that starts with the wedding. True love shows itself when things don’t go the way we planned. Focus on what you have in common, honor what you don’t, and “Say what you want/ Do what you say/ These are critical times”:

Dear Readers: In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective? If you’d like to submit a question, click here. I look forward to hearing from you, or “for a friend.” Please add your thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section, below. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.  This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.